Prior to coming to Desire Street Ministries, I worked in the corporate world and spent the past 7 years of that time pursuing a call to transform distressed neighborhoods. Although God gave me some amazing vehicles for that call, I found myself very impatient as the years passed, wanting to see initiatives spring up in my city that we could claim “transformational victory” over. But more often than not, the community development project I worked on for 5 years was more about learning to listen and see than any particular event.
The primary person I worked with on this research project was Phil Hissom, who now runs an urban institute we created together, called the Polis Institute. I ran into Phil the other day, and he had an amazing story for me.
During our years of research, we wanted to go beyond books and interviews and set up shop in a very crime-ridden, run-down, poor and depressed mobile home community. This is where we would “office,” getting to know the residents and trying out the theory that community development practitioners believe: relationships are the foundation of any transformation effort.
When I saw Phil again, he told me something that we may have intuitively known, but he now had the data to back it up. The crime statistics of that neighborhood over a five-year period showed that from 2006-2009, there were 32 violent crime incidents in the park. From January 2010 through May 2012, the crime rate dropped to ZERO. Then, again in June 2012, violent crime resurfaced and there have been 16 violent crime episodes since that time.
So, he asked, as any curious person would, what changed? What factor or cause eliminated crime for that period of 28 months?
He looked over all the old documents, trying to discover the cause. Was it more money coming in? Was it more programs? A certain type of program? More relief efforts? More volunteers?
Then he found it. It was prayer! Every week between January 2010and April 2012, we led a very intentional hour of prayer. We learned and tried different forms of prayer. We sometimes sang songs, sometimes read Scripture, and sometimes just sat in silence. There were always two of us present, sometimes as many as six. But we always, very faithfully, week after week, prayed from 9-10 on Wednesday mornings in that mobile home community.
In April 2012, because of various reasons, we stopped our intentional prayer meeting. And the crime went up.
A few months ago, I wrote in my blog about the power of prayer, and how Jesus shared with his frustrated disciples, who could not drive the demon out of a boy, that “this kind can come out only by prayer.”
Now, God has given me actual proof in my own city.
So bring your money, bring your talents, bring your time to those who need it. But most of all bring your prayers. This is a spiritual battle, and now I have data to prove it.