Most churches aim to change lives through faith, but First English Lutheran in East Columbus is hoping to change a neighborhood by taking on its ugliest elements.
The church's pastor, Reverend Bob Ward, said his mission extends far beyond the walls of its sanctuary.
"Right now God's people in this neighborhood are suffering. They're feeling hopeless and without a prayer."
It is a neighborhood plagued with blight and crime.
Where shootings shock no one and even the youngest eyes have seen too much.
"We were out cutting the grass one Friday morning and the guys across the street start shooting at each other. I was scared to death," said Ward. "I grabbed the kids and started throwing them on the ground. And the kids looked at me and said 'What are you doing this for? We live with this every day. Just don't pay any attention to it and don't talk to the police, otherwise they'll target you.' And I looked at the kids thinking, 'this is what you have to live with every day.' Something's wrong."
Compelled to act, Ward pulled together a team to take on the gun violence.
The group includes representatives from the Columbus Division of Police, US Attorney's Office, the ATF and DEA, Columbus City Attorney Rick Pfeiffer, are academics from Columbus State Community College.
Professor Don Ricker said they are surveying and studying the neighborhood.
"We're mapping the community out and we're going to put crime statistics to the map." Ricker said.
A mission to save lives, and change a neighborhood.
"It's time to put faith into action. And if we believe in God's peace then we need to act in God's peace." Ward said.
Ricker says this is Columbus State's first attempt at this kind of partnership.
If it's successful, he said, the college would like to branch out into other Columbus neighborhoods.
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