I recently read the following story in the book, “The Good and Beautiful Life”, by James Bryan Smith.

“In the early 1990’s, gang violence erupted in Boyle Heights, a section of East Los Angeles.  Eight gangs were in conflict in the parish around the Dolores Mission Catholic Church.  Killings and injuries happened daily.  A group of women who met for prayer read together the story of Jesus walking on water (Matthew 14:22-33).  Then one of the mothers, electrified by the text, began to identify the parallels between the Jesus story and her own. 

The gang warfare in Boyle Heights was the storm on the sea of Galilee; the people hiding behind the locked doors were the disciples huddled in the storm; the crackle of gunfire was the lightning; in both cases death was imminent.  Then Jesus appeared and they hoped for a magical rescue.  Instead, he said, “Get out of the boat.”  “Walk on the water.”  “Enter the violence.”…..

That night, seventy women began a peregrinacion, a procession from one barrio to another.  They brought food, guitars and love.  As they ate chips and salsa and drank Cokes with gang members, they began to sing the old songs of Jalisco, Chiapas, and Michoacan.  The gang members were disoriented, baffled; the war zones were silent. 

Each night the mothers walked.  By nonviolently intruding and intervening they “broke the rules of war.”  The old script of retaliation and escalating violence was challenged and changed.  It is no accident that the women christened their nighttime journeys “love walks.”

As the relationships between the women and the gang members grew, the kids told their stories  Anguish over lack of jobs; anger at police brutality; rage over the hopelessness of poverty.  Together they developed a tortilla factory, a bakery, a child-care center, a job-training program, a class on conflict resolution techniques, a school for further learning, a neighborhood group to monitor and report police misbehavior, and more.

And it began with the challenges  “Get out of the boat” and “Walk on water.”

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