A Mother and Her Crosses

Mothers shouldn’t have to receive crosses with their teenage sons’ names burned into them.

On New Year’s Day, a young man named Jr. was shot and killed at a corner store in Rainier Beach. Three weeks later, Jr.’s younger brother, Isaiah, took his own life after struggling to cope with the loss of his brother and best friend for long enough.

How are we, Christ’s Body, supposed to respond to tragedies like this within our city? Maybe a little bit like this:

The men at 118 Designs, a street outreach program and wood shop devoted to helping individuals immersed in gang life, came together to surround Jr. and Isaiah’s mother and presented her with crosses with her son’s names burned into them as an act of love and hope. Just before New Years, 118 Designs started making crosses for victims of gun violence they know; however, they were not expecting to have to use these crosses so soon, especially for the same family in such a close time frame.

As the men from 118 gathered to honor the life of Jr. at the site of his shooting, rival gang members came to the area to watch. 118 began to pray and the gang members began to leave. As Jr.’s cross was installed that day, the place was declared a place of peace, refuge and safe lament.

Three weeks after this gathering, Isaiah took his own life, and the boys’ mother asked for a cross for him, explaining how much Jr.’s cross had meant. Little did she know that she would not only be receiving a cross, but also an active symbol of what that cross stands for – grace.

At this past quarter’s Light Up the City gathering, the story of Jr. and Isaiah was told. After hearing the story, three churches and a few individuals, with no affiliation to Jr. or Isaiah other than hearing of their story, came together and volunteered to pay for Isaiah’s funeral and cover the remaining costs of Jr.’s funeral. Soon after that, the men from 118 were able to meet with Jr. and Isaiah’s family to tell them the funeral costs were paid for, and they held another small prayer service to install the crosses and ask God to reclaim that place as His.

Though this family experienced a great tragedy, they were surrounded by the love and grace of Christ. They were able to experience God’s goodness, and The Church was able to point those in need to God.

The significance of Christ’s Church is significant in these tragic situations. When God’s people are willing to serve and engage, it inspires people and gives hope. This hope is contagious, and can transform a community. Rather than helping with funeral costs when they’re needed, this hope can begin to transform to remind us all of the incredible value of a human life, and we can get ahead of these tragedies. Please pray with us for peace, and the strong presence of Christ in our (and your) city.

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