BALTIMORE, Md.—Michael Crawford, Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network Church Multiplication Strategist and Pastor of Freedom Church, Baltimore, was on his way to the airport yesterday for a ministry conference in Florida. Hearing the news about the escalating Baltimore riots, Crawford turned the car around. He called for a prayer meeting at Freedom Church.
Crawford said after hearing long-time Civil Rights Activist and Minister Dr. John Perkins and Ellis Prince, pastor of Gallery Church, Baltimore, at the Unplugged Conference at Freedom Church on Saturday, just two days before the riots began, he knew God was preparing him and other leaders for such a time as this. Both men spoke of the incredible power of prayer, especially in the context of racial reconciliation in light of the Freddy Gray situation. Gray is a young man who died in police custody in Baltimore on April 19. The unanswered questions surrounding Gray’s death sparked the chaotic and devastating response.
“God was trying to tell us something and it’s patently clear to me. We’ve got to move. We’ve got to intercede. We’ve got to stand in the gap. We were born for this moment,” Crawford said.
As Governor Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency and as the National Guard Rolled into “Charm City”—as Baltimore is affectionately named—as buildings were burning, police officers attacked and businesses looted, Baltimore pastors and churches were literally standing in the gap.
Joshua Smith, director of intentional living at Gallery Church, with campuses in several Baltimore locations, was helping coordinate volunteers to stand guard in front of stores to protest local businesses from looters. He was one of many men who stood between rioters and police trying to dissuade the violence. Smith was also in the mix of a large group of interdenominational leaders at New Shiloh Baptist Church, praying for the city. He marched as part of a group of 500 clergy into the city through the most dangerous areas of the protests and violence.
Pastors in and out of Baltimore called on their people to pray on their knees, some in their churches, some calling all Christians to pray from their homes.
And today, the “morning after,” pastors and church members are walking alongside others and picking up the pieces. Joel Kurz, pastor of The Garden Church, in the west/central area of Baltimore, led a group of about 20 volunteers to walk through the streets with no agenda other than to lend a hand to those who need help.
“There are far more out doing good today in the light than evil in the dark. There are hundreds, hundreds, hundreds of people of all races, ethnicities, parents with kids, college kids, helping out. It’s all being done in a spirit of neighborliness, coming together,” Brad O’Brien, pastor of Jesus Our Redeemer Church, in Federal Hill, Baltimore, said.
Some communities and churches connected on social media early in the day or late last night to organize the tasks of cleaning, helping and providing support for police and national guardsmen, taking food and snacks to show their appreciation.
O’Brien made the call to request the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team and the response was immediate. Three chaplains from the team are arriving today. They’ll work under the authority of the local church ministering as needed in partnership with Baltimore Baptist churches. Joel Kurz and O’Brien are co-directing the team. The chaplains’ 45-foot mobile unit will be set up in town and they will minister to all in need though their primary focus will be ministering to police, emergency workers and military workers. Catonsville Baptist church is providing housing for the chaplains.
Dan Hyun, pastor of The Village, a Baltimore Church in the Hampden area, has already seen God move through the tragedy. Hyun met with a young man “suckerpunched” during the rioting. Though he sustained only minor injuries, Hyun shared the Gospel with the family and prayed with the children to make commitments to follow Christ. The mother will be baptized this Sunday.
“Baltimore will be transformed one disciple at a time,” Hyun wrote on a Facebook post.
Baltimore pastors are not shirking from the battle, they’re embracing it. Kurz, in an effort to rally the troops wrote on Facebook, “After the race riots of the 60's, many fled the city for the 'burbs. For any Christian who is considering a departure after this, now is the time to live here and be salt and light.”
Churches are still opening their doors for prayer. Local college students at Johns Hopkins University (JHU) are also meeting to pray for the city.
Ellie Roper, a JHU student and a coordinator of the prayer meeting said there is a lot of distress and grief on campus about what’s happening in Baltimore
“We're hoping that through this prayer event tonight, by joining together in prayer as a united body and as the Hopkins community, that Christ will be glorified in the midst of the pain and suffering.”
“Historically, God has used tragedy to bring about Gospel transformation. Now is the time to pray for revival in Baltimore City,” Kurz wrote on a Facebook post.
As Baltimore pastors minister in the trenches, as churches in and around the city open their doors for prayer vigils and as staff from the Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network continue to pray daily for individual pastors by name, Satan is declaring war. In many news pictures last night the city looked like it was going up in flames.
But God has brought many men in recent years to plant churches in Baltimore. Many have come sacrificially as urban missionaries, They are standing firm, putting on the full armor of God and rushing into battle.
The gates will not stand.
“Satan wants our city but he can’t have it,” Crawford said.
(Top) Long-time activist, Dr. John Perkins, speaks at Saturday's Unplugged Conference at Freedom Church
(Bottom) Joel Kurz, pastor of Garden Church (left), and Brad O'Brien, pastor of Jesus Our Redeemer, are pictured with Richard (center). The pastors and others from their churches worked to clean up Richard's corner store/liquor store. He has lost everything he has and was deeply moved to have 20-40 strangers come serve him.
Posted on Tue, April 28, 2015
by Sharon Mager