LTN Stories: The ‘Walking Dead’

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“We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say, ‘It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.’ Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.”Fred Rogers

When I was in college I took a class called Urban Ministries and the Kingdom of God. God used this class to cultivate my heart and passion for people living in the inner-city. This class showed me how important and effective ministry is when it is built upon Christ and relationships. Reconciling people to God and to others is vitally important.

To be honest, some days it’s difficult to not get stuck in thinking about the aspects of this neighborhood that are ‘wrong’
I have lived in this community for a little over two months now. To be honest, some days it’s difficult to not get stuck in thinking about the aspects of this neighborhood that are ‘wrong’ – the drugs, violence and poverty of this place can drag you down but I have the hope of Jesus.

There’s this little corner mart at the far end of my neighborhood where a couple of ladies frequently sit outside to shoot the breeze and people watch. They have lived here for many years and if there’s any gossip going down, they know it, in all honesty, they probably started it. One day, while we were out walking, my teammate and I stopped at the corner mart and chatted with Ms. Renee. We found out that she has lived in this neighborhood for the past 30 years and she wants ‘out of this place’ because of the violence and drug activity in the park and throughout the entire neighborhood. She also told us that she is fearful for her grandkids to come over because she’s afraid of them falling in with the wrong crowd. After about a 15 minute conversation we continued on with our walk. I remember walking away and thinking that surely Ms. Renee was exaggerating, at least a little.

About 3 weeks later it was a nice sunny day in the neighborhood so my teammate and I went around to houses and various neighbors inviting them to a get-together at our house. We stopped by the corner mart to invite Ms. Renee and the other two ladies. Before we knew it we found ourselves in a conversation with the three of them telling us to be careful in the neighborhood. Then Ms. Renee began to tell us about people she calls ‘the walking dead’.

“Before you know it, they’ll be out again. When it gets nice outside they come out their houses walking all slow with they eyes all glazed over, looking like the walking dead.”

My teammate asked her why they’re like the walking dead. Ms. Renee responded, “because they so high from their crack or meth. They get high in the park and then just walk around. You wait and see.”
The conversation ended as they took off for their houses when they found out it was almost time for their show.

A few weeks after that conversation with Ms. Renee my teammate and I were stopped at a traffic light when a man walked out of the park and crossed the street right in front of us. He was very obviously high, he walked slower than I could ever remember anyone walking before with a glazed look spread across his face. My roommate looked at me and said, “That must be what Ms. Renee was telling us about”.

I turned around to the picnic table behind me, my gaze instantly found the five to six syringe needles lying on the ground under the table.
Days later a different teammate and I went to the park. We headed over to a large gazebo in the very center of the park. At one point I turned around to the picnic table behind me, my gaze instantly found the five to six syringe needles lying on the ground under the table. I was paralyzed as my mind struggled to make sense of the scene in front of me. There were needles here. People have been shooting up here! I tried not to think about it as we left the park but I couldn’t not think about it.

At first, I was scared. The drug problem in this community was no longer just talk or statistics. It became real. Not only is it a real problem for someone in our community, it’s a problem for our whole community. It became a problem for the whole community once they made the decision to get high in the park and leave their needles behind.

Then I became angry. I was angry at the people who decided to get high in the park. I was angry that they left the needles and, in doing so, put park workers, community members and precious children at risk. Angry at myself for not being able to have proper ways to clean this mess up and not harm myself or anyone else in the process.

I’m heartbroken because all of the men and women who are addicted are somebody’s daughter, son, sister, brother, significant other, mother, or father.
Now, I am simply heart-broken. I have lost count of how many tears I have cried over finding the needles. I’m heartbroken for the men and women struggling with drug addictions who live in my community. I’m heartbroken because all of the men and women who are addicted are somebody’s daughter, son, sister, brother, significant other, mother, or father. I’m heartbroken at the thought that our park isn’t safe enough for the kids in our community because you don’t know what might be lying around.

“For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him (Jesus), and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”Colossians 1:19-20
Jesus is here in this community and He is still moving for our good even in the midst of all this brokenness.
This is a beautiful reminder and promise. Jesus came to reconcile ALL THINGS, things on earth and things in heaven. Jesus is here in this community and He is still moving for our good even in the midst of all this brokenness. One day this community will be redeemed and reconciled. O what a glorious day that will be!

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