It’s not uncommon for church planters to meet together. But on this past week in Baltimore, Maryland, church-planters were more than just meeting; they were strategizing on how to make a difference in a community that became unglued Monday afternoon, as 2,000 national guardsmen were brought in and a city was put on lock down. These church-planters began to relay what happen in vivid details. Students began to be released from school, with no transportation home due to the transportation service being shut down. The students had nowhere to go.
Many of the church-planters told stories revealing that many of the people and youth in Baltimore felt powerless. They believe this feeling was one of the main drivers of the rioting. Although none of the church-planters condoned the action of the rioters, all of them could understand why the rioters took out their anger on the city.
Mike Crawford, from Freedom Church, which is a multi-ethnic church less than 5-years old, told a story of how one of his children was playing soccer against another inner-city school in the area. Many of the students that were playing against his son’s team had no real shoes or equipment to fairly compete against the middle-class school that Mike’s son attends. As Mike was reliving the story, it moved him to tears; not because of how the team was playing, but because of the inequality that exists across the city of Baltimore. Joel Kurx, also a church-planter, shared the story of one his daughter’s friends, who had been killed. Little was done about it by law enforcement, perhaps due to the father’s skin color.
When asked if they were frightened to be called to serve in Baltimore, Kurtz spoke up and said that the gospel message should trump our fears. More than half of the citizens that call Baltimore home are of African descent and more than a third of its residents live below the poverty line.
John Sherron, the youth pastor at Mount Pleasant, said that many of the older generations have been experiencing this inequality for years. He was surprised that the rioting had not happen before now. Although many of the church-planters felt like a lot went wrong, they also felt hopeful that there are some things that were done right. For example, they applauded how the community came together right after the rioting. Charlie Brown, a new church-planter of less than six months, expressed optimism about the spirit of the people of Baltimore , who were willing to get their hands dirty by doing whatever they could do clean up their city. In fact, as I toured Baltimore the next day, I was surprised at how little garbage was left over in the streets. Many in the city of Baltimore felt that the faith community took over the streets the day after the rioting. Sherron expressed how many clergymen walked the streets after the rioting had stopped to show the community not only that they cared, but also that they were also there to protect them. From what I saw out of these church-planters, Baltimore has nothing to fear.