At the corner of Park Avenue and Harney stands the current building of the 150 year old First Baptist Church. The building itself is almost 100 years old, and you can tell from the creaking and the slight musty odor inside.
We were here to go on a prayer walk through the neighborhood.
Pastor Kip told us that he used to live in Bellevue and commute, but that he felt like he should live in the community where he preaches. He moved to a building across the street from the church building and it has really messed up his life (for the better!)
"My next door neighbor used to pimp out about five gals, but has walked away from that business. I still have a guy at the end of the hall who pimps out tranvestite males, which makes for an interesting weekend on my floor."
He went on to tell us of the crack house across the street and the prostitutes that roam the roads.
Probably the most insightful thing he talked about was the plight of the poor...
"See, cities think they are helping the problem when they 'refurbish' the poor parts of the city. They throw up new shops and upgrade old homes. They tear down the old and build the new. While this makes the city look beautiful, the people who used to live there can no longer afford the skyrocketing prices of housing. So in the end, all we end up doing is relocating the poor instead of really helping them..."
This thought rang in my mind as we walked and prayed through the neighborhood.
Unfortunately (or fortunately, I'm not sure which) it was cold and snowy, so we did not see the prostitutes out on the corners, nor the beer cans and drug paraphernalia that are commonplace. But we did see boarded up houses (condemned) that had lights on inside, indicating that someone was living there.
It was very bizarre to see the Woodmen building standing tall and beautiful not a mile away, along with other downtown buildings, and realize that the rich and the poor are so close in proximity.
And then I wonder how close I am to the poor. Are there people around me that need help? Am I not seeing them, or am I ignoring their presence altogether?
Again, I marvel at the beauty of Omaha, Nebraska...but lament that there are so many poor and homeless in our wonderful city. Pastor Kip also told us that the average age of the homeless was 17. 17 years old!! Sleeping in a box or sneaking into a covered garage!
I am tempted to roam the streets again to see more. But what would I do if I encountered some homeless 17 year olds? What would I do...?