January 27, 2015
JUSTICE FOR JANESSA
Sunday night, about three hours from honoring the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, the community of Fresno was struck deeply by gang violence and the senseless murder of an innocent bystander. Nine year old Janessa Ramirez was with her mother standing in front of a neighborhood laundromat when she was fatally wounded in her stomach by gunfire. According to a local news report, Janessa’s final words were, “I love you mom.” There is no doubt in my mind from all that I have learned about Janessa over the past week that she has already gotten started on enjoying her eternal life with Jesus. But what about us that are left behind with a community that has been impacted by this horrible crime against an innocent child? And what about her mother? Her friends and teachers from her elementary school? What can possibly be done to make this kind of thing right?
By Monday afternoon I told my wife that I wanted for our ministry, Gangland Redemption Ministries (GRM) and the Valley Dream Center, to go to the laundromat where Janessa was killed and conduct a “Laundry of Love” for their neighborhood. My wife agreed and we reached out to our volunteers, who all agreed that Saturday would be the perfect day to hold the event. For those of you who may not know what a “Laundry of Love” is, it is an opportunity for an organization to go to a laundromat and fill washing machines and dryers with quarters for anyone that shows up to do their laundry. The key to an event like this is that it is unannounced, so it is a blessing to the folks who show up to wash their family’s soiled clothes. If you would like to know more about hosting a “Laundry of Love” in your own community I encourage you to look it up on-line, but for the sake of brevity, I will leave it at that.
The Valley Dream Center (VDC) leaped at the opportunity to support our event and generously offered all of the funds necessary for us to host the event. So this past Saturday from 10:30am-12:30pm (while Janessa’s funeral services were being held), over a dozen volunteers from GRM and VDC partnered with volunteers from the West McKinley Assembly of God (a local church in that area) to host our Laundry of Love at the Fresno Wash Station. We also had several volunteers that baked various individually wrapped items so that we could sell them as a fundraiser for Janessa’s family.
By 11:30am, our Bake Sale was doing well, but the Laundry of Love did not appear as though it was producing much results. I am sure that all of the volunteers were feeling the same way that I was at that moment. I give all of the credit to my wife Tish and her friend Kimmie for the most amazing story of the day. My wife went into the apartment complex that is very close to where the shots that took Janessa’s life had come from. Tish spoke with one lady (who for anonymity purposes I will refer to as “Esther”) that said she was too scared to come out of her apartment and use the laundromat. Esther added that she has a nine year old daughter of her own that would play out in front of the Wash Station while her she would do their laundry. Tish and Kimmie left the apartment complex believing that none of the people that they had spoken with were going to come, so they prayed for each of them as they walked back to the Wash Station.
Then, when the clock struck 11:50am people were flowing into the Wash Station in such a rate that each of our volunteers had to pitch in with supplying the customers with soap and dryer sheets to be placed into the washers and dryers; while the others came right behind them with the quarters that we loaded into the machines. I get a little teary eyed even right now when I think of how blessed my wife and I are to have such an amazing group of volunteers that wove their way seamlessly through the laundromat taking care of all of the laundry needs of these wonderful people. The owner of the Wash Station, Carol, started crying as she saw folks from the local community being blessed by a group of people in orange t-shirts ranging in age from 13-53. Carol shared with me that she had a very difficult week, and how nice it was to have an event like this in her business.
Tish and Kimmie were moved to tears when Esther showed up at our Laundry of Love with her daughter and her daughter’s friend. PRAISE GOD! My friends, that was a miraculous moment that I can’t take any credit for. Tish and Kimmie were obedient to the Holy Spirit and God opened up the hearts of dozens of people that did not allow for fear and the lies of the enemy to keep them inside of their apartments. GOD REALLY IS GOOD!
End result was over 170 loads of laundry were washed and $440 was raised for Janessa’s family from the Bake Sale. More importantly however, was the experience of being able to love on the Clinton / Marks community. So back to my question at the beginning of this Blog, “What do we as a community do when a crime like the one that took Janessa’s life happens?” My only response is, “Do whatever you are capable of!” God formed us all with a certain level of unique skills and talents that He wants for each of His children to use for the benefit of His Kingdom right here today! Maybe all you have time to do, is bake a dozen cookies, or donate $10 in quarters. Maybe you feel more comfortable praying over the community rather than listening to the story of one of its residents, and giving one of them a hug. No thing and no one can replace Janessa to all of the people that were fortunate enough to have known her. But if we as a community are going to do something in honor of her in an attempt to bring about something positive from this experience it must come through sustainable change. A shift of the paradigm that is significant enough that it won’t just change one neighborhood, but it is strong enough to impact a city for the long term. Whatever it is that God has given you, He did it intentionally knowing that what you have is exactly what your community needs right now. In the words of Father Greg Boyle of Homeboy Industries, “Community trumps gangs”.
Please take five minutes more out of your day to pray for Janessa’s friends and family that lost this precious girl at such a young age. Also be praying for Justice for Janessa (not retribution), that each of the people responsible for her death will be held accountable by the swift hand of God. God bless each of you and yours.
David J. Standley
1 Peter 4:10 (MSG)
Everything in the world is about to be wrapped up, so take nothing for granted. Stay wide-awake in prayer. Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. Be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homeless—cheerfully. Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it: if words, let it be God’s words; if help, let it be God’s hearty help. That way, God’s bright presence will be evident in everything through Jesus, and he’ll get all the credit as the One mighty in everything—encores to the end of time. Oh, yes!