Keeping Hope Alive in Kenosha

The City of Kenosha has been through quite a bit in the past week. As the head pastor of WISEN and the Kenosha SDA Church, and a resident of nearby Racine (only nine miles out from ground zero for Kenosha’s unrest), I’ve kept a pretty close eye on all of the goings on. For the first few days of the crisis, I mostly scoured all of the local news updates so that I could best know how to answer any questions, address any fears, or lift up any prayer requests that my church members might have. I did have a memorial service on Monday, for a member who had recently passed. However, it was cut short due to local fear of outside agitators coming to town. There really wasn’t a whole lot more that I felt I could do in those first couple of days, other than watch and pray. 

After those first three nights of unbridled unrest, things settled down enough that one of my board members and I were able to venture downtown and assess the situation ourselves. We saw the torched car lots, the buildings turned to rubble, and the public messages in graffiti. Much more palpable, however, was the expression on people’s faces — as if they were carrying a lot of weight, silently, as they went about their day. A few were chipper and welcomed us in, with all the enthusiasm of rave-going Gen Z volunteers, pioneering the first wave of help. But overall was this feeling of anticipation as another night, sure to be filled with conflict and chaos, quickly approached. 

It was after that visit that I knew in my heart that we had to do something different for church. Sticking to the traditional service wasn’t going to cut it, and honestly, I didn’t feel like preaching, well, anything from the pulpit, so far away from the very real needs downtown. So, I called an audible and rallied the local church membership together for a “Service Sabbath” in downtown Kenosha. We met for a short service of singing and a sermonette at 10:00 a.m. on Sabbath morning, and then afterward we split into two groups to address community concerns. 

The first group went to uptown. Uptown bore much of the brunt of the destruction and was already an oft-neglected part of town before the riots. In Kenosha, most storefronts have apartments above them, and we know of at least one family that was displaced due to the burning of a shop with an apartment overtop. A man named Bob, who owned the Danish Brotherhood Lodge, had his jaw broken in two places before the crowd burned his building to the ground. We were able to pray specifically with him and I was personally struck with his attitude. “What do I need prayer for?” he asked. “I’ll be fine. I’ll heal. It’s our city that needs prayer. Pray for unity.”  

While it was discouraging to see the damage that had been done there, it was also incredibly encouraging to see all of the volunteers there beside us. One church had set up a food pantry, others were going around handing out water bottles, and yet others were organizing painters all over the city to dress up the boarded up windows that now had become the standard on most buildings. As much as there was complete sadness in the air, there was also a shifting, an excitement even. The art on one board summed it up perfectly: “Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations.” Even amidst the ashes, the community had begun to experience the joy of new life. 

The second group went to pick up trash at 28th Avenue and 40th Street, the neighborhood where Jacob Blake’s family lives and where he was brutally shot seven times in the back by a police officer. We went there at the suggestion of the local Kenosha SDA Church Pastor George Andrews III, who resides in and knows the city well. His group was able to address a neighborhood that likely needed cleanup before all the unrest. The Blake family was out and about for the day (they were organizing a march in the afternoon), but the group was able to connect with some local residents and pray with them, on top of beautifying the neighborhood. 

While it takes much more than picking up some trash on the side of the road to change the long traditions of brokenness and injustice in a community, it’s not a bad place to start. The Blake family is going through a lot right now, and we’ll continue to reach out for ways to uplift and support them. 

After a couple of hours out and about, we all met back at Library Park for lunch and to discuss our experiences. As we fellowshipped over food, there was a definite feeling of excitement to be a part of the restoration God has in store for Kenosha. Our local churches, as well as some local businesses, pitched in to make a feast possible for volunteers — to the point where we were able to serve a lot of folks, aside from our volunteers, a free lunch. The celebration felt like a sufficient way to end an already spirited day. 

I ended up in downtown Kenosha again the next morning to meet with a family who wanted to come back and do some more painting. I got there a little early, so I walked around and snapped some pictures of artwork down streets I hadn’t been yet. One storefront was graced by an appropriate Bible verse, Jeremiah 29:11, retooled for local context: “For I know the plans I have for you Kenosha, says the Lord. Plans for good and not for disaster, plans to give you a future and a hope.” 

Our community has been through a lot. We want justice to reign here. For my church leaders and I, it’s an ongoing effort to educate, to work with the community, and to speak truth to power. But, in the meantime, we got to be part of an effort to keep hope alive this weekend. I’m excited to see the plans God has for Kenosha.

 

Zack Payne is the pastor of WISEN (Wisconsin’s Southeastern Network), comprising Racine and Kenosha counties. He and his wife, Allison, are raising three young children in the City of Racine. Zack is passionate about bringing the church into the 21st century, and creating healthy, sustainable congregations.

All images courtesy of the author.

 

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/10699
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Thank you for this ground zero report. Jeremiah 29:11 is one of my favorite texts. May God heal our land.

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I for one would like to make a donation to this work. Is there a way to contribute? Maybe through the local church? Thanks pastor for your work.

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You cannot start any better than addressing community concerns. It is those who live locally that need the most, not the agenda of those who broke Bob’s jaw in two places and burned his building to the ground. May God richly bless you and your congregation for being courageous and strong.

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I am still trying to understand the logic to destroying anything that belongs to others totally unrelated to an incident. Have any efforts been made to address those who caused the destruction to show up for clean up duty? The need for one apology has led to another one.

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I fully agree, this is one part of it.

But there is also another “clean up” that needs to be done, i.e., the prior mess created by racial intolerance, police misconduct, and even Presidential support for Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17 year old who is said to have “an affinity for guns and for President Trump.” That kid may also have an affinity for Barr, so now he will spend the rest of his life behind bars…

Also this:
https://www.usnews.com/news/elections/articles/2020-08-31/trump-defends-kenosha-shooting-suspect-kyle-rittenhouse

Kyle was caught and is going to prison. Does it make him a “loser and sucker” too?

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You can find the clue to your question in Genesis 4:4. God confronts Cain on his attitude when God finds no favor on his offering. Normally, a person will look to other ways to gain favor if given a second chance but Cain does not. He implements his thoughts into action and murders his brother. By this time, Cain had already developed an incredible sense of entitlement and had lost empathy enough to snuff the life out of his brother. The same underlying dynamics you see with those who destroy “anything that belongs to others” as you say. The same underlying dynamics that TW and his leadership team is using to prevent acknowledgment in the WO, LGBT and other polarizing church issues. The root of all evil is the loss of empathy, the opposite of charity.

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Amen and Amen…it seems to some that to express such traits is weakness and subversive.

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Whenever there is polarization, there will be a problem, or many problems. The bad thing is that often those people who force (enforce) polarization deny any responsibility for their role in triggering the consequences.

Look at the consequences of calling the military “losers & suckers,” for example. Look at the consequences of threatening people in church with “grave consequences.” Look at the consequences of creating “kompliance komandos.” Look at the consequences of maintaining discrimination of women. Look atrthe consequences of declaring a pandemic to be a “hoax.” And now, in Kanosha," look at the consequences of a cop entitling himself with “executioner” powers; and. And the, course, the greatest POTUS ever defending a 17 y/o murderer… - well, this is insanity on steroids.

Talk abou polarization and its consequences!

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The truth is that Kyle Rittenhouse shot in self-defense, the whole truth is soon to be found out in court. The future will likely result in him winning huge lawsuits like the young man (Sandman, I think) visiting DC that was gossiped about by certain media. CNN being one who had to fork out 250 million.
“Suckers and losers”…hmm. That sounds like the gossip I heard recently on some news. Turns out the truth is that facts and evidence shot that story down.

All these years I have understood that the love of money was the root of all evil. I believe the truth is found in 1 Timothy 6:10.
Still trying to understand the logic to the destruction…Does not compute.

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Has it ever occurred to ask yourself, if this were true, why was there evil even before the advent of money? Now whoever wrote 1Timothy 6:10 becomes a suspect.

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Perhaps “money” does not mean what we consider it means today.

I’ve conjectured that perhaps money in this context is better understood as the currency which curries power. Like the evil in heaven, before the apple tree…

Sort of adds urgency to the question why did God not simply wholly write writ with his holy own and divine finger all we needed to know, in a language immune to cultural/contextual/translation.

Sure would save the literalists a whole lot of apologetics, and the rest of us a whole lot of goin’ round the mountain!
.

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The Courts should not waste time & money on this, trying to find the “whole truth.” It would suffice just to ask those people who already know what “the truth is.” They are always around and they can even pronounce the verdict very easily! One of them lives in the WH…

But I think that the Courts will do the investigation anyway. I am willing to wait for that. Based on what I have seen so far, a 17 y/o minor killed two people with a big assault weapon; so far he is innocent, sure, until proven guilty. I am willing to wait for the investigation. and the “whole truth.”

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Did you really want me to tell you why? Deuteronomy 23:12-14 might give us a clue as how Moses used God to shepherd the flock. “Designate a place outside the camp where you can go to relieve yourself. As part of your equipment have something to dig with, and when you relieve yourself, dig a hole and cover up your excrement. For the Lord your God moves about in your camp to protect you and to deliver your enemies to you. Your camp must be holy, so that he will not see among you anything indecent and turn away from you.“ If emojis were used then, this passage should show a wink because this scenario is similar to when I babysit my grandchildren, as any grandparent should know, and want to scare them off their pants by saying, “Wait until your father comes home and he sees how messy your room is and how you left candy wrappers all over the floor.”

There is a God, but his traits and character are a projection of who we are, our wishes and ideals. If he were to write the holy writ himself, it will reveal that we are our own gods.

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I can understand this-and that is what my impertinent question pretends to ask.
Don’t we, with our scrabble-like jumble of hermeneutics and non-contextual proof-test hopscotch, already do this-individually as well corporately? God created us “imago dei”-
and we, hellbent, try coerce him into our little constructs.

But this seriously puzzles me-if he were to provide a literature, language, to Adam-an unchanging, defined, tongue, would that not eliminate our little charade?
First-all the previous orators, scribes, translators, interpreters, could not apply their wishes and ideals projected into the work they pass down into our ensuing misreadings-
and second, we would have a chance at determining imperative truth (as opposed to the religious roulette we face today).

Not certain that having the original writers precise words-even if it exposed our wish to be gods-could in anywise explain why this might be undesireable. Perhaps I should relinquish my DENSA card-or ask you to clarify for me. :wink:

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Maybe God isn’t accurately perceived through other people’s words on a scroll, stones or paper. Maybe we get to know Him by other means, personally. After all, the past writings are of the same kind as from the current source, only older.

We seem to have the idea that the older the more aged, the more reliable, as if God’s thunderous voice could be literally heard as it echoed in the mountains and whistles in the dessert winds. Age is no proof of validity. If God is GOD, then we are just as able to hear Him today as those nomads in the desert . The only difference is in us. Can we even hear His thunderous voice above the din we have created around us. How many minutes a day do we experience the phenomenon of silence - to identify with “Be still and know that I am God”. Maybe our brains are filled with so much “stuff” that we don’t know where to start to unravel, until we can hear that “still, small voice” leading us to know God.

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Precisely my point, to many bibliolatry becomes an idol. The “KJV” becomes definitive-and the words are extruded through our current meaning and understanding

My question is not to establish unbroken and earliest chain of evidence.

As i sense it, one of the issues which challenge our view of God is our perhaps inability to consider the complexities of passing oral traditions (human literature did not show up for a millenia or two) into early/ancient languages passed from diverse nation to culture to dialect over a multi-thousand year process. The “KJV” only sects really are way off base with some of their “proofs” and “thus sayeths” (which seem to actually be used to terminate reason and dialogue, criticism, question, and become defacto evidence speaker is "insired and knowledgeable) I note Jesus attitudes to references of scripture looks far different than many of our own theologians or pastors, lay speakers…

My point is that the “native language” (of the human brain, and Gods “ability” to communicate with it) would establish unchanged/unchanging meanings and definitions. Like “money”-even if it were not present prior to sin (root of all evil) has a meaning beyond greenbacks, btc, salt, beads, etc etc).

I still do not comprehend @elmer_cupino last line in previous reply.

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I have always wondered, how does one begin and maintain a relationship with a God whose identity no one has ever known. Perhaps we begin by conferIng traits and power that all can agree with. Next would be conferring traits and power that everyone wishes to have. Then we begin to be exclusive by conferring personal biases such as being the remnant church, and on and on and on.

This is what I mean.

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Thanks for trying, but the denseness is thick in this one.

I don’t understand how your comment that if having accurate language by Abba himself, which reveals our biases, foibles, blindness, hubris, or god-envy is a negative thing. My hope is it would instead be a desireable one.

Perhaps your meaning is we would thenignore that reality-and the writings revealing it?

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