3 Gospel Truths to Teach My Sons About the City

I live in the hometown of the Fresh Prince of Belair: West Philadelphia. But unlike Will Smith, I wasn’t born and raised here. Yet like Will Smith, the playground IS where I spend most of my days — mainly because I have two little boys. Many young married couples leave the inner city when they start a family, but we did not.

Most parents are rightly concerned with sheltering their children. (Even though we need to be wary of over-sheltering.) But growing up in the city my sons will be exposed to things on a regular basis that a child living in the suburbs might never encounter. I view this as a positive thing and a tool I can use in my mothering. I’m determined to show my sons the Gospel in our city living. Here is how:

1.) Diversity

Our row home is between a halfway house and a convent. To my left the street numbers get higher and go deeper into West Philly. When I push the double stroller with my shining white children to this side of the neighborhood, we are the white dots amidst a dark sea of black faces. If I push my double stroller to the right of our row home the street numbers get lower and the face coloring changes. On this side of my neighborhood is a large Muslim population, complete with a mosque. Walking this way it’s not uncommon to see women shrouded in black fabric — even at times only revealing their eyes. There are many Indian and Asian eateries on this side, representing those cultural populations as well. Around the corner from my house is a Spanish owned “corner store” where my 3 year old dances to salsa music.

As I walk further down this side of my neighborhood it turns into University City. This part of West Philadelphia is more affluent, since it is the home of Drexel University and the Ivy League UPenn. In this area of the intellectual elite there are rows of sororities and fraternities. University City is also home to many hippies and hipsters, many of whom frequent our local Co-op — the place where I can’t determine the gender of the individual bagging my groceries.

We live in a small area of racial, religious, cultural, sub-cultural, and economic diversity. What can I possibly teach my sons about the Gospel here? Namely, that the Gospel is not just for American middle to upper class white people. The Gospel is no longer restricted to one ethnic community (the Jews), but through Christ’s death and resurrection it’s available to a wide range of people (the Gentiles). Heaven will be a co-mingling of races and cultures. The Gospel makes no room for racism or partiality to economic status; before the cross the ground is leveled for us all. Through Christ’s atoning blood the barrier between us all is broken, because when we are at peace with God we can be at peace with others.

As I walk my sons on either side of our neighborhood I can teach them about the Gospel: how God loves to redeem a diverse group of people to himself. He desires that none should perish, not even the androgynous person bagging our groceries who can receive a new identity in Christ.

2.) Comfort

The city can make people uncomfortable. Who hasn’t experienced a struggling conscience when passing by a smelly man in dirt-smudged baggy clothes holding a cardboard sign asking for money? The subway can be a place of strong discomfort when you’re packed in tightly in the heat of summer — holding on with one arm up. We try not to look each other in the eyes too closely, because God forbid we have to say hello.

When I first moved here I was uncomfortable with parallel parking, laundry mats, and the plethora of one way streets. My first year of city living was paid for in parking tickets. I had no idea what all the parking signs meant. Where do I pay for my parking spot? How long can my car sit in this space until I see that white paper on my windshield?

Sometimes my boys and I walk by people who scream at each other or a car zooms past blaring rap music laced with obscenities. Often times we run into the crazy man from the halfway house who mumbles under his breath as he shuffles by on the sidewalk. Talk about feeling uncomfortable.

And yet the Gospel is never about personal comfort. Jesus left his heavenly comforts to make a home in uncomfortable surroundings. His entrance into this world began cramped inside a womb, and he was laid in a wooden manger among the filth and foul odors of barnyard animals. We can tell Jesus felt uncomfortable in the Garden of Gethsemane as he wrestled with the most uncomfortable decision of all: dying on a Roman crucifix. And yet Jesus put all his comfort aside to literally take up his cross and die. I can remind my children of these truths on our next subway ride, because we must also be like Jesus and sometimes sacrifice comfort for the sake of the Gospel.

3.) Safety

Many women ask me if I feel safe here. Our family asks why we don’t move to the suburbs with our boys. At our previous residency our next door neighbor had a break in — encountering the robber face to face. Our current home was previously inhabited by a sexual predator who stole the house from its rightful owners. The bank put the house up for sale when the man was arrested and charged with fifty felonies. Recently a young woman was murdered in her apartment a few blocks from us, and there was a shooting on our Pastor’s street.

My family and I are never truly safe, and yet we are ultimately safe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The stories I see on the news show me that no matter the place of residency none of us are safe from physical harm or death. But we can be confident that in Christ our souls are eternally safe. Though we turn on our security system every night, I can teach my sons about the true security found in the Gospel. If they believe by faith in Christ crucified and risen from the dead they will be saved from the reign of their sin and the flames of hell.

By raising my children in the city I can teach them that the Gospel shines brightly in diversity, it is no respecter of personal comforts, and that our ultimate safety is found in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is good news to share on either side of the neighborhood.

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Domestic Violence (Intimate Partner Violence) Non-Profit Interview

Jenny Delacruz serves as the Executive Director of Hazael Haven, Inc. She is passionate about serving women and children experiencing domestic violence, and founded Hazael Haven in 2011 with the help of five women. Jenny is a licensed professional counselor for the state of Pennsylvania. She has served in the social sector field for 10 years as a senior social worker, child and family therapist, and clinician.

Jenny has volunteered as a Life Coach at Epiphany Fellowship Counseling, an Agency Representative for the Division of Social Service, an Events Coordinator at Faith, Hope, and Love Ministry, and an Advocate at Women Rights Humanity & Dignity. She resides in Philadelphia with her husband and son.

Jenny can be contacted at: jdelacruz@hazaelhaven.org or (267)291-4558.


Tell us a little bit about your non-profit.

Hazael Haven’s mission is to provide a safe refuge to women and children who have been affected by intimate partner violence. We offer hope and healing through Christ-centered, biblical approaches to counseling, education, prevention, and outreach.

Why did you start Hazael Haven?

As a family therapist, I came face to face with broken families and the prevalence of intimate partner violence that exists in these families. I began to have dreams of serving victims and prayed for direction.  My burden to serve this vulnerable population grew as I conducted research and discovered the public health crisis that exists in Philadelphia as a result of intimate partner violence.

In 2012, due to lack of a safe shelter, 8,535 requests for shelter were turned away in the Philadelphia region. I shared my ideas of establishing a safe refuge — that would incorporate biblical counseling — with a few friends and they eventually supported me and became our first board members. The Safe Refuge Project and Hazael Haven’s first Board of Directors were established in 2011.

How does the Bible apply to intimate partner violence?

The Bible makes it clear that God is grieved by abuse and that He hates violence. The scriptures offers hope to victims, because God is near to the brokenhearted and revives the crushed in spirit. A few scriptures that can be applied here are: 1 Cor. 3:16-17, and Col. 3:19.

Hazael Haven is a resource to the church as it addresses issues of intimate partner violence in the church and surrounding community.

Why should Christians care about this issue?

Christians should care about domestic abuse (now coined as intimate partner violence), because God hates violence and will judge violent behavior. Intimate Partner Violence destroys marriages and families.

Christians should care because:

  • 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men, in their lifetime, will experience intimate partner violence in the United States.
  • 1 in 15 children are exposed to intimate partner violence (90% are eyewitnesses).
  • 20,000 calls a day nationwide are placed as a result of domestic violence.
  • 72% of all murder/suicides are a result of intimate partner violence.
  • The cost of intimate partner violence  exceeds $8.3 billion a year.
  • Most cases of intimate partner violence are never reported. (Statistics from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence).
  • Lastly, Christians should care because marriage is a portrait of the gospel, and intimate partner violence shreds that picture apart.

What’s the best way to help someone in a case of intimate partner violence?

The first thing to do is to listen with compassion and immediately address the victim’s safety. Hazael Haven offers resources and support to individuals and churches in developing a safety plan. Developing a safety plan is crucial, because it’s challenging for the victim to be able to think clearly in a crisis.

What should one do if they find themselves in this situation?

Call the domestic violence hotline for help.  1-800-799-SAFE (7233). It’s operated 24 hours a day. Trained advocates are available to assist you.

How can abused women heal and cope?

A victim can find healing in community. We stress the importance of developing a support system. A woman who is abused is overwhelmed by guilt and shame. She blames herself for the violence done to her. She is wounded emotionally and physically. She feels isolated from the world. Christ, working through a safe and loving community, promotes a sense of safety and hope.

In this atmosphere of community, healing is possible. On September 22nd, we will have an Open House to increase awareness about developing support groups and other resources. We encourage any woman who is interested to contact us via email kwest@hazaelhaven.org or call (267)-291-4558 for more information.

How have you seen God at work so far in this non-profit and what are your plans for the future?

With God’s help, we have been able to support women in crisis and provide education and outreach to universities and elementary schools. We have participated in numerous awareness campaigns during community outreach events.

Our vision is to establish a network of safe homes across the Delaware Valley. Hazael Haven is raising funds to launch our pilot project: Safe Refuge. Safe Refuge will serve as a haven for women and children escaping intimate partner violence. See our website for additional information.

Nightmare on Lancaster Avenue – The Gosnell Trial

3801 Lancaster Avenue. Only a few minutes drive from my house. At one time my husband lived in an upstairs apartment across the street from this building. For two years I tutored inner city children right down the street, not knowing about the women and children who died at 3801 Lancaster Avenue.

Eventually the local news covered the story. Dr. Kermit Gosnell was running an abortion clinic (Women’s Medical Society) at 3801 Lancaster Ave. An abortion clinic? More like a horror movie. FBI agents and detectives found barely conscious women in the waiting and recovery rooms. They found severed baby feet in jars of water, flea-ridden cats roaming around, cat feces on the stairs, and blood-stained walls, sheets, and chairs.

Gosnell became a millionaire by delivering live babies and then snipping their spine at the back of the neck. Many of these babies were illegal late term abortions. Many of the women were bodily harmed. Two women died. Despite the fact that they did inspections in the 90’s and received several complaints, the Pennsylvania Departments of State and Health and the Philadelphia Department of Public Health did nothing for 20 years. Gosnell is now on trial and charged with 8 counts of murder.

Film Project

Writer and director David Altrogge will be following the trial through his film project, 3801 Lancaster. His first 20 minute documentary introduces the background of the case and gives voice to the exploited patients. Be warned, there are some gruesome photos. Yet, the emotion, degradation, and horror Altrogge portrays in his short documentary is compelling.

The objective of the film project is to give voice to the women in this horror story, uncover the cover-up by state and local oversight agencies, make the public aware, and to make sure this horror story is not repeated. Altrogge recently appeared on Anderson Cooper who is one of the few media outlets to cover the Gosnell case. With abortion being such a controversial topic in our nation it’s no wonder we only hear the sound of silence.

Pro-Gosnell

After watching 3801 Lancaster, I’m surprised groups concerned with human rights, women’s rights,and pro-choice have not spoken up. What Gosnell did to these women was degrading: he tied them up, drugged them, and ultimately showed no concern for their well-being. What he did was not pro-choice; in fact they had no choice. One woman in the film changed her mind about having an abortion, but Gosnell beat her legs and yelled at her; she then woke up in recovery and not pregnant.

Gosnell was not pro-choice, but pro-Gosnell. He made $10,000 to $15,000 each abortion procedure. His choice was money.