Indy pastor camps out to raise awareness about violence

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — An Indianapolis pastor is setting up camp on the city’s near northwest side to raise awareness about crime and violence.

The pastor of Christ Missionary Baptist Church has set up a tent near 30th Street and Martin Luther King Drive for the next 30 days.

On the same day of beginning his 30 day mission to raise awareness about violence, Pastor John Girton, Jr. also did a funeral service for a murder victim.

“I did a funeral for one murder victim and I stood at the casket with his two children and one of the things I thought was, I didn’t want it to become a routine that I would stand there and funeralized somebody who died too soon,” said Girton, Jr. “Then I have to stand there with those survivors, who are left behind who need to bring closure.”

The pastor is hoping that his efforts will get people talking about change, but more importantly listening to people affected by senseless violence.

The tent is set up in front of a small shopping center on the northwest side of Indianapolis. The tent caught the attention of many residents, including Jomo Smith.

“Honestly, I think it’s a very positive move on the pastor’s part. Hopefully it can inspire and open up some eyes to those who may not be aware of what’s going on and inspire those who do know what’s going on to try to help out with anyway they can,” said Smith.

Smith has lived in the neighborhood for about five years. He said times are changing and the violence has only gotten worse.

“We need to figure out a way to get this under control, you know? Because a lot of young lives are being lost or taken for senseless acts,” said Smith.

Girton, Jr. wants to change that and prevent it altogether, but he can’t do it alone.

“We need people to show up in these hurting areas and give some hope where a lot of people are hopeless,” said Girton, Jr.

The father of three came up with the idea to pitch a tent for 30 days in one of the hardest hit neighborhoods.

Many people from his congregation along with strangers helped to set everything up for the first day.

“I could go down to the circle, but I don’t want to go down to the circle, that’s not where the issues are,” he said. “I want to come right here where the bank is gone and where I got to figure out a way to get an apple now.”

The tent also has a generator and the pastor said he will spend a lot of time writing down his thoughts and praying.

He’s encouraging residents to stop by and to voice their concerns. He’s also challenging city leaders to do the same, but to also listen to residents.

“I’m certainly hoping that after we get done in here, after 30 days, that we can galvanize people to start, to become a momentum that folks can continue even after this tent is down,” said Girton Jr.

After the 30 days are up, the pastor said he will look over the ideas gathered from the conversations and evaluate.

The pastor is also hoping to raise $500,000 to build a community center, what he calls an epicenter of empowerment and education in the same spot where he’s setting up camp.

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