After a neighborhood shooting left a toddler paralyzed, Corey Brooks knew it was time for the church to take action.
When a six-month-old baby was shot and killed in gang-related violence in the Chicago neighborhood of Woodlawn three years ago, Corey Brooks and his New Beginnings Church ministered to the grieving family. This June, however, when another child—this time, a toddler—was paralyzed in a similar shooting on Father’s Day, Brooks decided to go further, inviting more than 100 gang members together so he could broker a truce that’s still going strong.
Brooks recently spoke with Christianity Today assistant editor Morgan Lee about how he built rapport with gang members, his reputation in the neighborhood, and how he hopes other Chicago churches will support his work:
How long have you been trying to broker this truce?
We’ve been talking about it for over a year now. We had difficulties getting everyone to agree. Finally, we were able to get everyone to come to the table and at least discuss the potential of a truce.
What did you address in your meeting?
I talked about the pain that everyone has experienced as a result of these shootings. A lot of the individuals there had been shot, and if they hadn’t, their relatives or very close friends had been shot. They know the pain really well, and its impact on family and friends.
Secondly, I talked about the great need for us to have a community where our children are free to go out and play. That impacts them because a lot of them have children who are very young.
The third thing I tried to communicate is that it’s very difficult to business to come in and hire when individuals are trying to control one area.
How did you keep the meeting safe and secure?
That was difficult. A lot of prayer. The meeting started out really tense because those individuals had never really been in a room together. They were seeing each other as enemies. It’s hard to have a one-to-one sit-down, but to have 50-50 sit down and talk was even more difficult.
But I opened in prayers and set the ground rules and kept everyone accountable; that’s how I was able to stay in control of the meeting and communicate on a level that was not intimidating or threatening.
You knew many of the people in the room already?
A lot of the guys in that room, I know them personally. I know their families. I have ministered to many of their families in times of shootings and gun violence. I built relationships and rapport with a lot of people in that room. It isn’t something that happened overnight, but it has been in process for some time now.
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SOURCE: Christianity Today
Interview by Morgan Lee