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Pastor Weeps at Gang Member's Vigil

Paco Amodar, a pastor in Little Village on Chicago's west side, lives in a neighborhood rife with gang violence. He tells the following story about being invited to lead a prayer vigil for a young man who had been gunned down by a rival gang.

When I arrived at the vigil, a large crowd of young people—including many known gang members—had already gathered around the sidewalk where I would be praying. I wondered, What should I do? What should I say? I felt fearful and inadequate. Yet I also knew that they had gathered for this prayer vigil. So amid my fears, I prayed silently, "Jesus, what do you want me to do here?"
As I looked out over the crowd, I realized most of these scary-looking gang members were just kids, mostly in their mid or late teens, with some in their twenties. I was old enough to be their father. They had surely been told repeatedly by authority figures how wrong their actions were and how foolish gang activity was. But as I looked at these hurting teenagers, I wondered, What would Jesus say to these young people?
So I asked permission to speak from my heart. Then I said, "Since most of you are half my age, I am the age of your fathers. Would you allow me to address you on behalf of your fathers? I know you have heard plenty of times that this back and forth violence in our neighborhood is complete nonsense. You've been told how destructive gang behavior is. But today, on behalf of your dads, I want to say to you what should have been said a long time ago. My son, my daughter, would you forgive me for not being there for you when you were little? Will you forgive me for not being there when you took your first steps? Will you forgive me for not being there to play catch with you when you were young? Will you forgive me for leaving you when you most needed me?"
As the words poured from my lips, I could not control myself. Tears ran freely down my cheeks. To my surprise, many of them started to weep with me. Something special happened in that moment. Following the gathering they started to trust me even though I had no credibility in their world. I hadn't shared their life, but I had shared their pain.

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