When Are the Numbers Enough?

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

By the numbers:

  • Seven shootings within 48 hours this week, in the same communities.
  • Three murdered as a result of those shootings.
  • As of this time last year, Washington, D.C., had 44 homicides, compared to 47 homicides at present time (May 19, 2016), according to Metropolitan Police Department crime data.
  • D.C.’s homicide totals for 2015 was 162 people murdered.

As a D.C. resident, I remember being abhorred last year by the almost daily news casts reporting of another murder in the District. Today, unfortunately, it seems the problem is increasing.

What’s worse: this week’s shootings occurred in broad daylight, averaging between the hours of 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Schools would be letting out around 3 p.m., and as Natalie Williams, Advisory Neighborhood Commission chairperson for Southeast D.C.’s Ward 8 told NBC4 this week, “It’s a shame that we have kids who are getting out of school right now, and when they come up all they are familiar with is these yellow tapes.”

Williams also said that “people are afraid to simply live,” given the increased violence. Community meeting after community meeting, neighborhood rallies and an increased police presence in these high-crime communities has not done much to stop the violence or quell residents’ fears for their own personal safety.

In fact, shootings that typically occur during the wee morning hours of 1 a.m. to 3 a.m., are now happening in broad daylight. A full disregard for human life and no concern for the many who will be impacted by the loss of life, whether family member, friend, student passing by yellow tape, residents or the news viewer. The collateral damage has reverberating effects.

crime scene tape

Why do I write about this?  Because even as gut-wrenching and sobering as the numbers are (at least to me), when will the numbers be enough to move more people, particularly Christians, to make resolving this issue a priority?

I ask this, as a burden the Lord has placed on my heart in mentoring D.C. youth, many who between the ages of 15-24 are either perpetrators of or victims of violent crime. I spoke this week with the executive director of a Southeast D.C. youth mentoring faith-based organization. The FBO has been active in its immediate community since its founding in 1995. The FBO has a number of business, community, individual and nonprofit stakeholders who support its work. Yet, even in all of this, I asked the executive director, “Where are the gaps? Why an increase in crime and not a decrease in this area, particularly as it pertains to youth?”

His response to me was simple and sadly, something I already knew:

“Many people have not made the youth a priority. We need more caring people and more caring institutions to care about the issues and put egos aside.”

I will also add that Christ is our only hope in transforming hearts, homes, neighborhoods and communities. A number of folks in the Body of Christ hesitate to share about Christ, concerned that they may offend someone rather than make way for their spiritual healing.

Outside of it being the seat of federal government and its highly flocked to and visited monuments, museums, other tourist attractions, and its four and five-star restaurants, Washington, D.C. suffers the same societal ills as other urban cities rife with crime and violence. Many of Washington, D.C.’s neighborhoods that are low-income, have high rates of homelessness and underserved in resources also see an influx of drug trafficking, thefts, home invasions, spikes in violence, gang activity, etc.

Washington DC skyline

D.C. is a wellspring for many churches, faith-based organizations, nonprofits, community based organizations and interest groups who set up shop in the nation’s capital to provide programs and services to address such social ills within the city and nationwide.

So why do the problems persist? While evil will always be with us until Christ’s return, it requires that the Body of Christ truly be engaged in their God-given callings, standing as the standard in the communities and domains God has called them to. Some will say, “We need more money, more resources to do this work” (God will provide).

But in fact, we need more hearts to stand as salt, light and truth to stem the tide of decay. It requires us to prioritize such matters and to be INTERESTED. The Lord has led me to write and speak recently on the need for many more in the Body of Christ to be INTERESTED and to serve where they are placed. As told to us in Matthew 9:37, The harvest (the opportunities) is plentiful but the workers are few. 

When will the numbers be enough for you? Where has God given you a burden to serve in the things that break His heart? 

If you’re already walking in this and serving in obedience in the lane God has called you to, THANK YOU. If you have sat on the sidelines hoping the problems will simply go away, or you hope someone else will step in or you’re praying that Jesus will soon return to snatch you out of this chaos, please rethink your position.

LISTEN: Meanwhile, I invite you to listen to our short message on “Interesting or Interested?”

THANK YOU to many of you who because you ARE INTERESTED and believe in what God has called our ministry to do, you have contributed to our “Bring Godliness to D.C. and Society” campaign. You are helping in our work to reach the lost with truth.

Heavenly Father, help us to always be INTERESTED in and make a priority of what you’ve placed in our hearts to do. Lord, I pray we desire to be obedient to what you’ve called us to do and not deviate from or short change it for the lesser things of this world. As Christians, we need to spend more time being interested in others.  As a dear brother in Christ said, “When God gives us a burden for something, we need to look in the mirror. More often, WE are the answer to prayer.”  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

God bless you,

Nicole

Nicole D. Hayes is the founder of Voices Against the Grain, a bold teaching ministry launched in May 2013. Nicole’s purpose in creating Voices Against the Grain is to be light in darkness, to boldly instruct truth amid confusion so as to bring clarity and restoration.

Learn more about Nicole D. Hayes here.

 

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Opportunities in Darkness

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Yesterday, we were delighted to return to the radio airwaves after approximately a year’s hiatus. The one-year break from producing our weekly, 1-hour radio show was needed. The time allowed each of us to sow to other ministry activities, pull away from some activities as seasons ended and draw even closer to God to seek His best for us. In addition, the time allowed us to retool a couple things. For example, after considering feedback received from some listeners and ministry team members, I decided to shorten our radio show from one hour to 30 minutes.

In Wednesday’s discussion topic, “What Is Going On: A Conversation,” I reviewed some of the darkest events of 2015 to present day that have sorrowed us (ex: Charleston church shooting, terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels, America’s epidemic of mass shootings, etc.). All of the events, distressing, can make us ask, “What is going on??”

During our conversation, I shared Jesus’ reassuring words told to us in such times from John 16:33- “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!” I also noted that though we are living in unsteady times, we can remain steady in God’s Word so we can help steady others. This also draws us closer to Him.

 

ca. 2001 --- Sky over Wheat Plants --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

While the events have been sobering and heartbreaking, I am persuaded that there are abundant OPPORTUNITIES available in such darkness. In fact, for those of us in Christ Jesus, it presents great OPPORTUNITIES for us to be LIGHT. The harvest is plentiful!

Evil hopes for our indifference, laziness, retreat to pursue comfort and a self-centered focus on me and mine. However, as the Body of Christ, we are not called to retreat but to ENGAGE and show others Christ’s love. It’s God’s mercy, His love, His grace, our prayers, actions, light, love that helps stem the tide of evil. The question is, are you willing? Jesus has need of you!

May we be reminded and encouraged by Christ’s victory obtained for us on the Cross! May we be JOYFUL that he overcame evil and this world!

To learn more, listen to “What Is Going On: A Conversation”.

God bless you,

Nicole

What the ‘Unlearned’ Have Learned

“Who are these unlearned people?”

Nicole D. Hayes, Creator of Voices Against the Grain

Nicole D. Hayes, Creator of Voices Against the Grain

This question was jokingly posed by our October 22, 2014 radio show guest, Michelle Shirley, leader of Fire Starter International, a Miami-based women’s ministry, as she joyfully reflected on her unofficial title in ministry. Michelle is also president and CEO of Abstinence Between Strong Teens International. Along with Michelle, we hosted Fire Starter International ministry members Barbara Boliere and Testamoni (gospel rap artist) who shared how God is working through them to set the world and hearts on fire for Christ Jesus. Each lady shares God’s Word and truth, bringing light to areas of darkness, being salt as God requires us to be, and restoring those broken by life circumstances or poor choices made.

clergy title word cloudNone of these ladies are officially titled as ‘pastor’ or ‘deaconess’, yet they’ve been equipped and empowered by the Holy Spirit to impact lives for God’s Kingdom. How are they allowed to do this important work without being “knighted” under the traditional titles many accept?

Sometimes labeled “unlearned,” otherwise referred to as “laymen” or “layperson” (a non-ordained member of a church), God is raising up a new Army of Believers, who He has called, equipped, justified and qualified to do His Kingdom work outside of traditional titles and walls. “And those he predestined, he also called; those he called he also justified; those he justified, he also qualified.” (Romans 8:30)

Here’s what the ‘unlearned’ have learned: 

  • A “fire starter” is someone who has accepted Jesus Christ and is being guided by the Holy Spirit. You don’t need a title.
  • Contrary to opinion, they are not ‘unlearned.’ Perhaps not seminary-educated, they are studied in God’s Word, prayerful of their next steps and guided by the Holy Spirit.
  • They decrease themselves in order to increase Christ to share Him and His love with others.
  • They are grateful and joyful to have been called/chosen by Him.
  • They are obedient and passionate about dispersing the message of Jesus Christ in situations and spaces unpopular.
  • They are imperfect (as we all are), yet perfected through Christ.
  • In an effort to free someone else from the world’s trappings, they unabashedly and without shame share their testimonies, laying their souls bare, unconcerned that doing so could place their position at risk.
  • They are not lone rangers, as God doesn’t send His People out into the field alone, but yoked with like-minded partners.
  • They welcome partnering with those who carry official titles to advance the work of God’s Kingdom.
  • As Ambassadors of Christ without a traditional title and not operating under certain systems, they are a little bolder, not encumbered/hindered by tradition—a trait necessary to reach the enslaved and lost in today’s 11th hour.
  • Like the 1830’s fire horses, they are willing to get near the fires of this world, step boldly at the risk of being singed and remain unmoved to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. (Listen to our interview “Fire Starter International: Women on Fire for Christ” as we discuss this topic and description of fire horses at the 11:38″ mark).

This is who we are at Voices Against the Grain. We have answered the call and step out as the Holy Spirit guides us. As the “unlearned” we have learned and understood that God seeks doers, not status seekers. He seeks those who will be obedient to carry out His work no matter the cost or loss they will endure. The reward is greater than anything we will ever lose. Are you willing to do the work as you’ve been called, with the gifts you have—title or not? There is a role for you. Everyone in the Body of Christ, their gifts and talents are significant.

Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” (Matthew 9:37)Harvest worker

-Nicole

About Nicole D. Hayes

Nicole D. Hayes is committed to serve as a vessel of compassion, instruction, love and truth for Jesus Christ. Born and raised in Topeka, Kan., she is a member of Greater Mount Calvary Holy Church in Washington, D.C.  Drawn to know Christ in her early childhood and saved at the age of 12, Nicole is a student and applier of God’s Word. She is also a successful public relations professional operating in Washington, D.C., with more than eight years experience of coordinating and delivering strategic communications and media outreach support for nonprofits and small business owners. During her career she has placed several nonprofits and small business owners in national, local and regional media spaces. She operates with a personal and business mantra of “making an investment in people.” Among many things, Nicole is also a motivational speaker. She has been invited to deliver messages to business leaders to not be misguided by the world’s view of success, to direct young people navigating through the world’s challenges, and to remind those who may have lost their way that joyfully, “God Has Not Changed His Mind About You.” Nicole’s purpose in creating “Voices Against the Grain” is to be light in darkness, to boldly instruct truth amidst confusion so as to bring clarity and restoration.