In the 1980’s and 90’s, Medellin, Colombia, of drug lord Pablo Escobar fame, was known as the most dangerous city in the world; it was not uncommon to see someone running down the street with a police officer’s hat in hand — proof the cop was dead — on his way to retrieve the blood reward money. Today Medellin is a different city, safe to live in, safe to visit. In 2013 it won the Most Innovative City award, beating out cities like Tel Aviv and San Francisco.

The transformation of Medellín has been very much on my mind and heart. As a Baltimorean, I yearn and ache for the healing and transformation of our own city. As we become more deeply engaged in Baltimore and are in relationship with fellow Baltimoreans from other parts of town, what used to be “news” and statistics has become more personal, hitting closer to home. Earlier this week, I learned a member of our BUILD family’s grandson was murdered, shot in the head, in west Baltimore; his name was Markell, and he was 16 years old. I will be attending his wake this Sunday afternoon, after the concert benefitting Turnaround Tuesday, and his funeral on Monday, along with other folks from Redeemer, in support of our BUILD sister. Please pray for her, her name is Dorothy (Dottie).

Hitting midlife has been helpful in refocusing and clarifying priorities. Comfort over fashion, for example; done over perfect, another. I wore socks with a certain pair of shoes to the airport on Monday, en route to a college visit with Grace that, in days gone by, I would never have been caught wearing out in public (Grace concurred they were a huge fashion faux-pas) but guess what? I really didn’t care! Wahoo, I was comfortable!

I figure, if I’m lucky, I have another 30-40’ish years to live as a human being on this planet. It’s important to me to care for my family and friends. It’s important to me to care for my church family. And it’s important to me to care for my Baltimore family, a family that just keeps getting bigger and bigger, thanks to BUILD and our other community partners.

The transformation of Medellín, Colombia was not rocket science, nor was it a miracle: “The local government, along with businesses, community organizations, and universities worked together to fight violence and modernize Medellin … Transportation projects are financed through public-private partnerships; engineering firms have designed public buildings for free; and in 2006, nine of the city’s largest firms funded a science museum.”

Please pray for Dottie and for all our Baltimore family. And together, let’s act with God’s grace to heal and transform our own city, our own home, neighborhood by neighborhood, with BUILD and other effective community partners. The “tragedy of Baltimore” as David preached last Sunday will be if we allow ourselves to become paralyzed by the enormity of what needs to be done and succumb to inaction.

God has something else in mind for us.