BELIZE JOURNAL, PT. 1 on Christians mobilize. We are organizing for prison minister Kenrick Burns to hold a seminar at First Church of the Nazarene for Belize City pastors on outreach to gang members who want a new life. Diane Finnegan and Jawhi Morris, former gangster turned gang mediator, will speak too. The time is ripe to see Christians mobilize to reach gang leaders. 60 leaders of Belize City’s 14 gangs shocked onlookers by marching together for peace on April 12.
Since then they have managed to keep the peace. But the police are reassigning one key facilitator of the peace, Assistant Commissioner of Police Chester Williams, to Belmopan. Jawhi is doing all he can to address issues between gangs before they turn violent. But he needs help.
Where are the Christians? Seminar speaker Kenrick Burns says the city churches must step into the gap. Pastors must go directly to gang leaders, and not try to peel members away from their gangs. Gang leaders see their members every day and may kill them if they try to leave the gang. But gang members will likely follow their leader if the leader himself ends the gang.
A pastor can offer the local gang leader a new life in Christ. This means not only a new heart, but a new mindset, new habits, new friends and a new way to make an honest living. Kenrick says the pastor and his church can form a bridge to that new life. But the gang leader must prove his ongoing commitment to the process. He must show willingness to learn new ways of communicating, managing anger, and resolving conflicts. Without Christ, that might just make him a better criminal. So he must show evidence of a real repentance and a genuine conversion to Christ as Lord of his life. If he passes the proper tests, the pastor can help him with job placement.
Diane Finnegan, another speaker at the seminar, directs the National Youth Apprenticeship Program (NYAP). NYAP has been reaching unemployed dropouts ages 16-29 since 2010. These youth tend to join gangs to gain income, identity, and security in the city’s dangerous and impoverished neighborhoods. Diane has implemented training and placement of dozens of young apprentices in jobs every year. While NYAP is not specifically a Christian program, we can learn from this ongoing experience in developing at-risk youth, to help Christians mobilize to play a key role in transforming gangsters into disciples of Christ.
Diane works with Jawhi, who is hammering out a treaty with the gang leaders who held the April 12 peace march. He cannot discuss the terms of the treaty yet. But already gang leaders have agreed to call Jawhi if any trouble brews between gangs, before it boils over into violence.
So far, he has received no calls. Gang violence has ceased for an impressive nineteen days. More and more city pastors now see this as an opportunity and not just a fluke, and are planning to participate in the seminar. We are all expecting a great move of God this year. It looks like the move may have already begun with the most unlikely people. The gangsters who have been terrorizing city residents may end up discipling them! So let’s get ready as Christians mobilize to move with these moves!
DailyInsight. Don’t turn a church into a business. Instead, seek to turn businesses into enterprises full of prayer, praise and prophetic words (See Col. 3:23-24).
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For outreach to gangs to succeed we must have Christians mobilize.