Emily Belz expected to encounter a community in grief when she traveled to Buffalo this past May to report on the funerals of those murdered in the racially motivated Tops supermarket shooting. And, of course, she did. “The city’s Christians aren’t rushing the grieving process,” Belz wrote at the time, noting a pervasive sense of both “righteous anger” and “resilience” among Buffalo’s Black Christians.
But one experience Belz didn’t write about continues to stand out for her: time she spent in a local cigar shop where she personally experienced the bold passion for Jesus characterizing many of the believers gathered there.
A local pastor had directed Belz to the cigar shop, located just a block from Tops, because it served as a neighborhood gathering place. In three separate conversations at that shop, Christians shared the gospel with her. Not knowing her own faith background—and despite their own heavy sorrow—these people seized the opportunity to witness to her about Jesus, to testify to his love, and to boldly ask if she had faith in him. There as a CT reporter, Belz found herself being ministered to by the very people whose loved ones had been murdered just days before. What a compelling testimony to the vibrant work of God within the Christian community in Buffalo.
In this issue of CT, Belz returns with further reporting on the work of churches and ministries in Buffalo’s East Side. She examines the ongoing challenges that Christians there face six months after the shooting and spotlights the resilient ministry of “young Black Christians who grew up in the neighborhood [and who] were already working to change their city before May 14. When a gunman took the lives of people they were close to, it spurred them on to more love and good works.”
The thing about a powerful testimony is that even just hearing about the cigar-shop evangelism secondhand has spurred me on in my love for Christ. I have a similar reaction to our regular Testimony features—including Eduardo Rocha’s story in this issue, in which he tells of the Holy Spirit speaking esperanza (hope) into his life in a moment of desperation.
This editor’s note is the first in my new role as print managing editor as I work alongside my colleague Andy Olsen in his new role as senior editor. My hope is that everything you read in CT would testify to the love of Jesus and the truth of his gospel. Whether in these printed pages or in cigar shops and other gathering places, may we boldly spur one another on in faith.
Kelli B. Trujillo is print managing editor of Christianity Today.
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