October 22, 2017
I was in a morning Bible study when I received the phone call. It was from the father of one of my youth group teens who had called to let me know that his son “B.A.” had been shot. Hearing this news, I felt overcome by disbelief and sadness as I began asking a flurry of questions. Dad calmly replied, “Reverend, he is alive, he is OK; the gunshots were not fatal.” I was thankful and relieved that B.A. was still alive, but then another wave of sadness overtook me as I remembered that two weeks earlier, I had suspended B.A. from youth group activities because he, as a “prank,” had brought a BB gun there and threatened others with it. This happened the week following the massacre at Sandy Hook, Connecticut, so as one can imagine, I did not find his “prank” amusing.
Days later, when I visited B.A. in the hospital, he told me in detail what happened. He said that he had been a victim of circumstance, that he was shot because of the new “friends” he had been spending time with. B.A. told me that the shooting happened so fast, he had no idea what to do. I asked him about the friend he was with when it happened, and B.A. looked downward. He hesitated for a minute and replied, “Reverend, I tried to wake him, but he didn’t make it.” Silence filled the room for a minute and B.A. then said, “Reverend, I’m staying away from that life; that was scary. Maybe God is telling me I need to be at church.”
I am grateful that B.A.’s life was not taken on the streets. At the same time, it is extremely difficult to imagine the pain of the parents of the young man and many other young people whose blood cries out from the ground due to violence. When I think of B.A., Psalm I also think of Psalm 99. It is a reminder that the church is a gift of God’s grace and that we are called to be “lovers of justice” in establishing “equity and righteousness” in being tireless advocates for young people. Our faith communities should be sanctuaries where young people can find love, refuge and protection so that all of our children can experience hope.
This weekend marks the 26th annual National Observance of Children’s Sabbaths. The 2017 Children’s Sabbath theme, “Moving Forward with Hope: Love and Justice for Every Child,” focuses on the importance of being vigilant in keeping our promises as adults to nurture, protect and be advocates of children. We can do this by providing alternatives to violence and responding to the issues of poverty, failing schools and other crises that prevent children from living lives of dignity and self-determination. Children’s Sabbath reminds us that we are called to renew our commitment to justice through love, advocacy and compassionate service to all children. (Free resources for the Children’s Sabbath can be downloaded at childrensdefense.org.)
Alonzo Johnson, Coordinator for the Presbyterian Committee of the Self- Development of People and Convener of the Educate a Child, Transform the World National Initiative
Today’s Focus: Educate a Child, Transform the World
Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Let us pray:
Holy God, remind us that you have called us to be bearers of hope for your beloved children. Strengthen our commitment so that we may be advocates for all children. Empower our service and challenge us to speak boldly on behalf of the vulnerable. In the name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.