Friday, May 22, 2009

The Contact Church's Response to Gang Violence

This is an excerpt from our senior minister Ron Babbit's newsletter to his supporters:

"The Reed Feed

"The Reed Community Center director called us at Contact and presented to us their problem--gang activity, fighting, profanity. He said, 'I have been called names I have never heard of.' We asked the director if we could show up and feed dogs and/or burgers to their clowns and darlins. He said, 'Whatever you want to do, we need help.' It's a joy to have so many opportunities to be in the community giving out a cup of lemonade, a musty donut, a slick hot dog placed inside a sometimes hard bun that has been refriged for a week or two. Muscles said, 'Those clowns and darlins don't care.' But when needed, Sarge says, "Throw them out." We buy fresh ones. Some of the clowns eat 2 to 3 dogs, 2 to 3 bags of chips, some healthy donuts, and a swaller or two of lemonade!

"The director has a team of himself and two ladies, with some volunteers who coach the gymnastics program. The Reed Feed Dream Team shows up every Monday afternoon from 3:15 until 5:00 p.m. Our mission is to bring joy, smiles, laughter, hugs, peace, and gifts of groceries for whoever shows up. The first week there were two Barney Fife, Mayberry security clowns sitting in their cars ready to run down the gang activity. They were sitting in their cars with motors running. I walked over and introduced myself. I asked if they were ready for some groceries. They were friendly, but refused the healthy grub. I asked them why they had the motors running in their cars. They said, 'So we can make a fast run toward the fights that will be happening here in a moment.' We continued feeding dogs/burgers and the Barney-boys never had an opportunity to chase after any gang activity--why?

"The next week we showed up with healthy groceries again. The Barney-boys were in their positions. We set up shop. The Barney-boys walked around stirring and inciting the clowns and darlins. It is sad to sit back and watch these grown men who don't know how to love people (and people wonder why many kids don't respect authority).

"During our third week at the Reed Feed, no Barney-boys were present--why? Every Monday afternoon since February, we haven't witnessed a fight. Some of the Reed Team spends time outside serving groceries and interacting with the outside clowns and darlins; and some of us are inside with some wanna-be basketball players. Big-Mac is inside with 10-12 darlins having fun doing crafts. When we show up for the Reed Feed, the clowns and darlins are ready for groceries. The word is out! People are asking, 'Why are you here?' 'Where are you from?' 'What church are you with?' 'Do you need help?' 'Can we help you with money?'

"It's a joy to touch hearts for eternity. Let me share some stories. Every week that we show up to feed, a 6th grade boy is always standing right where we park and set up to grill the dogs and burgers. He doesn't say much, but he is always following me around--like a shadow. Sometimes when I go inside to play basketball or visit with the workers with the Community Center, he follows. We showed up for the PFC (Panthers for CHRIST) at Clinton Middle School and guess who was there for a healthy donut? Our friend from the Reed Feed. He didn't say a word; he just smiled.

"Recently, one of the ladies who works with the Community Center said, 'You know, Ron, I have been going to church, and we started studying the book of Nehemiah.' She continued sharing that Nehemiah had a heart to make a difference by rebuilding, 'just like you and your team are doing by rebuilding lives here in this community.' She said, 'Thank you for showing up. I don't know how you do it.' Praise GOD! May HE receive the glory.

"A few weeks ago, I was inside the gym playing basketball against some clowns and a young couple showed up. I asked them if they wanted to play ball. He said, 'Me?' I said, 'Come on, you will be on my team. We are the ole folks.' He removed his shirt and he had more tattoos than the dudes have at the tattoo store. But that doesn't slow us from encouraging, smiling, sharing, loving, listening and playing team ball. We were able to visit, and he and his honey asked me how old I am. Seems to be a common question. I pray that my white curls don't slow down an opportunity with any of the clowns and darlins. The Reed Community Center director and his team of girls are very encouraged by our presence. GOD gave them an opportunity to call us and we were ready and willing to help.

"I pray for an apartment to be used for homeless teens--you talk about a much needed ministry. Keep praying about Reed Feed and reaching into the lives of homeless teens. Please pray for the start of a baseball and basketball ministry."