[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: Hope in Liberty City?

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Hope in Liberty City?

This is what I'm talking about.

Outdoor church services are being held every Friday night in an effort to spur a spiritual revival to curb the violence in Liberty City.


'Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full.''
-- Luke 14:23

JoeAnn Glover walked the sidewalk quoting the verse, heading toward a group of teenagers, her eyes glued on a young woman sitting with two children.

''We're holding a church service around the corner,'' Glover said.

''I have four kids with me, and they're really hungry,'' the girl sighed.

''Well there's gonna be a lot of good food. Make sure those babies come get something to eat,'' Glover replied.

Hungry kids, single mothers and impassioned ministers were among 200 people who attended a church service Friday evening outside New Mt. Moriah Baptist Church in Liberty City.

They were drawn to the gathering by Glover and a team of parishioners who canvassed the Pork 'n' Beans neighborhood late into the night. Going door to door, they passed out fliers and stopped cars for more than an hour. Their mission: take back the streets.

''We can't wait on the government or the politicians. They only come when the cameras are here,'' Dan Goodmond said as he passed out fliers.

``The church has to be at the forefront of saving this neighborhood.''

More than 30 ministers from churches throughout Liberty City have committed to holding an outdoor church service every Friday night at Pork 'n' Beans in an effort to spur a spiritual revival to curb the violence plaguing the community.

''We just decided to do God's work. We're in a crisis right now, and the church has always been the savior in the black community,'' said Rev. Devin Brown, who spearheaded the effort.

Rooted in urban America's tumultuous soul, the church has been a steadfast force in the community even as poverty rocks its walls daily.

At Pork 'n' Beans, the church finds itself faced by a most formidable foe -- the community's apathy.

Nine-year-old Sherdavia Jenkins was killed July 1 by a stray bullet while playing in her front yard. Neighbors say they're doubtful another innocent child won't die.

''They [the killers] just don't care. It's like your kids can disappear,'' Regina Miller said.

''That little girl was just playing when she got shot,'' she said.

Sitting in front of her apartment, Miller gazed at Goodmond and the other church members.

''It's good to see church folk out here. I know they care if nobody else does,'' she said.

For Goodmond, the winding alleys and broken fences were an all-too-familiar scene.

''I remember being hungry . . . tormented,'' he said. ``I was a drug addict before God saved me.''

As the group headed back to the service, a patrol car sped by, an ambulance siren echoed in the distance.

''The devil won't stop God's work tonight,'' Glover said.

Meanwhile, a sermon by the Rev. Gregory Harris was met with thunderous applause from the growing crowd.

''Our young boys are being arrested at an alarming rate. The single mother is doing all she can. She feels no one cares!'' he bellowed. ``But Jesus cares!''

He continued: ``Sherdavia got shot playing in her yard. Will anybody cry for her? Jesus will!''

Glover, Goodmond and the others formed a prayer circle and recited in unison:

``Lord, thank you for bringing the message to your people. Thank you for using us to bring blessings to your children. Amen.''


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