Another 4th of July, Another Call to the Police

July 5, 2013  17 Comments

Last year, on the 4th of July, my family was on our way to the beach when we got a call that someone had broken into our house (something that I talk about in this post).  We returned to see our back door smashed in, and our TV and other valuables stolen, including all my wife’s jewelry and her engagement ring.  While not quite traumatic, it was a bad enough experience that when I woke up this morning, one year later, the memory did come to mind.  I idly wondered if something would happen this year too, hahaha.

And lo and behold, it did.

Today, a little past midnight, a motion detector outside my house went off.  I stumbled to my back window and looked down, and saw two black men huddled next to my scooter, trying to cut the lock off its wheel.  Shock coursed through me as I fumbled in the dark for my phone, and dialed 911.  While on the phone with the cops, the guys apparently realized the futility of trying to cut a hardened steel lock that was buried in one foot of solid concrete, and so jumped over my chain link fence and ran away, in different directions.  I was tempted to run after them, but thought to myself, “That is how really, really bad things happen,”, and so instead decided to go outside and wait in my car for the cops to show up.

And wait I did.  For over one hour.

At the 30 minute mark, I called 911 again to ask if any officers were on route to my house, and the operator couldn’t confirm anything because it was a really busy night.  I continued to wait in my car, absolutely fuming.  I was angry at those punks, and at the many times we had been victimized in the few years we have lived here.  I was also frustrated with the cops for taking so damn long to respond to a burglary.  The two men had long since gone, having had half an hour in which they could walk home, and even take a leisurely shower.  There was no way the police were going to catch them now.  I sat in my car, arms aching with nervous tension and anger.

But as I sat there, a thought came to me – according to the operator, the reason the cops hadn’t shown up is because they were responding to calls elsewhere, all across the city.  My call was one of probably hundreds, and so relatively low in priority that they couldn’t even spare the resources to respond.  In other words, no one was at my house because worse things were going on in DC that night, a thought that provided some perspective and blunted my frustration.  Of course, it still would have been nice if DC had more police officers so even calls like mine could get addressed, but that was nothing that could be addressed then and there.  And as fireworks exploded in various parts of the city, I couldn’t help but be reminded of places in this world where things were even worse still, and give thanks.

I also felt a strange sense of camaraderie with those hundreds of people, those hundreds of callers.  I have to admit that up to this point, I was feeling more than a little victimized, especially given that only one year ago our house was broken into.  I wondered why I and my family had been singled out for crime so many times.  But the wait reminded me that I wasn’t alone in this, the only person in the city having a crappy night.  No, I was one of the many, many people who were having a crappy night.  Crime was not just my reality, but one shared by many in DC, and a reality that existed far before me and my family had ever moved into this wonderful and craptastic city.

One hour rolled by, and I called the police for an update.  They still were unable to provide any estimate as to when officers would arrive. So I told them to cancel the call, and that I would report it in the morning at the station, which the operator seemed relieved to hear.  After all, nothing was stolen, and everyone and everything was safe and secure.  It could wait until morning.

But I can’t end this post here, because it would not be true to the full extent of my emotions.  It’s true that everyone and everything is safe, and I’m no longer trembling with rage, and that’s good.  But to be honest, I’m not sure I can stay here in DC much longer.  I’ve tried to to maintain a good and fair perspective, even after repeated instances of burglary and vandalism.  And I think I have done a good job at this, for the most part.

But as regular as crime is to living in the city, I’m frankly sick of it.  I don’t want to get used to all the stupid things that happen here.  For instance, last month, someone was shot in a drive-by shooting, half a block away from my house.  As I peered nervously through the blinds, I was amazed to see people walking around like nothing had happened, like someone hadn’t just been gunned down in cold blood in broad daylight.  I don’t ever want THAT to become my version of “normal”.  Honestly, that should not be ANYONE’S version of “normal”.  And I don’t ever want that to happen to me, or to the ones I love.

I know that God called me to this city, and I have done some good work here over the years, but I’m beginning to wonder if it’s not time for me to move on.  After my wife’s cancer, the closing of our church plant, and numerous instances of crime, I find myself yearning for calmer waters.  So if you’re the praying sort, I would really covet your prayers for discernment and clarity right about now…



Husband and Father of 4. Pastor of Peace Fellowship Church in Washington D.C. Aspiring Writer, Former Musician

17 responses to Another 4th of July, Another Call to the Police

  1. I totally understood and agreed to your decision. Just said a prayer for you and asked God for clarity to guide and lead you. I am positive that God will provide. Pastors of your caliber and dedication are in great need all over this country. Hope you will consider Austin, Texas.

  2. For so MANY in our country this is daily life – and worse – with no hope of ever leaving. NO choice. Occasionally when the Eisenhower is really backed up, I drive home through the crime ridden West side of Chicago. My journey ends in a lovely suburban setting. It’s appalling to think of living that West side way of life-trapped in it. I’m always grateful for ministries like Wayne Gordan’s Lawndale ministries and Arloa Sutter’s Breakthrough Urban Ministries who do life and ministry there. So sorry for your latest episode!

    • thanks melinda – it’s not lost on me that i’m lucky even to be able to consider a move, when many cannot…

  3. Brother Peter,
    Thank you for sharing your heart. And for being so open about your feelings. I can empathize fully with the trauma and violation of being robbed, and of being broken into time and again, and no response from the city. Even when I hand the police evidence was anything done. After a season, I came to the same conclusion like you, that I am not the sole target of criminals. Crime is everywhere. And then I learned through conversations with my neighbors on my block that nearly all of us have had home/car been broken into and things taken. But instead of running to a ‘safer’ area, we worked to build a community with our neighbors. Now we look out for each other. By God’s grace, I have the name, cell phone, home phone and email of most every resident on my street. This is not by accident. It has come to be by me and my wife and others on our block doing the work to be good neighbors. And this is the fruit of my being a presence out on the sidewalks on a daily and weekly basis, in all weather since the moment we moved on the block. I will never forget the second robbery (while my wife and I were out of the city) and a neighbor rushed up to us as soon as we returned to the block, “You were robbed, please don’t leave!” Others told us that they called the police on our behalf all weekend long. Most were people we barely knew. So we invited these saints over for supper and asked them to connect the dots of what happened while we were away. Long story short we became friends that very evening. And my wife and I gave the keys to our house, car and house alarm code to each one of these neighbors that came over for supper that night. Since then we have had struggles with criminals for sure. But we are not alone. Now we are surrounded by an army of like minded neighbors who are committed to looking out for each other. It is the best neighborhood I have ever been a part of ever. And I will not ever leave, not early on, nor now. The only we we can be agents of transformation in the inner city is to plant ourselves in faith and refuse to leave – unless God shouts at us to leave. I pray that this level of community happens to your family.

    • thanks brian – you have persevered in this city for so long, it’s so humbling and awe inspiring to me. i’m going to continue to seek guidance from God, but if he calls me to stay, your advice and prayers will go a long way!

  4. praying!!!

  5. Sorry to hear of this repeat of this crime, thanks for writing the blog post amidst a flood of raw emotions, being open with your frustrations, empathy, and invitation for prayer.

    Father God, I join in prayer for my brother Peter and his family as they have persevered in living in the city, where they’ve sensed your call, and having endured another crime committed against them, they’re needing your guidance and discernment for how to keep themselves healthy and at peace with where they should live. Thank you for their witness in the community and I pray you confirm their decision-making through your Spirit and even affirmations through divine encounters. Amen.

  6. Pastor Peter, I will be praying for you. As you’ve faithfully followed the call that brought you to DC to this day, I pray you will continue to follow the call that God places in your heart wherever that may be. Praying for discernment for you as you lead not only the church, but your family. God bless.

  7. Stan Friedman July 5, 2013 at 9:35 pm

    praying for you.

  8. Brother,

    Purposes, plans and pursuits – seem – right, at the time, and almost always align themselves with our earthly, sense ruled and intellectual reasoning. It sounds to me that you find yourself standing in these type of circumstances…

    However, God’s plans, purposes and pursuits – rarely – make sense (at the time), require a level of trust that we convince ourselves we are unable to do and must (shall I say it again…must) be founded solidly on the promises of God. For example, Joseph’s process of maturity, God-plan, and pursuits did not fit within the boundary of reasoning and natural sense knowledge. He did everything right; refuse and flee the King’s wife’s sexual advances, interpreted the dreams of the Butler/Baker and not to mention he was a trusted overseer of the prison.

    I am not saying – sickness, crime and violence and living in anxiety and fear is best for you or your family, nor is it God’s will for any of His children. But I am saying that the Divine plan isn’t always as clear and sure as we would like it to be, and the end is found in God’s timing alone.

    I will pray this: That God will grant you wisdom and understanding and clarity of thought as to what He is doing. Whether that means you – remain or move forward, that is yours to discover by His Spirit and that He give you a more attuned ear to the Holy Spirit, who ‘leads and guides into all truth..’ Thereby making your footing sure and your movements deliberate and in faith. As well as any other utterance He gives me.

    Consider this: Pioneers are always the first to experience the trama of breaking through. But once the hole has been obtained the ‘gusher’ (or people) can easily come forth. Perhaps you are in a pioneer lane right now…

  9. Brother Peter, I am moved by your story and will lift you and your family up to our Almighty God in prayers. Just listened to your Following God sermon and know that you are anointed and God will lead you to your “Promised” Land. The refiner’s fire is hot but the dross must be burned away before your new assignment. So I just want to encourage you continue to seek His kingdom and righteousness for your story has yet to begin. There is power in the name of Jesus. Allow your spirit to exercise it. God Bless.

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