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I learned that no matter how good or innocent you are, people don’t care. They just want to hurt you for the fun of it. People think violence is fun, and that it’s fun to hurt or kill others…. A lot of people just let the violence upon this world continue because they think trying to stop it will put them in danger.

Some people think that being positive and wanting peace isn’t a good thing.But I would start teen programs that talk about the causes and effects of youth violence. I’d make up an all-boy program and an all-girl program. And I would set up field trips to fun places.

— Jaewon Martin, age 14

The quotation above is an excerpt from an essay Jaewon wrote in school last year when dealing with the grief of a classmate who was gunned down. Last Saturday afternoon, Jaewon himself was shot and killed while hanging out at a basketball court with a friend and his 11-year-old brother. This is tragic. And ugly. And terrible. And yet this is the reality of our city. The reality of the kids Joel teaches every day. The violence wraps around hearts and overtakes, then entangles the innocents leaving bloodshed in its wake.

It grieves me to the core, and I know that God cries out against it. In the words of another teen on violence in our neighborhood, If God exists, then where is He? What’s He doing, resting? No. But maybe His people are. Maybe Christians aren’t moving into bad neighborhoods, or trying to bring the peace of Jesus to gang members, or offering healing to the broken family left behind. Maybe that’s the problem. Not that God is resting, but that His people are. That no one is being His hands and feet. No one is taking the gospel anywhere but those places which are comfortable and offer immediate self gratification.

There are some. People who are dying everyday to themselves for the benefit of the lost and dying. But they are few. If they are known of, they are often thought of as “heroes” of the faith. I live amongst them. And I love and respect them. But they are not heroes. They are ordinary people who think that what Jesus said and did is true for everyone, so everyone ought to know. They believe that everyone ought to have the chance to be free, to be healed, to be alive. Maybe there just aren’t very many Christians who really believe that’s the truth.

My heart and prayers go out to Jaewon’s family and friends. I know the burden of grief and pray that you will have comfort and peace.
You can read Jaewon’s story here.