In 2015... the Chicago Tribune reports 492 homicides for Chicago. In 2016... with about about 12 days to go until we the end of the year, there have been 758 homicides. These are just numbers, and though I have met friends and family member of two of this years 758 homicides... I don't feel the pain as much as I do about some of the youth I have known over the last 20 years who have become victims of violence.
Today I was thinking about the first young man I baptized. It was in 1995 or '96 at Curie High School. I was an assistant leader for a small group of teen guys. And we were small. My friend who lead the small group was scheduled to baptize David that Sunday.
David was part Native American. He was hungry for God... and perhaps more hungry for attention as he came from a broken family. His uncle and aunt really loved him and brought him to church. He totally was not a gang member or even the type of kid that would seem like he would join a gang. He was coming to church. And something got him motivated enough to go through some "First Steps" mentoring sessions on faith, repentance and baptism. And he was ready. And that Sunday was a big day in his life. New Life Community Church was meeting at Curie High School and the baptism was taking place after the worship service in the School/park district pool.
One problem came up that Sunday. For whatever reason... his mentor and small group leader did not show up for church that Sunday. Since I was the small group assistant it was called upon for the honor of baptizing David. I had never baptized anyone before and hadn't even seen a baptism where the main pastor was not the one baptizing people. That Sunday I was wearing some casual pants and a long sleeve shirt. I had no change of clothes. But when it is time for someone to get baptized, and your one of their youth leaders... you do what you go to do to help that youth along. So I jumped in the pool with my regular clothes on. It was an awesome moment. I will never forget borrowing clothes to change after service. I was forever connected to David.
I talked today to my former co-leader and we were trying to remember the details. Something happened in David's life where he had a turn for the worse. Somehow he got arrested and went to juvenile for something minor and that didn't make sense. I vaguely remember that he got jumped and beaten up pretty badly but can't remember if it was when he got locked up. But after that beating or maybe it was jail, it seemed if David had a different personality. He was super hyper and possibly had a chemical imbalance or something. He was just not the same person even as far as his personality. He began having problems with gangs targeting him and I am not for sure if he ever joined a gang or not.
I was devastated when I heard from his uncle David's final state. He got jumped and beat unconscious and left on some train tracks. A train came and crushed out of him what life was left in him. I fully believe David knew the Lord and struggled like us all with trying to find where he fit in and who he was. I wish his life was a success story that we here about Jesus and mentors changing someone's life. But David didn't make it. But that doesn't remove the impact some extended family and some youth leaders had on his life. I am confident when we were in the Curie pool he was crying out to God to change his life and save his soul. The final impact of his life and story for all eternity will be one without pain and complete healing in mind, body and soul!
But even almost two decades later. It still hurts. He is not forgotten. And I am probably scarred for life but how evil, WE as humans can be. I am sure that some of the 750 people murdered in Chicago this year might have been murders themselves. I am sure some were living a crazy lifestyle. But I am also sure there life didn't start out that way. I am fully confident that some of them were church kids from gospel preaching, Bible believing, Spirit-filled communities of faith. And yet bad company still corrupts good morals. And bad things still happen to good people. And I am confident that for some of the 750+ who lost their lives living in a city in desperate need of the Prince of Peace.
I don't know the secrets that could turn a whole city around. But I do know in the Bible God has used a corporate fast to shape history and to transform his people. Often in the Bible, fasting is associated with mourning. The appropriate response for a church that has compassion for a city it to mourn the loss of life in our city. On January 15th, 2017, I have recruited some pastor friends to join with me in calling the believers of Chicago to fast and pray. I am mourning with many as if my own son or daughters' life was taken. I am crying out to God that 2017 will be different. I may not know the 750+ who have died but have met friends and relatives who were shot multiple times and killed cold blooded with walking distance from my house that is suppose to be in safer part of Chicago.
David is one name of the thousands who have been murdered in the last 22 years I have lived in Chicago. If we knew their names and stories... I think our hearts would break and we would lose sleep at night and we work tirelessly to bring the hope and peace of the gospel to our city. Now is the time.