Child abuse has been defined as an act, or failure to act, on the part of a parent or caretaker that results in serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation of a child, or death. (42 U.S.C.A. § 5106g)

Child abuse laws have raised difficult issues, pitting the rights of children against the rights of families and parents. The mistreatment of children at the hands of parents or caretakers has a long history of a system that gives children few, if any, rights.

About 40 million children worldwide suffer abuse every year, with more than 1,500 children dying of abuse in the United States annually and affects all educational and socioeconomic levels, ethnicities, cultures, and religions.

Many other important statistics regarding this problem in the United States include that it costs society more than $120 billion per year and that with more than 3 million referrals to state and local agencies every year, an average of six such referrals occur every 60 seconds!

Survivors of child abuse are at greater risk for physical, emotional, work, and relationship problems throughout childhood and into adulthood. Common forms of child abuse include neglect, physical assault and emotional abuse. But the most disturbing abuse is the sexual assault of a child.

It is important to understand that child abuse, whether physical, sexual or emotional, is not always immediately visible. Which is why when a child reports the abuse, often they are not believed. Victims of child abuse may experience so much stress in reaction to the abuse that it often leads to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. (PTSD)

Often the adults who are designed to protect children refuse to take action because the perpetrator is a family member and they fear that doing so will split up the family unit. (And often does) Many times family members will support the perpetrator and accuse the victim of filing a false report, which causes even more stress for the victim.

Currently, the Nebraska Sex Offender Registration Law (SOR) does not have any restrictions on registered sex offenders. It does not have the legal jurisdiction to prevent an offender from attending events, limiting employment, restricting an offender from entering any facilities, or refrain from living with or socializing with children. The SOR law can only mandate that the offender register his or her required information under statutes 29-4004 and 29-4006 at the sheriff’’s office within the required time. Even when a perpetrator of sexual child abuse is convicted, they are often only given probation and required to register as a sex offender for no more than 15 years. That means that someone who has been convicted of child sexual assault is able to freely visit playgrounds, children museums, schools and other places where they have access to vulnerable children while on probation.

I have written Governor Pete Ricketts about changing the Nebraska Sex Registry Law so that more restrictions can be placed on sex offenders so that they are not allowed to freely interact with vulnerable children who are now at risk from them.

The Governor wrote me back telling me that a senator needed to bring this issue up in the legislation before he can do anything. So I wrote letters to many Nebraska senators about this issue. So far, I have not heard from any of them.

Our world has changed

When I grew up, the typical family was still a working dad, a stay-at-home mom, and other kids in the neighborhood with the same type of families. Today, the divorce rate is almost 50 percent, and children living with a single parent or in a blended family have become all too common. This creates a whole new environment of risk for children.

Did you know that a child with a biological mother who is living with a man who is not the child’s father is 33 times more likely to suffer abuse. (Source: Dreamcatchers for Abused Children)

I know a girl who was physically and emotionally abused by her stepfather for over 10 years before he sexually molested her. Once the abuse was reported, it still took the court system over two years to finally convict the man. Even then, he was allowed to plead guilty to third degree sexual assault, (a misdemeanor) rather than sexual assault of a child. (a felony) The judge only sentenced him two years probation! What makes matters worse is that the victims’s mother maintains that her daughter made the whole thing up.

Less than two weeks after being released on probation this same man was arrested again for child abuse against another daughter still living in the home! Now he faces  charges for child abuse in one county and probation violation in another county.

No parent wants to believe that one of their own family members or a spouse would be capable of sexually molesting their child, but if a child comes to you complaining of inappropriate behavior of someone you know, the worst thing you can do is ignore it. This problem will NOT go away on its own, and if the perpetrator is not confronted, it will only get worse.

What can we do to help?

Children often won’t tell you straight up that something is happening to them, because they’ve been threatened, they may be ashamed, or they may not feel comfortable talking to you about it. So it is up to adults to watch for the signs of abuse and act on behalf of the child.

Watch & Listen!

You may be surprised at what you can learn by observing a child during playtime.  It’s why so many therapist use “Play Therapy” when dealing with younger children. There are also possible physical and behavioral indicators of child sexual abuse, some of which are:

  • Unusual  or inappropriate interaction between a child & a specific person.
  • Showing unusually aggressive behavior toward family members and friends.
  • Experiencing a loss of appetite or other eating problems.
  • Showing unusual fear or a sudden reluctance to be alone with a certain person.
  • Engaging in persistent sexual play with friends, toys or pets.
  • Engaging in self-mutilations, such as cutting themselves.
  • Wearing an unusual amount of layers of clothing.

For more information and help contact:

Project Harmony

11949 Q Street / Omaha, NE 68137

402) 595-1326

http://www.projectharmony.com

Childhelp USA’s National Child Abuse Hotline

1-800-422-4453

(1-800-4ACHILD)

http://www.childhelp.org/

National Domestic Violence/Abuse Hotline

1-800-799-7233

(1-800-799-SAFE)

1-800-787-3224 TTY

http://www.thehotline.org/

 

Because no child should have to suffer abuse in silence.

 

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I first learned of Sam Herron              on Face Book. I was impressed with his talent as a photographer. But I was even more impressed with his empathy for those he photographs—the homeless men and women who live on the streets in Omaha, Nebraska.

People might wonder how Sam gets these up-close-and-personal glimpses of homeless men and women who spend most of their lives invisible to the general public.

Sam will tell you that it’s because he understands them. He understands them because he was once one of them. “Just lose your entire life,” he says. “Live in your car. And you, too, can photograph the street.”

Sam doesn’t take pictures just to be taking pictures. He knows many of the people he photographs personally. They talk sometimes for an hour before Sam takes out his camera and asks them if he can photograph them. They tell Sam about their life on the streets, how their day is going, and Sam can relate to all of them.

Just like so many others, Sam never thought he would be in their situation. “Not me,” he says. “But when I was…it changed me. And I wanted to show it.”

It happened slowly at first. He lost his job. He found another job, but lost that one, too. He was jobless for a month, then two, then four. He struggled with depression and anxiety and he sometimes drank too much. Eventually, after spending his life’s savings and selling most of his possessions, he realized he had nowhere to go. It was the dead of winter, right around Valentine’s Day.

The first night, he parked underneath the 10th Street Bridge and shut off his car. He woke up in the morning shivering uncontrollably. His toes were numb. By the end of the first week, Sam had started to develop a routine. He would wake up in the morning, pull on one of his shirts he had carefully folded in the trunk, and drive to the Blue Line Coffee in north downtown just as it opened. Once inside, he would walk to the bathroom, lock the door, and using the sink and the soap dispenser, he would give himself what passed for a bath.

He would buy a cup of coffee, open his battered laptop computer and apply for jobs online. And then, if he had any change left, he would buy another cup of coffee and write. He wrote about his life; about his homelessness; or whatever popped into his head. In the afternoon, Sam headed to 13th Street Coffee & Tea in the Old Market and continued to apply for jobs and write on his laptop.

At night, he would go to the Rose & Crown Pub near 20th and Howard Streets. The regulars there got to know him and would buy him drinks. Everybody thought he was just an eccentric, tattooed writer who liked to drink. (This was partially true) But what they didn’t know was that Sam stayed there until closing every night because it was warm.

After closing time, Sam would steer his car toward the same spot beside a church on Leavenworth Street. He would blast the heater during the drive, and then he would park and shut off the car. Each night, he would sleep with his work boots on. He would wake up at 6:30, get dressed, and start all over again. After a while, he began to wonder, “Am I ever gonna get out of this car?”

It’s hard for Sam to choose his lowest point while he was in this valley, but he says it’s easy to pinpoint the moment when he started climbing back out. It was the moment that he first picked up his old Canon SD 400 camera, (one of the few things he hadn’t sold) and began to shoot photos of his fellow down-and-out fraternity brothers.

Sam had developed a pattern for the men he didn’t know. He would offer them a cigarette and then strike up a conversation. He would tell them his story and eventually he’d ask: “Can I take your picture?”

Last year Sam hosted an exhibit at Creighton University called “Street Life Chronicles,” which featured images of the homeless in Omaha. Sam said it was “soul crushing” having to relive his time on the streets. “I went to my old homeless haunts twice a day to catch the right sunlight.” He recalls. “That was the easy part. Having to endlessly live out my recent past with those who still suffered was the difficult part.”

Sam is doing much better now. He worked as a stand-in for Bruce Dern in Alexander Payne’s movie, “Nebraska.” And he picked up a few photo jobs. Then he picked up a few more. He also started his own freelance photography business.

He soon plans to work on a long-term shoot with a fashion photographer. And if things work out, he will travel to exhibit his photos at a Creighton sister university in China.

Last year Sam was nominated for Best Emerging Visual Artist by Omaha Entertainment & Arts Awards of 2014. Some of his photos were showcased during the award ceremonies at the RNG gallery in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Sam has done more than just take great photographs. He has given us a glimpse into the invisible world of the homeless community. If you look closely, you will also get a glimpse of the man behind the camera—and hopefully, see a little of yourself there too.

Sam still thinks of his companions on the street and says, “Many tonight will be in a similar situation without the benefit of an automobile to sleep in, and it’s a sad fact that should give all compassionate people pause.”

Our heart should reach out to all the invisible people in our city. They are someone’s mother, father, brother and sister—and they are created in God’s image. Remember Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40)

 

“I was and continue to be exceptionally poor by some people’s standards. On the other hand when compared with a large percentage of the planet, I’m suffering from an embarrassment of riches.” – Sam Herron

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© Ipso Facto Photography – by Sam Herron – used by permission

You can contact Sam at— https://www.facebook.com/samuelherron

More stories like this can be found in The Heartland News Street Newspaper. The Heartland News primarily addresses issues related to poverty and homelessness and is distributed by poor or homeless venders. Venders sell the paper for a set price, (usually $1.00) and keep the money they make. For many, this gives them the opportunity for a first small step toward independence and permanent housing.

To donate contact:

The Heartland News 4001 Ames Ave, Omaha, Ne. 68111.

 

While walking home from Irving Middle School in Lincoln, Nebraska last year, 14-year-old Frida Aguilera was ambushed and attacked by a classmate while other kids circled around and videotaped the incident.

“My face was full of blood and at that point I guess they just thought that was enough,” said Aguilera.

Frida’s attacker got a week suspension and was prosecuted in juvenile court. But the passive bystanders taping the entire incident were not punished.

Unfortunately, Frida’s story isn’t the only one. In December, 9th grader Jared Williamson was leaving school when he was involved in a brutal and unprovoked attack that left him with a concussion and cervical sprain. Students watched and filmed the incident, egging the attacker on. Within minutes the fight was posted to Facebook. After Jared’s attack, he was diagnosed with PTSD and now has to be home schooled because of it.

After Frida’s attack, Frida’s mother contracted Thomas Inkelaar of Inkelaar Law Firm. Inkelaar says Nebraska has no cyberbullying or bullying laws on the books. Nebraska only has an anti-bullying law stating that schools must put policies and procedures in place. “To actually say hey it’s illegal for someone to bully someone, there is actually not a public policy on the record,” he said.

Inkelaar Law is petitioning for stronger state legislation against bullying what is being called ‘Frida’s Law’. If passed, this law would include criminalizing bullying behavior as acts of violence and hold kids videotaping the incidents accountable. “The goal is to stop this, put it in place where we can have safety in our schools,” said Inkelaar. “At minimum, the goal for Frida’s Law is that the aggressor’s sentence includes counseling and community service.”

But what is happening in our schools now goes beyond bullying. It is assault, plain and simple!

Students who engage in violent assaults are more often suspended for a short time when they should be expelled from a school or district, as well as face criminal penalties, including jail time. School districts should also face civil law penalties, in the form of hefty monetary fines, if it is proven that they failed to prevent or punish certain types of behavior by students within their district.

When a teacher is threatened with violence or suffers the same type of attack from a student, the student responsible for the attack is expelled and quickly arrested and charged with assault. Should not students be allowed the same protection under the law?

Research has shown that violent assaults on students can end up causing lasting damage to its victims. I too was bullied as a kid, and I found the experience to be pretty ugly. I’m in my 60s now; and although it’s been years since I experienced getting beat up by three bullies after school for two weeks, that experience has never left me.

I don’t think about it much these days, but I know that that experience has affected me as an adult—and not for the better. Because no one was willing to protect me I felt I had no choice but to quit school in my junior year. As an adult I suffered from depression, low self-esteem and experienced many failed relationships. Even after I surrendered my life to Jesus, it was still years before I was able to see my own worth as a person.

I know that I am not alone in this. Our world is filled with people who continue to suffer from emotional problems because they were victims of physical attacks in school.

How did we come to this point? What causes our children to become such uncontrollable beasts who brutally assault each other without conscience?

The apostle Paul warns us that whatever a person sows, they will also reap the same. (Galatians 6:7-8)

Look at what we have sown: We’ve exchanged the security of family values with immoral ideas and attitudes. Sanctity of life is no longer fought for, and more often is legislated against. We’ve replaced the Bible and prayer in our public schools with metal detectors and police security….Welcome to the harvest!

Addressing these problems with positive parenting and by teaching problem solving skills and anger management may help to reduce violence among some teens, but until we repent as a nation and turn back to God and teach our children to do the same, I’m afraid that nothing will change.

Remember God’s warning through the prophet Isaiah: “Woe to the sinful nation, a people whose guilt is great, a brood of evildoers, children given to corruption! They have forsaken the LORD; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on Him… Take your evil deeds out of my sight; stop doing wrong. Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow. Come now, let us settle the matter, says the LORD. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” (Isaiah 1:4; 16-20)

WAR & CONFLICT BOOK ERA:  WORLD WAR II/WAR IN THE WEST/THE HOLOCAUSTThe Nazi Holocaust began in 1933 when Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany and ended in 1945 when the Nazis were defeated by the Allied powers. It is estimated that 11 million people were killed during the Holocaust. Six million of these were Jews.

Many people around the world were shocked and angered to find out that during World War II, a number of German physicians conducted painful and often deadly experiments on thousands of concentration camp prisoners without their consent. Typically, the experiments resulted in death, disfigurement or permanent disability.

“Be sober; be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)

From reports of the kidnapping, rape and slaughter of innocent women and children and the beheadings of western journalists by Islamic terrorists, it appears that the devil is still walking about like a roaring lion.

But have we been any less evil?
The devil and the demons seek to know our weaknesses so that they can attack our most vulnerable position. Just like Uncle Screwtape says in the book ‘The Screwtape Letters’ by C.S. Lewis: “The safest road to Hell is the gradual one. This is the road taken by quiet people, responsible citizens, religious people, our neighbors and even people participating in the Christian church.”

Japanese-internment 2The 1st American Holocaust
Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, which permitted the military to circumvent the constitutional safeguards of American citizens in the name of national defense. The order set into motion the evacuation and mass incarceration of over 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry, most of whom were U.S. citizens or legal permanent resident aliens.

These Japanese Americans, half of whom were children, were incarcerated for up to 4 years, without due process of law or any factual basis, in bleak, remote camps surrounded by barbed wire and armed guards. They were forced to evacuate their homes and leave their jobs and businesses. In some cases, family members were separated and put into different camps. President Roosevelt himself called the facilities “concentration camps.”

Some Japanese Americans died in these camps due to inadequate medical care and the emotional stresses they encountered. Several were killed by military guards for allegedly resisting orders.

At the time, Executive Order 9066 was justified as a “military necessity” to protect against domestic espionage and sabotage. However, it was later documented that “our government had in its possession proof that not one Japanese American, citizen or not, had engaged in espionage, not one had committed any act of sabotage.” (Michi Weglyn, 1976)

It took almost 50 years for Congress to pass the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 that acknowledged that “a grave injustice was done”. Even then, each victim of the internment was only paid $20,000 in reparations along with a signed apology from the President of the United States on behalf of the American people! The period for reparations ended in August of 1998.

ToxicThe 2nd American Holocaust
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the declassification of top-secret studies, the “Human Radiation Experiments,” done over a period of 30 years, in which the US conducted radiation experiments on as many as 20,000 vulnerable US citizens. Victims included civilians, prison inmates, federal workers, hospital patients, pregnant women, infants, developmentally disabled children and military personnel—most of them powerless, poor, sick, elderly or terminally ill.

Eileen Welsome’s 1999 exposé The Plutonium Files: America’s Secret Medical Experiments in the Cold War details “the unspeakable scientific trials that reduced thousands of men, women, and even children to nameless specimens.”

In 1950 an experiment to determine how susceptible an American city would be to biological attack, the U.S. Navy sprayed a cloud of bacteria from ships over San Francisco. Monitoring devices were situated throughout the city in order to test the extent of infection. Many residents become ill with pneumonia-like symptoms.

In 1994 Senator John D. Rockefeller issued a report revealing that for at least 50 years the Department of Defense has used hundreds of thousands of military personnel in human experiments and for intentional exposure to dangerous substances. Materials included mustard and nerve gas, ionizing radiation, psychochemicals, hallucinogens, and drugs used during the Gulf War. That same year, the U.S. Government admitted that it had offered salaries and immunity from prosecution to war criminals and scientists who had performed human medical experiments in exchange for data on biological warfare research.

baby_20_weeksThe 3rd American Holocaust
From the Nazi concentration camps to black slavery, to the human experiments in America—there was one common thread: A belief that there is a portion of society that are non-persons.

Forty-one years ago the infamous Roe v. Wade decision became law which legalized abortion-on-demand nationwide. The aftermath of this tragic ruling is the deaths of over 55 million innocent unborn babies!

Today it is the unborn child—tomorrow it may be the elderly or those who are incurably ill. Who knows if a little later down the road it may be anyone who has political or moral views that do not fit into the distorted reasoning of the day?

How many physicians, scientists, teachers, artists, musicians, pastors, missionaries, engineers, and other notable contributors to society have been murdered in the womb since abortion-on-demand was legalized in this country?

Today, Matthew 23:37 could be translated: “America, America, you who kill the prophets and those who are sent to you! How often I wanted to gather you together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!”

It is Satan’s subtle devices that are the most dangerous. That is why in our society, which is so given over to materialism and hedonism, we need to be even more aware of his schemes so that we can better stand against him.

“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended.” (Romans 13:1-3 NIV)

Many in the Church have interpreted these verses to mean that all believers should obey the government because its authority has been ordained of God for our good. This particular view is a gross distortion of the truth. And the most dangerous lie is the one that is the closest to the truth, but is not.

We should learn what Romans 13 really means. I’ve found that when a certain text that doesn’t seem logical, it’s useful to look at the actions of the writer and the context in which it is written to see if it is consistent with your interpretation of his teaching.

Paul writes that “whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.” But the book of Acts shows Paul repeatedly doing just that! So there must be something wrong with our understanding of the text.

Some modern translations make Bible verses more clear than the King James Version, while others misinterpret the true meaning. The Greek word used in Romans 13:1 for ‘governing authorities’ is ἐξουσία (exousia) and refers to the authority instituted by God, or what the King James Version refers to as ‘higher powers’. So the obvious question is just who or what are the higher powers?

Obviously, in the spiritual realm, there are good and bad powers. On one side we have the Lord and his great angelic host. In the other group, we find Lucifer and the fallen angels, who most certainly qualify as a ‘higher power’ for Satan is referred to as the “prince of the power of the air.” (Ephesians 2:2) Later in that same book, Paul tells us, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Ephesians 6:12)

Common sense should tell us that Paul is not telling us to be subject to the satanic higher powers in the spiritual realm, so why do we assume he is telling us to be subject to evil earthly powers? How could it be scriptural for us to cooperate with the earthly agents of spiritual wickedness?

The next verse says “Whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.” If we resist the evil in the spiritual realm, it’s clear that we won’t bring judgment on ourselves as a result. How then, could this verse mean that if we resist evil in the earthly realm we receive judgment from God? In other words, in cases where the evil is vested in government, the idea that we are to no longer resist this evil is ludicrous!

When Paul had been beaten illegally by evil men within the Roman government, he refused their command to come out of the jail and defiantly says, “They beat us publicly without a trial, even though we are Roman citizens, and threw us into prison. And now do they want to get rid of us quietly? No! Let them come themselves and escort us out.” (Acts 16:37) Isn’t that resisting the earthly governing authorities?

And after Peter and the apostles were released from jail they were brought before the Sanhedrin and were given strict orders not to teach in Jesus’ name. (Act 5:12-29) Peter told them, “We ought to obey God rather than men. “ The NLT is translated as, “We must obey God rather than any human authority.”

The second time that Peter is assisted in a jail-break by an angel, (Acts 12:7) did he bring judgment on himself because he left his jail cell without permission? How is breaking out of jail obeying the government?

Paul is telling us we must not resist the righteous power of God when it is manifested in the various earthly sectors of government. But as far as I can see, God’s righteous power is rarely manifested in government. While corruption can exist in any human organization, it seems that corruption in government is the worst. The 2013 Global Corruption Barometer, published by Transparency International, reported that people worldwide have the perception that the five most corrupt institutions are: political parties, the police, public officials, the legislature, and the judiciary.

King David gives us definitive instructions when he tells us to “Defend the poor and fatherless.” (Psalms 82:3) Wouldn’t that include a baby that is murdered as he is trying to be born? Under the current law, a doctor can legally murder a baby while still in its mother’s womb. Yet it’s against the government’s law to even protest this hideous crime within so many yards of the murderer’s so called, medical facility! Where do we draw the line?

We are expected to obey God rather than the government – regardless of what the government tells us is legal or illegal.

For example, a 90 year old Florida man, Arnold Abbott, was arrested for feeding homeless people. Abbott and two pastors in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, were charged for feeding the homeless in public, a new ordinance banning public food sharing. Now they face possible jail time and a $500 fine! But they chose to “obey God rather than men.” Abbott said the threat of charges won’t stop him from doing it again. “I’m not afraid of jail. I’m not looking to go, but if I have to, I will,” he said. On Dec. 2 a judge ordered the city to temporarily stop enforcing the law. Judge Thomas Lynch told all sides to enter into mediation during a 30-day period. That mediation has not yet begun.

We must always remember that God’s Kingdom is not of this world. (John 18:36) And if we become conformed to the ways of this world, how can we then be “counted worthy of the kingdom of God” for which so many are suffering? (2 Thessalonians 1:5)

“Can a corrupt throne be allied with you—a throne that brings on misery by its decrees? The wicked band together against the righteous and condemn the innocent to death. But the LORD has become my fortress, and my God the rock in whom I take refuge. He will repay them for their sins and destroy them for their wickedness; the LORD our God will destroy them.” (Psalm 20-23)

The question you need to ask yourself is, are you committed to obeying God rather than man, or are you committing spiritual fornication by obeying the corrupt government of man rather than God?

January is not yet over and many of our New Year’s Resolutions have already been forgotten. After all, most will have to admit that our New Year’s Resolutions are just a feeble attempt to fix ourselves to make ourselves more acceptable to others. And when we cannot live up to our own expectations to make ourselves better, we tend to give up and store those resolutions in the deep recesses of our conscience.

Fortunately, God loves us just as we are, not as we should be. God’s love for me and his commitment to me does not depend on my resolve to change, but on God’s resolve not to give up on me.

The good news that gets me through bad times is that God’s devotion to me is not dependent on any attempt of mine to change myself—it’s knowing that my messes are always met with God’s mercy, my failures with his forgiveness, and my guilt with his grace, that helps me survive my daily disappointments with me.

The Gospel of Jesus is good news to those who’ve been crushed by the trials of life—unpaid medical bills, foreclosure notices, the death of a loved one, a wayward child, and so many others; because in our weakness He is made strong in us! (2 Corinthians 12:9-10) Jesus makes the ordinary extraordinary; and because Jesus succeeded for you, you cannot fail!

So, as this New Year gets under way, I’m still going to try and get better, but it’s much less stressful to know that I can live my life dependent on God rather than on myself.

That’s why I refuse to give up!

The Columbine High School massacre, the Sandy Hook shooting, and the mass shooting at the midnight premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises” in Aurora, Colorado, were all perpetrated by white males, who obviously suffered from mental illness—Stark reminders that crazy people live among us. Many have debated whether we should create more institutions for the mentally ill in order to protect us from these dangerous individuals.

But what should we do about the typical gang violence in major cities that we see broadcasted on the local news? Every night it seems that a similar story is told: “Police have responded to the scene of a shooting; Police believe the shooting was gang-related; No suspects have been arrested.”

People living in neighborhoods with known gang populations where these types of shootings frequently happen represent a legitimate fear of private citizens, parents, children and business owners who live, work, and go to school in these neighborhoods.

Five year old Payton Benson was killed when three callous gunmen peppered her street with a barrage of bullets and one of the bullets shot and killed the little girl as she sat eating her breakfast.

Stephen Arps and Johnnesha Brown were shot just outside Brown’s parents’ home near 45th Street and Grand Avenue in Omaha, Ne.

Even those trying to change the gang environment in their neighborhood are not immune to it. An anti-gang activist’s 16-year-old son, Charles Trotter, who has acknowledged ties to the 37th Street Crips in Omaha, has been charged in the shooting deaths of two men at a party.

Can we just pray it away?
An Omaha group called ‘First Responders’ have been meeting together at places where community members have been violently murdered. They meet to pray for the victims’ families and believe they will help reduce violence in Omaha by mobilizing people from churches and neighborhoods all over Omaha to pray together. Two prayer walks were already held in Omaha soon after the New Year began in response to two shootings that left three people dead.

Unfortunately, prayer alone won’t deter gang violence. It hasn’t worked in Chicago, It hasn’t worked in Detroit, and it won’t work in cities where the minority black population works overtime to fight against violent crime in their neighborhoods.

Don’t misunderstand, I believe in prayer. And I believe that we should rally around the friends and families of victims of gang violence and support them in prayer. I also believe that many of God’s miracles are wrought in the bowels of the prayers of godly men and women. But if prayer alone would stop violence, then we should be holding prayer-walks along the Mexican/ US border and in every country where violence is destroying lives.

We need to understand that gang violence grows out of a distorted mind-set. When David Wilkerson went to New York to minister to the gangs there, he didn’t hold prayer-walks at the scene of murders. Instead, led by God’s spirit, he reached out to the gang members in order to change their mind-set of violence.

Sometimes, one of the biggest hindrances to reducing gang violence is the news media sensationalizing every gun-related crime that happens. These stories get played over and over again with the pictures of the perpetrators of these heinous crimes plastered across the TV screen until they’re burned into peoples’ memory. They give these criminals their 5-minutes of fame while the victims are barely mentioned!

Most people recognize the names of Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, but how many would recognize the names Kelly Fleming, Matthew Kechter, or William Sanders? Many in the Omaha area will recognize Nikko Jenkins’ name, but do they know who Jorge Cajiga-Ruiz and Juan Uribe-Pena were?

During the time of Noah, “God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Genesis 6:5) There it is—the people of Noah’s day had a mind-set of violence! All the bloodshed, murders, etc. that take place are the fruit of a mind-set of violence. And God blames all violence on a mind-set. (Thoughts and intents of the heart) “In your heart you devise injustice, and your hands mete out violence on the earth.” (Psalm 58:2)

It starts with the children.
Changing a mind-set has to start with the children. If a child grows up with love, attention, compassion and understanding, then he will not pull out a gun and kill others when he is older.
Being a parent is the most important job in this world. And we need to take seriously the responsibility of teaching them love, respect and everything else that will assist them in growing up to be moral and loving adults.

How can we expect a teen or a young adult to be an asset to society if he is brought up in an environment where there is no love or respect in the home? Many of those that kill are hurting—and they’re angry. They hate their life, and because they cannot stand it, they lash out in violence.

As Christians and as fellow human beings, we should look out for those who are hurting, sad and angry, and let them know that they are not alone. Usually, we ignore the signs because it’s so much easier to walk away.

Robert Wildeboer, a criminal and legal affairs reporter, discovered that the city of Toronto has about one seventh the number of murders than Chicago, even though the two cities are of equal size. He observed that a key difference is that the public in Toronto demands a crime-free society, and that this expectation filters through the neighborhoods, the news media, politicians, lawmakers, and law enforcement. http://www.wbez.org/series/under-gun-murder-chicago-and-toronto
To me, this observation suggests a striking possibility: that by refusing to accept criminal behavior as acceptable, we can actually reduce it.

David Wilkerson saw firsthand the advantages of using the weight of his thoughts on the side of respect, love and forgiveness. Rather than thinking of individuals as irredeemably corrupt, or concluding that violence will always be a part of their life, he believed that God’s constant influence of calm, clarity, integrity, and goodness would have a better and lasting effect. http://www.historymakers.info/inspirational-christians/david-wilkerson.html

Separating the crime from the individual is difficult, but without addressing the underlying cause, the crime will continue—and there will be a thousand others to carry it out. The prisons are already filled with them.

Instead, each of us must think properly and prayerfully about the issue of violent crime. Rather than responding with fear, we can insist that violence in our cities and our lives is not an unavoidable fact of life.

I believe that if we join hands in prayer with our neighbors facing violent crime we can succeed in separating crime from our humanity and realize that violence is not a “necessary evil.” There is no criminal legitimacy. Crime is opportunistic, cowardly and non-intelligence. Our responsibility to our neighbors around us is to reject the idea that crime has any legitimacy, and separate it entirely from our humanity.

This prayerful approach will not only enable us to support our neighbors, but will also lead to appropriate law enforcement measures to curb violence and give us safer cities and neighborhoods. It is only then that our communities will begin to be filled with good citizens and neighbors and bring us all closer to our rightful inheritance.