Pastor Ike Mayfield of New St. Mark Baptist Church Reflection on the Clergy Walk on
September 23, 2011
As we started there was, of course, the apprehension of how would this community accept one African American male, one African American female, and three Caucasian males all walking together not looking anything like the residents in the community. Certainly most would think we were the "PO-PO"(police) trying to look undercover, while asking too many questions!
But as we walked and talked there was to my surprise an acceptance and a cry for our help that is almost overwhelming! As we walked and talked with different age groups it was revealed to us that most in this highly violent area felt that they had been alienated with no help from city officials nor other agencies since Hurricane Katrina!
The frustration of that was not really manifested until we came in contact with a young African American male of about 22 years old who was only known as Ron. The bitterness of feeling that you are in a hopeless situation was shown through his anger! An obvious drug dealer who felt he had no other option out of his dilemma but to harvest on the addictions of others! His anger showed in his constant use of expletives and, at one point, actually pulling an RTA bus stop sign completely out of the ground and tossing it into the middle of the street!
This was a very uneasy moment for our group, but as we walked up I could literally here the portion of Scripture that tells us Jesus said, "and lo I am with you even until the ends of the world," which made it easier to approach this very angry young man.
I approached and introduced myself as Pastor Mayfield and asked if there was anything I could do. He said no! My next statement I feel was the key to the door of communication. Without badgering I just told Ron that the group was there for him and if he wanted me to pray with him or just to talk, all he had to do was say the word! He immediately said, "NO!!" I said "okay" and then walked off.
The group then moved about a half block down and engaged in conversation with others when after about 20 minutes Ron came near to the group and motioned for me to come over and talk to him. The greatest words any of us could have heard that night came out of the angry young man's mouth, "Would you please pray for me?" He confessed to me that he was about to do something really bad and he really didn't want to and felt that if I prayed for him he would be alright! I did, and after offered my contact info and offered my help anytime he needed it. Ron turned it down but asked "When would we be back in the neighborhood?" I told him next Friday and he said, "That's good I'll be looking forward to seeing you then!" He turned to walk off then turned back and asked, "You sure you're coming?"
This encounter says to us that the community and even offenders are longing for our presence. One of compassion and of mediation! This STRATEGY WORKS!