Once in a while I get a harsh reminder of the violence and danger that exists along Colfax Avenue. It is Wednesday afternoon and Diane and I were to meet with a struggling young couple at Motel 9. I got there first, pulling into the lot in an older Camry, borrowed from Nepali friends. I talked to the woman, all of 18, through an open window; she doesn’t want to talk right now so I hand her my business card and leave. I am heading to the Sand and Sage to drop off clothes and food to “Penny” who distributes them to prostitutes and homeless folk who hang around there.
Leaving Motel 9 I notice the cruiser, but cop cars are everywhere on Colfax. I call Diane to say our meeting is off but then see flashing lights behind me, and tell her I’ll call back. I pull into a parking lot and without thinking, get out of the car to find out what the deal is. One cop grabs my left hand, pulls it behind my back, palm out, clicks on the cuff. His partner pats me down, quick and efficient. The first cop clicks my right wrist into a cuff. My question gets a brief, unsatisfying response. In seconds, the rear door opens, and I am shoved into the back seat, door closed. The seats of this high-powered suv are plastic and uncomfortable. The cuffs cut into the crease of my wrists, painful enough to still hurt 3 days later.
There I sat while 2 Denver Police officers took my ID and Jesus on Colfax business card, one hitting the onboard computer while the other searched the car, to find bags of clothing and boxes of food. They were ice-cold and gave little explanation, other than that it was a high crime area and I was not allowed to get out the car. About the time the cuff went on my right wrist, I figured I might as well sit back and “enjoy” the experience. Talk was going nowhere. I knew that once they put me in the computer, it would be over quickly.
In about 5 minutes, they took me out, un-cuffed me and let me go. Neither of them were apologetic or warm, nor did they seem to see any value in the fact that a pastor was in that community, trying to love and help people. I actually saw some humor in the situation, noting that this would bump my street cred as a ghetto pastor, but they were unamused. I wasn’t particularly fearful or worried in the moment; I knew I would be quickly released. But later, I was sobered by what had happened and by what it says about our world.
Right then, the drug and prostitution activity at Motel 9 was out of control; violence and danger are a significant reality. It is a scary world, scary to those who live there, scary even to the cops. More, all of that is Satan’s work. We often see his work in broken lives that leave us sad. Here, I was reminded that Satan also works through danger and violence and that there is real reason on East Colfax for everyone to be scared.
Please, please, please, pray. There is no power that can break this darkness and the people it enslaves other than the power of Jesus. Pray against Satan and all his weapons; pray for the people who live there, good and and evil; pray too for the police. Pray also for us that we would be safe even as we feel called to move about in this world.Jesus says this: “The thief (Satan) has come to steal, kill and destroy. But I have come that you may have life and have it abundantly.”Pray for the triumph of Jesus over Satan.I have other thoughts about those moments. I have sympathy for the police and this encounter helped me to understand their dangerous world. Still, I wonder about my treatment.
I was never told why I was stopped, nor was I enough of a credible threat to be detained; a lawyer buddy is nearly apoplectic about this. That helps me understand those who are on the receiving end of handcuffs and cruisers.I expect I will be thinking and praying for a long time on the lessons of those moments. Still, Diane and I feel honored that Jesus chose us to serve here. Sad often, scared occasionally, but here on the edge with Jesus.Pray…