My youth group is scheduled to go on a missions trip to Reynosa, Mexico this summer but due to the violence and drug trafficking that is currently going on there, we may have to go elsewhere. The decision will be up to me on whether we go or not and my view on the matter is that it is better to be safe than sorry. I would rather us not go there as opposed to going, having one of our students get hurt (or worse) and regretting the fact that we did go.
Lately though, the violent events that are happing close to home make me wonder if it is really safer to go somewhere else besides Mexico, or if it is not safe anywhere we go. It’s not a secret that we live in a messed up world. People steal, rape, kill, destroy, and whatever else negative you can think of. And most of the time, it happens closer to home than one would like.
Just this past Saturday (April 4, 2009), police officers responded to a domestic dispute call that turned out to be more serious than anyone would have ever anticipated. A 22-year old kid, whom his friends described as “an easygoing, fun-loving guy,” fatally shot three police officers and injured two others in a standoff at his home in Pittsburgh, PA. He was armed with a high powered assault rifle, a pistol, a significant amount of ammunition, and a bullet-proof vest. I’m willing to bet that this didn’t just sporadically happen and that he planned it from the start. This took place in a place that was deemed to be a nice and safe neighborhood.
Then, on Monday (April 6, 2009), two people were killed and one was wounded when a Subway Restaurant was being robbed in Altoona, PA, just 4 miles from the church I work at and 5 miles from where I live. The man who robbed the store knocked on the back door of the restaurant and when the Subway employee (a high school student from a nearby school district) opened the door, he was shot and killed. The gunman shot someone else in the restaurant and then when he was walking away with the money he had recently acquired from the robbery, shot and killed a man who was outside getting his mail.
The violence in Mexico, combined with the recent events that happened so very close to home for some of us, raised some serious questions in my mind. “What is this world coming to?” “Is it really better to stay in our “safe” country, rather than going to another country for a missions trip?” “How safe are we if we have to worry about people killing people for no apparent reason?” “Do we have to constantly live in fear?” I don’t know these answers and I don’t anticipate finding them out anytime soon.
If you are like most people, then you are probably wondering why I included this painting of the late rapper Tupac Shakur (2 Pac). Although I don’t currently listen to rap, I did at one point (I’m sorry…haha). Although 2 Pac lived a violent life and often composed songs about it, he still hit the nail on the head in his hit song “Changes.” Here is an excerpt from that song…
“We gotta make a change…
It’s time for us as a people to start makin’ some changes.
Let’s change the way we eat, let’s change the way we live
and let’s change the way we treat each other.
You see the old way wasn’t working so it’s on us to do
what we gotta do, to survive.”
In no way am I saying that 2 Pac was a saint and lived a life free from violence. After all, he did die in a violent act (drive by shooting). What I am saying is that this man was right, we need to make changes and we need to stop the violence.
Throughout all of this nonsense that is going on around the world, there is hope. Psalms 23:4 should give us comfort in these difficult and hard to understand times. This verse says, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” I think it would be safe to compare the troubled and violent world that we find ourselves living in to something that seems to be a valley of the shadow of death. The verse goes on to imply that we should “fear no evil” because GOD IS WITH US!