Tuesday, April 28, 2015

In this update, I want to share an amazing story so that you can join us in praising God and pray with us into the next steps.

After a violent beginning to the year, things have finally settled down in our city. Our last First Responders Homicide PrayerWalk was April 1st , and it was one of the most amazing ever, encompassing ministry in three languages!

Habitat for Humanity has built a number of homes in the area of 23rd & Sprague Streets in Omaha. Many of these homes are inhabited by refugee/immigrant families from places like Nepal and Burma. As is the norm, many adults and elderly struggle with learning English, while the children pick it up quickly. 

Shortly after 8 a.m. Tuesday that week, a Bhutanese woman, recently arrived from Nepal, walked out her front door and found the body of an African-American man lying in the front yard. Fear quickly spread through the neighborhood families, many of whom had fled violence in their home countries.
One of our PrayerWalkers attends a Bhutanese church, so I asked Pastor Phurba Tamang to come and help minister and translate during our PrayerWalk. God gave us great favor with the family, and they agreed for us to meet in their front yard, subsequently joining us in a time of prayer.

While Pastor Phurba Tamang translated, the family shared their concerns about the activities in the lot over the fence behind their homes with Crime Stopper Officer James Shade and two local precinct officers. 

It was evident that these activities were contributing to their fears…now compounded by the homicide. One family had decided to leave, and others shared questions as to whether it would have been better for them to stay in their home countries. 

While they were sharing, I looked down the street and saw a group of refugee families watching us with a great deal of interest. I sent some of our team to speak with them, and they soon came back with about a dozen or more people

…but surprise! They were not Bhutanese but rather were Karen families from Burma. The situation became instantly more complex, as none of them spoke any English! After a few interesting moments, we discovered that across the street was a man who might translate. Some went to get him, and soon we had another translator. 

By that time we also had a good group of PrayerWalkers along with African-American and white neighbors, and the aunt of the man who was murdered. I asked them to be patient as I explained through the translators to the groups of Karen and Bhutanese who we were and why we were there. I have learned to be patient and give things opportunity to develop as God works in ways we can’t always understand.

Soon we all came together to pray over the neighborhood and over the victim’s family. As a visual symbol of the care of the Body of Christ, a prayer shawl was placed on the victim’s aunt, with another for the mom, as the women ministered beautifully to them in the midst of their grief. When the pastor had finished praying for a time in Bhutanese, we asked through the translator if one of the Karen people felt led to pray, not knowing for sure if they were even Christians! The translator started praying with such great power that there was no doubt Who he was praying to!

After he finished praying, something amazing happened. There were about a dozen young Karen & Bhutanese girls there between 10-15 years of age who spontaneously came up and hugged the aunt of the victim as tears freely flowed down her face. We just stood there and watched with goosebumps on our goosebumps! Such an amazing expression of love from one culture to another nearly overwhelmed us. 

Following the PrayerWalk, Officer Shade and I walked to the vacant lot behind the homes at 24th & Sprague where drug activity, etc., is a common occurrence. He asked about the possibility of churches and other groups helping to clean it up. Because of all the kids at the PrayerWalk, I asked him if there were any playgrounds in the local neighborhood. He said there were none in this area, which led us to wonder if we could redeem this land with a playground, thereby significantly reducing the violence, the illegal activities, and ultimately the fear. 

Unknown to me a young Bhutanese girl was standing nearby. Upon hearing the magic word “playground”, she boldly began to tug on my pant leg. I knelt to be at her eye level, and she said to me in perfect English, "Are you going to build a playground for us?" WHAM! My heart was pierced...What do I say? I told her didn’t know who owns the land, but that we were going to check into it to see if it could be done. She told me her father did construction in Nepal and that he would help...that set my mind onto the deeper possibilities... 

I immediately envisioned a collaborative effort with organizations, Habitat for Humanity, churches, businesses, off-duty police, the city, AND the neighborhood families themselves involved in building this together.

As I shared this at the next Omaha 360 network, there was very positive support. The ball is rolling in amazing ways that I am not yet able to share, but everything hinges on getting those vacant lots. We’ve been able to track down the owners in Florida, and Councilman Ben Gray is waiting on a response. 

Please pray into this that we can get this land and see it transformed from a gang/drug selling lot into a beautiful neighborhood playground.

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