My suburban friends saw only looting and rubble, but I saw the unbeatable faith of my former neighbors.

Until recently, our family lived in one of the South-Central Los Angeles neighborhoods in which the April riots occurred. Now we live a few blocks from the Simi Valley courthouse.

As I watched television reports of our old neighborhood flashing with anger and fire, Christians around me kept asking if I was relieved that we didn’t live there anymore—especially since we are white. To their surprise, and my own, I wasn’t. I wanted to be back in South-Central Los Angeles. We had spent many peaceful years in L.A., and I felt that I belonged there in time of trouble, too. I felt outrage at the verdicts my fellow Ventura County residents had delivered. I felt the sting of my fellow Christians’ descriptions of L.A. as a hopeless war zone, as a place where “normal” people would never live.

Watching the black residents of South-Central L.A. speak before television cameras calmed me down. They denounced the violence and urged the rioters to work through the system. Young black kids hauled garden hoses to burning buildings, trying to put out fires themselves.

I especially admired the woman who stood in front of her charred, empty store, stunned by what she saw. She had placed a sign on the front door the previous evening that said, “Black owned,” but the store had been torched. The merchandise was not insured, and she estimated her loss at $50,000. Her friends gathered around her on the sidewalk in the hot sun and prayed for peace. When the news commentator interviewed the woman afterward, it was my turn to be stunned. Serene and quiet, she looked into the distance and said, “We must rebuild. This is our community, and we must rebuild.” ...

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