Countering Crime with Love

2017-2

COUNTERING CRIME Through Love Outreach ministry BOOTS ON THE GROUND puts feet to faith IT WAS A MORNING FULL OF LOVE. A dozen or more people with a grass roots outreach called Boots on the Ground spent three hours at Creekwood South, one of the public housing properties run by the Wilmington Housing Authority. They walked the perimeter of the neighborhood, picking up trash. They cooked hot dogs and french fries, and invited all to come and eat. They played with children on the playground and basketball court. They dispensed lots of smiles and hugs and prayers, letting the residents of an often overlooked and marginalized community know that someone cared. The warm feelings lingered after the last volunteer left. Children still laughed on the playground. A group of young men played bas-ketball. But about 15 minutes later, the idyllic scene was shattered. Gunshots rang out. Four young men were hit. One died a few days later. The event rocked the neighborhood, and shook the volunteers. “One of the guys was on his deathbed, we had just fed and played basketball with him,” says Scott Burrell. Burrell is a newer volunteer who was in charge that day while the group’s leader, Pastor James Jamison, was southeast of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, feeding flood vic-tims with a handful of team members. The low-income public housing projects of Wilmington tend to be higher-crime areas, plagued by poverty, lack of opportunity and hopelessness. The young man gunned down in the aftermath of the outreach in September 2016 became the second fatality at Creekwood last year. After the gunfire, it would have been easy for the Boots on the Ground crew to abandon the neighborhood. Instead, some of the team returned the following weekend with a puppet outreach. Anything else would be contrary to the organization’s DNA. “We can’t allow violent incidents to dictate what we are going to do,” says Jamison, who, with his wife, Jewanta, also pastors Hope Baptist Church for All Nations and co-pastors Church Without Walls. “We’re here because there are violent incidents. So when we see them, that means we need to be here even more.” 30 WBM february 2017 BY SIMON GONZALEZ PHOTOS BY ANDREW SHERMAN


2017-2
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