Home > Snapshots of Me > Last Night I went to Watts…

Last Night I went to Watts…

Last night I went to a church in Watts to deliver a carload of balls and art sets that will be handed out to the children for Christmas. 

The first time I ever visited Watts was two years ago as part of a 5-day/4-night mission trip. That’s a whole other story. Needless to say, at that time, I was terrified of the idea of going to Watts. Visiting Watts was literally on my Top 10 List of Things I Don’t Want to Do. Jumping out of an airplane, being burned to death, and drowning to death were also in that same top 10. On our team’s last night in Watts we walked through the neighborhood to get to a local restaurant that had food to die for – pun intended. As our team of mostly white people walked the streets, I felt kind of like we were a militia in a foreign land and the enemy was lurking behind any one of the windows on either side of us. I thought for sure that at any moment we would be fired upon and would have to duck or run for cover.

We did make it to and from the restaurant without a shot being fired. 

I must have slept well during that trip because I never heard a single gunshot the entire trip, but I was told after the fact that there had actually been a drive-by shooting all four nights we were there.

I have been to Watts many times since that first trip, almost always during the day. While at the local church there, I have no fear or concerns for safety. When I go out into the neighborhood I quickly find myself with a heightened sense of my surroundings but still no fear. When I go there at night this awareness of my surroundings goes on overload, but still I have no fear.

Last night I had to wait in my car outside of the church, on the street, for about 8 minutes before the pastor came to let me in. I drive a bright yellow hatchback and so my car tends to stand out no matter where I am. Last night, after I had waited for about 5 minutes and had seen countless people go by on foot and in car, all looking at me, I felt compelled to pray. The conversation in my head went something like this, “You should pray for your safety. …But I’m not afraid. Why do I need to pray? …Because you are still in potential danger. You should pray.” So, I prayed.

As I opened my eyes from my prayer, an old green van came down the road. It came within 40 yards of me and then slowed and turned and stopped so that its headlights were directed right at me. It’s funny to look back at this situation now and fully consider it, but in the moment I felt no fear. I simply looked casually into the windshield of the van. (I couldn’t see into the van, of course, because the headlights were blinding me.) After perhaps 10-15 seconds, the van started moving again and then proceeded to complete a three-point turn and head back in the direction from which it had come. As I watched the taillights of the green van fade into the distance, I saw that the pastor was now approaching in his white van. The gate to the church grounds opened and we both drove in. The pastor, three of his children, and I greeted each other with joyous smiles and kind words before proceeding to unload the goodies and have some good conversation. Roughly 30 minutes later I got back into my yellow car and headed out of Watts.

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