things down here at the church are rarely calm, at least so far. there is always a lot of work to be done, things to be figured out, stuff breaking or the never-ending complications arising from most everything already being broken. we were supposed to have a nice time for a meeting the other night, but our shower urgently needed to be fixed. so the night pushed late and we weren't able to really do anything together. after the progression of showers most people headed off to bed. but bobby asked if i wanted to play a game of chess. i said sure.
it was a daring match. i think it's safe to say that we will make good playing partners for one another, as it was very evenly matched. about halfway into our match we hear sirens, nothing really all that out of the ordinary around here. it is really surprising how used to them i have already become. but then we see the police helicopter out our window. it is flying just a couple blocks away, shining a light down that is scanning a lot of different area. we watched for awhile. some of the neighbors came out of their houses and were looking down the street, which we didn't think was the best idea since the helicopter light seemed to have not found whatever it was looking for. later on they sealed off the street for a block or so. after a bit we returned to our game, which i won by a narrow margin. after which bobby proclaimed "whatever!" and we went to bed.
the next morning i spent some time sitting out in front of the church with pastor howard. i had heard via text that there had been a stabbing just two blocks east of us, hence the helicopter and everything. witnesses were uncooperative with the police according to reports. but as pastor and i sat out there we talked to some of the neighborhood guys. one of them mowed the lawn for a small fee, then was telling us about how was there the night before, how he left when the two guys started getting mad at each other, how he should have taken one of them with him, how they were arguing over a game of chess. a game of chess, and a guy gets stabbed. a game of chess, at the exact time i was playing one only a few blocks away. i hadn't played chess in years.
in one sense it sort of de-mystifies the violence. not just a random stabbing to any passerby or robbery, but two guys getting into an argument. they probably knew each other, at least a little. it really could have happened anywhere. but it didn't. it happened down here. and that is the other sense--that people's level of constant anger is just so much higher in this inner city culture. it takes only the smallest thing to set people off. of course not always to that extreme, but still often with much less control than is healthy and safe.
i have a lot to learn about this culture. but i am glad to be here. glad to be a part of it. it has been and is swept under the rug so often by the rest of popular american culture. why do we ignore it? do we just assume that it is normal and expected to have some sort of violent, crime-filled ghetto somewhere? it is accepted, but should it be?
one of the things that we don't want to do as a community down here is to just continue to perpetuate the system of dependency and handouts. we want to seek to learn how to love people, but to do it in such a way that is long-lasting, that really truly helps them and their children with more permanence. it is a journey to learn how to aide community development, finding our role in the holistic restoration of the children of God. so often i have no idea where to begin, or how to do it, or what the next move should be. sort of like a chess game. it all can seem so overwhelming with so many pieces, and they all affect the whole landscape so differently. you can really only learn by playing over and over, usually losing a lot at first.
perhaps the most important lesson i learned in chess is that you have to constantly keep attacking. i use to try to set up these elaborate defenses to stop the other player. but the only way you can win is to put the other person in checkmate. and against good players you can't just sit back and wait for them to make a mistake so you'll have the advantage. you have to continue to put on the pressure and make them do the things they don't want to do, eventually trapping them into choices they don't want to make. i don't know if this is an apt metaphor really, but i know that the kingdom of God is an advancing force. for the scripture says that the gates of hell will not overcome you. that's their gates, not ours. and we have been on the defensive as Christians for far too long.
now we just need to learn once again how to build up our attack. positioning is vital and having all the right pieces in play is a must. what piece will you be? will you stay back behind the pawns? will you charge out too quick? most importantly though we must all realize that this all isn't just a game--this life thing. it's not for our own amusement. and are we willing to accept sacrifice for victory, so that the kingdom can break in and hopefully some day we will see people stop killing each other over silly games. do you believe it is possible?