One day recently I was in the backyard working and I heard a series of loud bangs. For the months of June and July such noises were quite frequent as people around us were shooting fireworks off in the street; but this was not fireworks, these were gunshots… ominous, threatening, and close by. If you live here you learn quite quickly to tell the difference. Lisa came out of the house and gave me a worried look… the unspoken question lingering… was it someone we know? We instantly do a roll call so we know where our sons are. When I hear gunshots I send up an instant prayer for whoever’s involved. We heard sirens and not long after a police helicopter was circling our neighborhood. Rumors came to us that someone was shot at a nearby bus stop and the perpetrator was loose and nearby, hiding from the police. As it turned out a 17 yr. old boy had been shot and killed by another teenager outside a corner store less than a block away.
Our neighborhood has been in a state of heightened sensitivity since the George Floyd killing. Angry rioting and destruction, weeks of loud, but peaceful protests, and now an escalation of street violence to unprecedented levels. Almost every night there has been a shooting in the north and south side neighborhoods of urban Minneapolis. How can we live with this? Ironically one becomes inured to the frequent violence surrounding us, at least I have. I am by no means comfortable with it, but over the years I have developed a measure of professional detachment, at least until I discover that it involves someone we know. This shooting was different. It was so close to our house, at a corner store that my children and I frequent. Lisa and I pass it quite often when we go for walks. The victim was a Latino youth, a stranger to me; but not a stranger. I didn’t know him, but I knew him. I have young friends just like him. How did this happen? Why did it happen? We may never know.
There have always been challenges to living here, and this summer it’s been very difficult; but we do it out of love and obedience. Love for Christ first, and then our neighbors; and obedience to God’s call on our lives. It means something to be here. In small, yet significant ways God uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of Christ in our often troubled community during this tumultuous summer. “For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing” (2 Cor. 2.15). And we are not equal to this task, but we know God is. There is something good in this ‘hood. Even in the miasma of the failings of human society and institutions God’s presence shines forth.
A memorial shrine of a few flowers has popped up at the site of this boy’s murder. Lisa and I saw at on our way home the day after the shooting and returned to bring flowers and pay our respects. A group of people had gathered, we didn’t want to intrude. As we lay our flowers down two men approached me. One told me that he was the boys’ father, and thanked us for coming. We shed tears and grieved with this mourning parent as we extended blessing and comfort to him. Although we did not speak the same language there was no barrier between us. We came bearing flowers, we came bearing Christ.