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A Letter From Pastor Elijah

from Rev. Elijah Zehyoue, Pastoral Resident at Calvary Baptist Church, Washington, DC

Earlier this week, in my hometown of Baton Rouge, LA, and 37-year old Alton Sterling was shot and killed by police. Then later in the week Philando Castile was murdered in Minnesota, and then yesterday 5 police officers were murdered while protecting peaceful protesters in Dallas.

As I follow the updates on social media and in the news, and continue to listen and meet with you all, I know that so many in our community are deeply hurting because of how chaotic the times seem to be. From the middle of June through today it seems as though our news cycle is dominated by stories of horrific violence and terror against the specific communities that we seek to minister to and with. As a church that deeply believes the love of Christ and reign of the Prince of Peace, we reiterate our solidarity with the victims of hate at the Pulse Night Club in Orlando, victims of terrorism during Ramadan, and Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, The 5 slain Dallas Police Officers, and all of their families.

While our efforts and statements against these acts of violence remain important, they still do very little to end the very real pain and suffering many of us feel. As one of your pastors and a fellow brother in Christ, I see how these repeated instances of evil have the power to cripple us emotionally and destroy our hopes for a more just world. I urge you to remember that our God has promised to never forsake you and those promises were made to us during these difficult times. In the same way God spoke to his people under bondage in Egypt, Babylon, Assyria, and Rome, and promised relief for their suffering, I believe God’s eternal truth rings just as a true today—GOD IS STILL WITH US!

My prayer for each and every person is that you believe that today. My prayer is that you take with you so you may have the courage to live, work, play, pray, struggle, fight, hope, and believe in the better angels of our nature.

I must confess to you brothers and sisters, that this letter is not easy to write. I am very much so disturbed and hurting by how vulnerable life seems to be for so many. But I am trying to use my despair to propel me to action. Earlier this week, after I spent a morning crying for my city, fearful for my friends, worried for my country, and broken hearted for those grieve, I decided to listen to the voice of God urging me to do something. First, it meant spending time in prayer and vigil with you all and then I heard God pushing me home to work for justice there. So that is exactly what I will be doing. This weekend, my worship and my witness will be in Baton Rouge helping my city and our neighbors know that the love of God is real and God promises never to forsake us.

As one of your pastors, I write you seeking your blessings on this venture and asking for your participation. Since I have been with you in 2014 the struggle for the dignity of black life has been our shared effort—this time is no different. Although, I go alone physically, we go together in spirit. I ask that you send your prayers with me in this shared work. I also ask that you view my trip back home, as an extension of the broader ministry we continue to do together modeling what it looks like to live out our Christian life in public.

Grace and Peace to you brothers and sisters.

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