I spent seven years in one of America’s most dangerous cities, or at least that is what the media tells me. While I lived there I never felt like I was in danger. My safety was never an issue, but others thought it was. I would be on a plane going to visit my family and would chat with the passenger next to me. They would hear that I live in Chester, PA, and tell me I should move to some place “safer.” I do not think there could have been a safer place for me: I knew all of my neighbors, I knew most of the block, and I was a part of the fabric of the community.
It is said that the safest place for you is in the center of God’s will, but what about when His will leads you into the danger zone? I have friends who were called to Afghanistan; my best friend grew up as an MK in Sierra Leone during the civil war; I lived amongst gunshots, sirens, and violence. God called me to a “scary” place, and I fell in love with it.
One of the dealers on our block would constantly be looking out for us when the block got particularly violent; he escorted my housemates home: armed. It was a bit unsettling, but that is how he knew how to be a gentleman, that is how he took care of us.
On another occasion there were gunshots that rang through our back yard, and while we were on the floor praying there was a knock on our door. It was our neighbor checking in on us to make sure we were ok.
Or the time three women showed up to our neighbor’s home with baseball bats, and half the block called the police. We all made the decision that that type of behavior is not acceptable; we watch out for each other.
Violent, scary, or dangerous communities are being defined by those who are aggressors, by those “who live by the sword” and not by the peacemakers who walk behind them cleaning things up and seeking reconciliation. Next time the media makes a list of the most dangerous cities in the US, remember the Church is there, Christ is there, and pray for those who are called to be light in what can feel like utter darkness.