Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Pray for Oakland

Watching/listening/reading the news can be depressing.  This year has been especially depressing.  It seems like every other day we're hearing about a new shooting in the area.  San Jose went through a rough period earlier in the year.  Now Oakland seems to be going through a similar rough spot.

The city of Oakland has had struggles as of late.  In 2004, the number of police officers per 10,000 people was lower in Oakland than in many other major US Cities.  Eighteen in Oakland, versus 29 in San Francisco, 23 in LA, 45 in Chicago, 44 in New York.  WOW!!  Nearly half as many police officers per capita than these other large cities.  Since then, the police force has been cut even more.  As of June 1, 2013, Oakland employed 635 officers, while they need 1,100 to adequately patrol the city.  (http://www.orpn.org/staffing.htm)

If the current homicide rate continues, Oakland will have 115 homicides this year.  http://www.cityrating.com/crime-statistics/california/oakland.html

While that doesn't seem like many when you look at Chicago (over 500 in 2012), Oakland is home to only about 400,000 people.  In 2012, Oakland was 7 on the list of America's deadliest cities, with a rate of 33.1 murders for every 100,000 citizens (http://www.policymic.com/articles/22686/america-s-10-deadliest-cities-2012). 

 But this year and last year aren't anomalies.  This is the norm.  We can say, "at least we aren't Flint or Detroit, MI," sure.  But is that really what we want?  No.  We want the violent crime to cease.  We want the children who live in and go to school in Oakland to not be afraid to walk down the street, or for the single mom to not be afraid of her little children being home alone (because she can't afford after school care).

It is accepted that most of the homicides that happen are gang related shootings.  That's actually scarier than targeted crime to me. Because it means I can be driving down 880 on my way through to Berkeley and get caught in the crossfire of a gang shooting.  

When I first moved to California I lived in a very small city adjacent to Oakland.  I either drove or took the bus through the heart of Oakland daily.  I walked from the bus stop to my job - about 12 blocks.  I had to walk through downtown Oakland carrying $60-$100 in tips almost nightly.  I was very aware of the dangers of the city.  One day I heard a story of a shooting at a gas station.  But the bullet traveled into the house next door and struck a young person.  That gas station was across the street of the church I attended.  

I heard a story once that inspired me and has really stuck with me recently.  I believe God is nudging me.

As I understand it, back in the early 2000s, Oakland's crime rate was astronomical.  I think it might have been 2002 or 2003.  I think the homicide rate was the highest in the nation for either a period of time or for the year.  But I don't have any data to support that; it's based on my memory of events.  At any rate, a group of pastors in Oakland decided they needed to do something.  So for a period of time, I think 40 days, they fasted from sunrise to sunset.  That meant no food during that time.  It meant not making up for it by gourging at bedtime.  It meant praying during mealtimes.  It meant praying when hunger pangs struck.  It meant sacrificing comfort and satisfaction for prayer.  The subject of those prayers was Oakland.  For the safety of the citizens.  For the police force.  For the families of the victims.  For the businesses in the city.

Here is what I believe God is nudging me to do.

Even thought I don't live next door to Oakland anymore and it's rare that I travel to that area, this is very close to me because I lived near it and because this is my first real experience as an adult.  I believe God is nudging me to pray.  

To pray for Oakland.  

Five days a week for the 40 days (from tomorrow through July 31), I'm going to pray for Oakland.  Each day I'll pray something specific.  

Monday: pray for the victims of the crimes (2 Thes 3:2, "And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people, for not everyone has faith." http://bible.us/111/2th.3.2.niv)
Tuesday: pray for the businesses and residents in the city (Psalm 5:2 Hear my cry for help,
my King and my God,
for to you I pray" - http://bible.us/111/psa.5.2.niv)
Wednesday: pray for the police force
Thursday: pray for the perpetrators of the crimes (OUCH .. who wants to do that?  Jesus calls us to in Matthew 5:44, "But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you - " http://bible.us/111/mat.5.44.niv)
Friday: pray for city unity and strength and peace

I invite you to pray with me.  I'd love it if you could pray for Oakland or San Jose.  But pray for your own city.  Pray for a city/region that's near/dear to you.

I've embedded a calendar I've created. Feel free to add this calendar to yours or follow along here if you want reminders of what/when to pray.



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