The headlines in the Richmond Times Dispatch today reads:
Two males were found shot today near the Hillside Court public-housing complex in South Richmond. Authorities were investigating to see if the shootings were related.
Richmond police said one male was found shot in the abdomen about 10:15 a.m. near Rosecrest Avenue and Harwood Street. Another male was found with a gunshot wound to his lower left arm about five minutes later in the 1300 block of Minefee Street, a short distance southwest of the first shooting scene.
At 10:45 my team turned the corner onto Rosecrest to see squad cars and ambulances removing the bodies from the scene.
At the same time I was facilitating a conversation at Fairfield Court where two weeks earlier an elderly team member was beaten and robbed. The goal for today was to help the team cast a vision for what they would like to see in their community. The prior week they drew pictures of children playing and people walking the street without fear. Safety is the #1 concern of residence.
However, I was shocked when I said to the group “How do we help your community overcome fear?” One very thoughtful member of our team boldly said “What do you mean fear? I do not have any fear. I have Jesus, what is there to fear?” He did not say it in an arrogant manner, but more as a stated fact. Every member of the group shared that it was their faith that helped them overcome their battles with fear.
I was so astounded by their incredibly bold rebuke of the spirit of fear that I was completely insensitive to my dear friend who was driving my Hillside team home right after the hillside shootings. When I arrived at lunch I could tell she was upset about the shootings and I naively thought that calling on her faith and sharing the bold spirit of our East End friends would enable her to overcome her fear. I was wrong and my insensitivity to her very real fear, was inexcusable.
As we have sought to build bridges from some of the safest communities in Richmond to some of the most dangerous, fear has been our enemy. It is an enemy I have had to do battle with in many different ways and many different forms.
In 2005, a gun man began firing at one of my clients across the street from where my children were serving in the courtyard of a church building in Highland Park. That was my first real test. I consulted those wiser than me and they all challenged me to overcome my fear and remain in the community but fear won that battle and I left Highland Park. I abandoned the team that had served with me there for safer territory and I have regretted it every since.
We are now in communities equally as dangerous as Highland Park and today I was consumed by a different spirit, a spirit of boldness. I refuse to be intimidated and I refuse to allow the enemy to derail our team from the good work it is called to.
I understand why many of my teammates choose not to be in the community today, years ago I would have made the same choice. However, I pray they understand why that was not an option for me. I rarely do aftercare visits in the community anymore because of my busy schedule but when my team choose not to go, I heard God saying “Whom shall I send?” and I boldly said “I will go.” This decision, this battle, was my own. It was a show down between me and the enemy and this time, I overcame fear. The strange thing is, I was not fearful. After the Highland Park incident, I prayed that God would remove far from me that spirit of fear and give me a boldness and God in his faithfulness has and I see this same spirit in my urban friends.
I apologize to those I was insensitive to today. I pray you understand that years ago, I choose never again to allow fear of bodily harm to keep me from what God called me to. Perhaps it is a unique gift that not all receive, or perhaps it only comes after many battles, or perhaps I am simply foolish.
I do want you all to know, should by some chance the enemy win and take me from this earth, I pray you will celebrate my call to be faithful and recognize that should I depart, it is because it is God’s will and not because of some foolish choice I made. I choose to believe that God is in control and that even I can not mess that up.
My dear friend Martha Rollins has been leading inner city ministries in Highland Park for much longer than I. She once said to me we decided we would “choose love not fear” and every time we are tempted to give into fear we just remind challenge ourselves “choose love not fear”. Martha’s ministry has adopted her bold spirit and when I asked her how she did it, she said “it takes a couragous leader” to model “not fear”. Today, in my spirit, I knew I had to model courage and I pray someday my team will follow or at least understand my choice.
A dear friend Jamie helped me see that we all have fears. While I have overcome my fear of bodily harm, I am still fearful of other things, like not being able to make payroll, or not meeting our outcomes goals. Today was both a victory for me and a conviction. I pray God continues to work in me and continues to drive out all fear, in all parts of my life. These passages remind us that fear, all types of fear, other than the fear of God, are not of God. I pray they bless you as much as they have me.
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
1 John 4:17-19
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.
1 John 3:15-17
Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.
1 John 3:17-19
But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear ; do not be frightened.”
1 Peter 3:13-15
For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”