(The following is a true story. The names of the people involved and the places where they work are obscured for their protection.)
Realtown is one of the most violent communities in our city. Gang violence is an every day occurrence. More people are trying to leave this community than move there, but move there is exactly where John felt God leading him to do. John left a six-figure-a-year secular job to move to Realtown, to plant his life in that community, and to start a church. The people he wanted most to reach were the members of two rival gangs—the Bloods and the Crips!
The Crips, comprised primarily of young African-Americans men, are one of the largest and most violent associations of street gangs in the United States often involved in murder, robbery and drug dealing among other crimes. Their long and bitter rivals. the Bloods, are also a predominantly African-American gang heavily involved in similar illegal activities ... and these are the people John felt called to reach.
The work began slowly and success did not come easily, but eventually John planted a church, gained the respect of community leaders and began making an inroad into reaching gang members, but he was not making the kind of progress he wanted. He needed help and he sought it in the unlikeliest of people: Jim.
Jim understood gangs in a way John never could because Jim had once been a gang leader himself. Because of his criminal activity, Jim went to prison. While in prison he came to know Christ and his life started to change. A year or so before he was released Jim participated in a UBA program that trains offenders to share their faith and start organic churches once they are released from prison.
When John called Jim and asked him to come to his community and help him, he immediately accepted which is surprising because Jim’s gang background was with the Aryan Nations, a “white” supremacist group that is the sworn enemy of the Bloods and the Crips and any other person of color. Oh, and did I mention that Pastor John is African-American!
So now you have all the pieces. John and Jim, an African-American pastor and a former white supremacist gang leader, are working together to reach two rival African-American gangs with the gospel ... and it’s working, not without it's setbacks and challenges, but it’s really working! Lives are being changed. A community is slowly being transformed.
Why share this story?
Every day we hear more stories of violence and terrorism. San Bernidino, Paris, Colorado, Charleston, Baltimore, Furgeson. According to the New York Times, a mass shooting (one that leaves four or more persons dead) takes place every day in America on average! To solve this problem politicians promote a plethora of strategies from stricter immigration policies to tighter gun control laws.
I'm happy for the politicians to do what they do, but as a follower of Jesus I’m convinced real peace will not come through a change in policies or laws. Real peace comes from lives transformed by the gospel of Christ. Changing the law is good. Changing lives is better.
This Christmas I’ll pray for Jim, John and their work with the Bloods and the Crips. I'll pray for peace on earth and goodwill toward men. And I will I commit myself anew to doing all I can in 2016 to promote the cause of Christ which I believe is the only way to bring lasting peace on earth--even among the Bloods and the Crips.