Sunday, June 21, 2009

Shalom: a caring, sharing community where there is none to fear.

The words that serve as a title to this post are from Walter Brueggemann, early in his book entitled "Peace".  

It's no small irony that I walked into my home carrying this book tonight.  As I left my car I passed a young african american man who was cutting through the empty lot next to my house.  He walked through the grass, stopped next to the trailer parked in front of the house with the words "Sunshine Gospel Ministries" on it, bent over, placed a metal object on the tire that clanked as it hit the wheel well, and moved on without saying anything to me. 

I knew what it was.  I knew he'd stashed a gun.  

I went in the house, let Jessie, our dog, into the yard, and grabbed a glove.  I recovered the gun and called the cops.  

Soon, another young man (not the first one) came and looked. Seeing me on my porch he said "I just dropped my wallet here. . . .did you see it?"

"No", I said.  Caleb had come out and joined me on the porch.  He saw the gun, retrieved his camera and took a couple photos.  

Shortly later, both the guys came back, looking carefully under the wheel well, this time no without pretense. "Hey, you know what we are looking for. . . let me get my stuff back".   

"look, I'm a pastor"  (the nuance of ministry leader vs. pastor seemed inane to describe at the moment). . . "I can't do it".    "Be safe. . . " they said, and walked away.  

Caleb had gone in the house and come back.  I gave him my phone, told him to call the police again and tell them to get here quickly.  

5 mins later (30 mins gone by from the 911 call, no police) the second guy returned.  

"look, can I talk to you?"  I approached the fence.  

"hey, this is a grown man. . . just like you are a grown man. . . and he needs his gun" #2 says to me.  "well, I'm a pastor" I said, repeating my well intentioned partial obfuscation, "I can't" . 

"there's no need to get the police involved. .. and you don't have to give it to me. .  just put it back where you found it . . . and there doesn't have to be any trouble. . . "

"Look, I am a minister, and there is too much violence out here. .  I just can't. I can tell you about Jesus, but I can't give you the gun back.  The police are on the way."  He tried one more time. .. . "Look, there is no reason for you to remember me or me to remember you.  I just don't want anyone to get hurt. .  just put it back where you found it. . . "

I told him no again and he left.  About 3 or 4 mins later the TAC team arrived (cops in unmarked cars).  The retrieved the 380 out of the flower pot where I had put it.  I'd met these guys before at the site of a shooting a block from here.  "we know you" they told me. . . and then after shining their flashlights on my front door (the 100+ year old glass one) the coughed with some disgust. . . "still haven't changed out that door huh?!"  They took basic descriptions and headed out, the gun in tow.  

I returned to my book. "where there is no one to fear". . . I prayed.  

Our Father, who art in heaven. . . thy kingdom come. . . on earth as it is in heaven. . . where there is no one to fear.  


Scott Gladin said...

Joel, I'm praying for the safety and peace of your family, ministry, and neighborhood.
Know that God has a blanket of protection around you!

Shlomo said...


Hey Joel,

That was a great kindness you did for all parties involved. I also am praying for the safe-keeping of the Holy Spirit. Thanks for all you share here in this blog and also for the work you do through your ministry.


Jesse Curtis said...

This is a really inspiring story and a courageous act on your part. I don't know that I would be so brave, but God clearly gave you wisdom in the moment.
The police reaction is so sad but predictable. I suppose most of us have felt that disgust directed toward us.

kgirl said...
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hammerdad said...

The sad part about this is how common it is around here. Young men with guns, cops that are tied up with so many shootings that it takes more than half an hour to respond to a report of ongoing intimidation involving a hand gun, that sort of thing.

I appreciate your prayers and encouragement Scott, Shlomo, and Jesse. . . they don't teach you how to respond to these situations in Bible School. But the scriptures do tell us to develop a habit of doing "the things that lead to peace". . . following the Prince of Peace. . .