Near the end of June, a young woman found her way to our family through a mutual friend on Facebook. Jenessa will begin discipleship training with Downline Institute this fall, and she needed an economical place to stay. We had an empty room, and so we agreed to trade rent for occasional babysitting. She’s a dream roommate, and having an extra adult in the house has been a lovely blessing. Can you grab a gallon of milk on the way home? Yes. Feed the goats while we go to Canada for a week? Sure. Keep these tiny people alive a few hours while I run to Target….all by MYSELF?! Of course.
Two weeks ago, Jenessa attended a concert at the Levitt Shell here in Memphis. She walked back toward her vehicle with friends, and they parted ways. She was sitting in her car checking messages on her phone when an armed man entered the vehicle. He forced her into her trunk at gunpoint. Thankfully, she found a lever inside the trunk and was able to open it. When the car slowed to make a turn, she jumped out. One of the two men in her car also jumped out and pointed the gun at her, but she convinced him to leave with her wallet, phone, and car. She then ran to a friend’s house and called police.
To call this experience horrific is an understatement, and we are so incredibly grateful that Jenessa is safe. We know these atrocities happen, but when they happen close to home, we are forced to uncomfortably consider the fragility of our own lives.
Few of us have personally known such fear, but I doubt many of us would have blamed Jenessa for any number of human responses in the aftermath of her ordeal. Anger. Hatred. A desire for retribution. A sailor-like cursing of Memphis and a plan to permanently get the heck out of Dodge.
Instead, my sweet friend wrote the following on her Facebook page:
Before anything spreads on the news I just want to speak my unaltered piece. Last night I was involved in an armed robbery and attempted kidnapping here in Memphis in Midtown. I currently have no phone, car, or wallet- they took it all. But I am safe and incredibly in awe of God’s grace.
I was forced into my own trunk but within minutes found a lever on the roof of my trunk and was able to escape unharmed. Police have not found my car or the guys yet but are looking and being very supportive.
I still love Memphis and its people and am mostly just sad. If anything, please join me in prayer for the two young guys on the loose- pray that somehow they would find God’s grace and this would help to turn their lives around. Pray for many, many others who might be in similar situations- that they would find the help, support, and love of Christ long before their life reaches this point. Pray for all of Memphis- that people from all neighborhoods and backgrounds would be able to live in safety and harmony.
Also, on a practical level- please lock your car the moment you get in it- no matter what neighborhood you live in. And just walk to your car with someone, especially at night. If you know me, I err on the side of trusting others, but I promise I (and you!) will be more cautious. However, I’m not going to live in fear and neither should you. I am eternally safe in God’s hands and that will NEVER be stolen, no matter what happens in this life. Isaiah 41:13
I was so inspired by Jenessa’s astounding grace in this situation, and I thank her for allowing me to share her words here.
Those of us that call Memphis home….we know our city is far from perfect. Since this incident, a police officer has been shot and killed, and authorities arrested a former student of mine on first-degree murder charges. We know the dangers. We know there is crime, poverty, violence, corruption, and a host of seemingly endless challenges. But we also know there is beauty. There is so much worth fighting for, and those battles will be won through coming together in love and not building walls in fear. But refusing to fear? That takes some serious mettle. So thanks again Jenessa, for sharing some of your valiant, Shera-like moxie. And if you’re reading this post, I ask you to echo Jenessa’s words and pray for our city and its people. Pray for safety, harmony, abounding grace and abiding courage.
And for some good news about the city or ideas on how to be an agent of positive change, check out Choose 901.