Posts Tagged ‘Omaha’

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.

A wind-chill advisory was in effect today until noon for the Omaha area and parts to the south toward Nebraska City, Falls City and Beatrice and sections west that included Lincoln, Grand Island, Kearney and Hastings. The advisory was also issued for extreme northwest Iowa and most of southwest Iowa.

As a bitter cold front is making its way into the Metro area in Omaha this week, furnaces will be set on high, and people will be bundled up trying to keep warm as they venture outdoors. Wind chill will set record temperatures as low as 30 below zero. With temperatures forecast to be below zero for highs, being outside can be deadly.

The cold ripped through my body in just the few minutes it took me to take out the trash today—so how can someone survive for long periods of time outdoors in this? Where do the homeless go when temperatures get dangerous?

Local shelters have been preparing to absorb more people because of the cold.
Mike Saklar, Executive Director of the Siena/Francis House in Omaha said, “This is very dangerous weather.” Mike has seen this before. He sees the homeless every day and knows that when the weather gets dangerously cold like it means that some will show up suffering from the cold. Although Mike and the staff at the Sienna/Francis House always expect an increase in visitors in cold weather, it’s an overwhelming challenge now because of the already extreme overcrowding.

The Sienna/Francis House has a policy of never turning anyone away who shows up. Rather than referring to visitors as clients, Mike and his staff refer to the homeless as guests. Mike considers himself as a kind of Shepard; and like any good shepherd, he knows that he’ll have to try and look for some of the lost sheep on the cold streets of Omaha. “We’ll send out patrols every hour looking for people.” He said. “And we’ll do it all night.”

Teens are especially vulnerable when the weather turns cold. Because of young people aging out of foster care system or an abusive family situation, many youth end up on the streets to fend for themselves. Shawn Miller of Youth Emergency Services said he would locate shelter for any teenager who needed it. He expected 60 or more teens to show up for Tuesday’s pantry night near 26th and Harney Streets. “We’ll do whatever we can to make them safe for the night,” said Miller, outreach coordinator for YES. That includes transportation to a shelter, a friend’s home or anywhere else they’ve found to stay.

It only takes a moment.
It can only take a matter of minutes for someone to suffer from frostbite in bitter cold. Dr. Mindy Lacey, of UNMC, said, “The most common areas that we see that get frost bite are the ears, nose, fingers and toes.” The worst effect of frostbite is with the onset of tingling or numbness and not understanding what’s happening. For the vulnerable or those who simply don’t know better, waiting too long after being exposed to the cold, could cause them to suffer irreparable damage.

Places like the Open Door Mission in Omaha are seeing a lot more people who need a place to keep warm too. “All of our beds on campus are filled, but we can always drag out another mat, we can get more blankets, linens and pillows,” said Candace Gregory, CEO of the Open Door Mission. “The Open Door Mission is already overflowing.” She said. “All of the shelter’s 860 beds are full, and on Monday night there were nearly 200 men, women and children sleeping on mats.” The Lydia House, a shelter for women and children at the Open Door Mission, has also seen an increase of 37 percent. They are maxed out at that facility.

Del Bomberger, executive director of the Stephen Center, said his shelter has plenty of mats and floor space in the gym at its temporary location in the old St. Mary Catholic School, at 5310 S. 36th St.

There are approximately 2000 homeless men, women and children in the Omaha Metro Area each night. Brutal weather has left workers scrambling to provide enough space, blankets, coats and gloves for those seeking refuge from the cold.

How you can help
Below is a list of critical needs for homeless shelters. You can drop these off at any of the local shelters in your area.

• Blankets, sheets, and pillows
• Gloves, hats, and coats of all sizes
• Men’s and women’s wool socks
• Thermal underwear – size small, medium, large and X-large
• Winter boots of all sizes

Living on the streets is dangerous any time of year, but that’s especially dangerous when temperatures dip below freezing. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, approximately 700 homeless people die from hypothermia every year. But unless someone is underage, you can’t force them to come inside. If you know someone is living outside and you can’t get them to seek shelter, call the police and let them know, so they can take them to one of the shelters, because…

No one should die just because they’re homeless.