I’ve been home from my trip to the Congo and South Africa for one week, but I am still processing what it all meant.
The truth is, I think I will be contemplating what I saw there for a very long time. The scenes of the makeshift marketplace set into a hillside with thrown together booths is unbelievable to Western eyes. We can’t imagine just setting up shop anywhere, especially not in the midst of chaos and squalor. But somehow, even without an infrastructure, people are buying, selling, eating, cooking, laughing, and living. They keep going on.
The tribal wars in Africa—where over a million people have been killed in the space of a few years in just one region of Congo—is hard to imagine. A million people killed in tribal wars? We are mortified to think of a few thousand who have died in the war in Iraq, and yet in Africa, less than five years ago, a million were killed! And over what? The tribal wars are basically wars of hatred and revenge. Wars over someone having something (land, rights, money, status) that someone else doesn’t have. How is this different from the gang wars here in Los Angeles?
There is no difference! Gang wars in Los Angeles are identical to the tribal wars in Africa. One gang has territory, or respect, or rights to buy and sell (drugs, prostitutes, guns, or stolen goods) in one community and bans another from being there. One gang disrespects another. In Africa when that happens, whole villages are set on fire, people are forced into the roads, and they are lined up and shot or hacked to death. Thankfully, In Los Angeles, we haven’t arrived at that scale of murder yet. But there is definitely among gang members a value that says retribution is essential. And, the end result of retribution is devastation. I have seen it with my own eyes.
In my work with Cloud and Fire Ministries, I must believe that if we can touch one life at a time, eventually we will be able to impact the community and reduce the number of gangs, the number of gang members, and the effects of revenge and evil in our community. In Africa, I saw that it takes the church, the business leaders, and the politicians in order to make a difference. And, no real healing can happen without prayer.
Cloud and Fire Ministries is looking for people who will help us end the effect of gangs in our community. In the book of Romans, we are given the secret to how to do this:
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:21.
Love works. Help us reach out in love to youth in gang communities, youth currently in gangs, and incarcerated youth. Become part of the ripple effect.