Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Uninvited Guests

Hands on their guns, the police interrupted my Bible study in the living room of a dank apartment in the projects.

My Bible open and eyes wide, I didn't move a muscle on the couch as an officer looked me in the eye while his hand held his weapon in its holster. Another two officers crept past him and started searching the apartment. He glanced at me, dressed in a tie and slacks, Bible in hand and judged that I wasn't a threat. He shifted his glare at my Bible student Christine.

"Where's your brother?" he asked, an edge in his voice.

"I don't know," Christine said. "He don't live here."

"You gonna talk?" he barked, holding out a black and white copied photo of a man in a prison uniform. "Is he here?"

"He don't live here," Christine said. "I haven't seen him."

"You gonna talk?" he repeated.

"I don't know where he at," she said in a quiet voice. "I haven't seen him in a long time."

After a couple of minutes the other officers came back in the living room. Satisfied that the brother wasn't there they left.

"What was that about?" I said. Finally moving now that the threat of being shot was over.

Yesterday, there had been a shooting outside the apartment, Christine said. An argument and fisticuffs broke out between two women, perhaps fighting over a man. Someone fired a gun in the air to break up the fracas. A day later the police were rounding up the usual suspects. She really hadn't seen her brother in a while. But it wasn't uncommon for the police to show up unannounced, looking for someone.

"They do it all the time," she said.

I'm always on edge when I visit Christine. It's one of the most dangerous housing projects in downtown Augusta. I've been there during police raids and other crime busts. Hard to fathom that colporteurs canvassed this area with nothing more for protection than a bag of books and a guardian angel. Praise God they were faithful in coming. They're the ones that found Christine and signed her up for Bible studies.

I always park as close as possible to Christine's apartment, right outside the entrance. But I didn't that day because four rough looking teenagers were milling around, strutting with an animalistic intensity. Like lions on the prowl.

I parked my Honda Accord in the next lot. Waited until they looked distracted and I silently crept in the front door. After the police came and the Bible study concluded, I walked outside and saw officers arresting the four teenagers.

I looked away and quickly walked by, avoiding the sidewalk and cutting across the lawn. One by one the teenagers were forced into a waiting squad car, idling where I normally park my Honda.

One of the teenagers protested.

"Officer, I didn't do anything," he said as he began nodding his head in a direction of a woman. "My mother's right over there."

From the safety of my car I took a photo with my cell phone.

"I didn't do anything," he said as they closed the car door on him.

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