A Beacon of Hope

The toughest neighborhood in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, is Allison Hill. Its alleys reek of decaying garbage and human waste. When I visited Allison Hill last year, I saw bullet casings and used needles lying on the ground near boarded-up buildings. Just prior to my arrival to speak at a church, a pool of blood in front of the church door had to be cleaned up. What better place, I thought, to open an office for Neighbors Who Care? Neighbors Who Care is a ministry of Prison Fellowship devoted to helping victims of crime. A few weeks after Neighbors Who Care opened its doors in Allison Hill, volunteers began to offer their services. One ex-offender who had met Christ in prison volunteered to clean the office each week for free. Juvenile offenders sentenced to community service hauled office furniture. A local pastor provided the first month’s rent, along with a crowd of volunteers and prayer supporters. A few days after the office opened—on August 5—Allison Hill residents took part in an event called National Night Out. People in crime-ridden communities across the U.S. marched to demonstrate their intent to take their streets back from criminals. On the night of the march, volunteers from Harrisburg Neighbors Who Care decided to turn their march into a prayer rally. Soon 500 people were walking down the littered street, singing hymns and praying. People poured out of a local bar to see what was happening. A young woman, high on drugs, stumbled after them. "I need help," she sobbed. Neighbors Who Care took her in and later got her into a treatment program. As the crowd continued down the block, more and more residents joyfully joined the march. Soon, the marchers approached a corner where gang members were milling around. A pastor in the crowd boomed out: "The Lord loves you. We love you. But we don’t love what you’re doing. Come join us!" One teenage boy slowly backed away from the gang and joined the crowd of Christians. Carloads of kids honked their horns and blared their radios, trying to drown out the singing. But the Christians sang their hymns even more loudly. The teens finally gave up and drove away. After that unforgettable night in August, the Neighbors Who Care office was flooded—both with victims’ requests for help and with people wanting to be trained as volunteers. When I think about that night, I see it as a wonderful picture, a metaphor for what America needs. This is the battle of the hour, the battle for the heart and soul of our nation. Those Christians on the streets of Harrisburg are an example of the incredible potential for change that is unleashed when Christian citizens get busy and do the job we’re called to do. That little storefront office is now a beacon of hope in a community that had known no hope—a light that can shine in neighborhoods across America. If you call BreakPoint, we’ll tell you how you can get involved with Neighbors Who Care in your own community, or how you can help support the ministry financially. It’s time for Christians to commit themselves to bringing hope to the crime-torn neighborhoods of America’s cities. We can win the battle against crime only by witnessing to the love of Christ—right in the dirty streets and alleys of places like Allison Hill.


Chuck Colson



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