It is just past 11 am when they knock a door at the end of a cul-de-sac just off Lake Avenue. The young man can hear voices and a lot of movement on the other side of the door. The door opens to reveal a young black man, his eyes full of tears and red.
“Thank you, Lord,” he says and invites them in. As they step in, the young man sees that the front room is full of people, women and men, teen boys and girls. Almost all of them have tear-stained cheeks. One woman stands out—middle-aged and tall, she sits on the couch surrounded by people. A child at her feet is rubbing her leg.
The black young man addresses her: “Aunt Jean, these ministers just knocked. I thought we could use some praying. I thought the Lord Jesus must have sent them.”
She nods and brushes tears. The young missionary says, “Ma’am, if we’ve come at a bad time, we can stop by another time.”
She shakes her head. “No, you came at the perfect time. See, my son—” Her voice chokes up.
“I got this,” says the young man who answered the door. “I’m Dante. See, last night, my cousin, her son … well, Ray-Ray was just walking home from the convenience store with some friends, and they cut through the parking lot of the car wash on the corner where y’all drove in from. And this truck roll up, and a bunch dudes just open fire—just on Ray-Ray, not on anyone else.”
Jean cries harder and waves her hand. Dante motions with his head. “Y’all come sit over here. She shouldn’t hear it again.” The young missionary sits on a beat-up easy chair, Elder Davis takes an ottoman, and Dante takes the floor.
“They shot my cousin eleven times. Eleven! And his friends, yo, they just ran. This was, like, midnight last night. His friends just left him there at that car wash, and some dude came in for a late-night stop and saw his body and called the cops.”
“I’m so sorry,” says the young man. He looks intently at Dante but can feel Elder David also looking intently.
“Ray-Ray, he was just fifteen, man. He was a good kid. I can’t think of no one he did bad too. He wasn’t in to nothin, and they just shot him down like a dog and even his friends left him.”
“Me and Raquel, well, Aunt Jean called us and asked us to go talk to the police. And we get there, and they got lights on him, and there’s cruisers there and he just lyin there uncovered. It’s like 2 am now, and they just left him out there like that. All that traffic going by, and he just lyin in his blood out there in front of everyone.”
The young man shakes his head. “Were they marking the scene or something?”
“Nah, man. Cop done tole me they already took pictures and got the shell casings. And they all just walking around and talking like it’s just another day. So Raquel come back to Aunt Jean’s house and get him the pillow from his bed and his favorite blanket. And I went to the store across the street and got a couple beers. And I poured his favorite beer into his wounds to clean them up a little. And we put the pillow under his head—” Dante stifles a sob, swallows, and takes a deep breath. “We put the pillow under his head so he wouldn’t just be on the hard pavement. And we put his blanket over him, so he would be comfortable and we stayed with him till the coroner came.”
“He was fifteen?” says Elder Davis.
“Yeah. Fifteen,” says Dante. “Just a kid. They just picked out a kid and killed him.”
“Any idea who did it?” says Davis.
Dante shakes his head.
“What can we do for you?” says the young missionary. “Normally, we teach people but this doesn’t really seem like the right time.”
Dante looks across the room. “Aunt Jean, maybe these brothers can say a few words and bless the house?” She nods.
The young man stands and whispers a quick prayer—“Lord, grant me the words to say …”
The room goes quiet and all eyes turn to him. “What happened here last night is a tragedy, an injustice. Elder Davis and I, we are so sorry. But Jesus tells us that He will not leave us comfortless, that He will come to us in our needs. Elder Davis and I didn’t plan to be on this street today, but the Lord led us here. We cannot begin to fix what happened, but we can offer the promise of Jesus. He told His followers, ‘I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.’ And Job, in the worst moments of his trial, testified, ‘I know that my Redeemer liveth … And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.’” He looks at Jean. “Jean, I can feel your love for your son. I can feel the faith that is here. I know the Lord brought us here to assure you that Jesus lives, that your son lives, and that one day you will see him again in your flesh.”
Jean nods and mouths, “Thank you.”
“Elder Davis can say a prayer now, if that’s ok.”
Jean nods. Davis prays and leaves a blessing on the house and the people. Then they shake hands with Dante and Jean, then head for the car.
When they settle into their seats, Davis sighs heavily and says, “So that sucked.”
“Uh huh,” says the young man. “The Lord definitely sent us. He does know where all His children are. But you feel kinda powerless in a situation like that.”
“Yeah,” says Davis.
The young man starts the car.