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The Rev. Dr. Jim Somerville The Rev. Dr. James Somerville

The Rev. Jim Somerville is pastor of the First Baptist Church of Richmond, VA.

Member of:

Cooperative Baptist Fellowship

Representative of:

First Baptist Church


Jim Somerville: Onward, Christian Soldier

November 09, 2017

 

I met Carol Adams at a "Faith Leaders' Summit" at the Police Department.

She was the one who had invited me, and when I got there, there she was: this petite, policewoman with a radiant smile, handing out water bottles and snacks and making me feel welcome in a place that didn't exactly reek of hospitality.

Carol believed it was important for the church to be involved in the community and so did I.  First Baptist had just started its year-long, every-member mission trip back in the Fall of 2012.  We were trying to bring the "Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia"-the KOH2RVA.  I had asked our members to "look around for anything that doesn't look like heaven, roll up your sleeves, and get to work."

One of the things that didn't look like heaven in our beloved city was the amount of violent crime.  Although Richmond was no longer America's "murder capital" (as it had been in the early days of the crack cocaine epidemic) there were still far too many murders-forty or fifty a year as I learned from the police chief during that first summit.  But what could we do?  How do you "roll up your sleeves" and stop people from murdering each other?

I kept going to the summits.  I got better acquainted with Carol Adams.  And one day, after there had been a spate of violence in Mosby Court (one of the housing projects in Richmond's East End), Carol invited me to "prayer walk" the neighborhood.

I met her there, not knowing exactly what she meant by "prayer walking."  It turns out she meant going from one apartment to the next, knocking on doors, and asking residents how we could pray for them.  The residents seemed a little reluctant to come to the door after the shootings of the previous few days, and when they did they seemed a little suspicious of this black policewoman and the white man standing there with her.

But eventually we all got the hang of it.

I would tell them I was a pastor and ask if there was anything I could pray for.  Typically there was, and typically they were not the kinds of things we pray for in our comfortable, mostly white, West End neighborhoods:

Pray for my sister.  Her boyfriend got killed.
Pray for my kids.  I'm afraid to let them come outside.
Pray that all this shooting and killing would stop.

It was after that last request that Carol told me her colleagues on the force kept insisting that she wear a bulletproof vest when she went to the projects.  But she grew up in those neighborhoods.  She feels at home there.  "Besides," she said, laughing, "I got Jesus!"

On the morning of September 10, 2017, when First Baptist Church was getting ready for its annual "One Sunday" celebration, four people were murdered in Gilpin Court.  It broke my heart to see the headline.  It made me think we still have a long way to go before the Kingdom of Heaven comes to Richmond, Virginia.  But what could I do?

A few weeks later I called Carol Adams and told her I was going to go to Gilpin Court and do a "prayer walk."  "I'll come with you," she said.

And there we were again, walking around another frightened neighborhood, knocking on doors, offering to pray with people.

There was a man who wanted us to pray for his health: he was having trouble breathing.  There was a young woman who stood in the shadows of her doorway, asking us to pray for her newborn baby.  And then there was a woman named Destiny who told us that things were going pretty well for her: she had just gotten a good job.  "Well," I said, "let's thank God for that."

And so we joined hands and prayed: me, Destiny, Carol, and Joyce Gasparovic, a member of First Baptist who had come with me.  When we finished Destiny said thank you and then she said, "All I need now is a house."

Carol said, "You need a house?"

"Yes."

Carol asked her a few questions, quietly, and then said, "I've got a house for you.  It's in a good neighborhood."  She explained to me, privately, "I've got a foundation that owns three houses.  We make them available to women who have suffered domestic abuse."  And then she turned back to Destiny.  "There's no man involved, is there?"  "No!" Destiny said.  "Then let's get you moved in," Carol said.

Destiny was over the moon.

When I heard Carol Adams was running for Richmond Sheriff as a write-in candidate I wanted to do anything I could to help her.  Maybe this post will help you get to know her a little better.  And maybe, if you live in Richmond and find yourself at the polls on November 7, you will write in her name and check the box beside it.

As I posted on Facebook: "Carol Adams is one of the finest, strongest, bravest, and most capable Christian soldiers I have ever known."

She's got my vote.

 


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