JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Faith often brings people together in times of hardship, celebration or to reach a common goal. In the case of one Northside church on Sunday, their common goal was to end violence in Jacksonville.
"We're crossing boundaries, we're coming out of our comfortable church environment and doing something that's different, something that can be life changing for someone in that sanctuary,” said Brenda Griffin, a member of Philippian Community Church.
Unlike other services in the past, three men shared their story of finding success beyond street life. Some of the men served prison time, others survived getting shot. They said the lifestyle they escaped is the same lifestyle that has taken so many young lives.
Pastor Virgil Jones Jr. lost his cousin Denim Williams in a Valentine’s Day shooting on the Northside. He wants to keep the youth of his community on a positive path.
"Often times when people can hear from people involved in that life or damaged by the murders, that resonates more with their spirit than any sermon we can preach," he said.
He feels that anyone can be touched by violence, directly or indirectly through other people's stories.
Moms like Brenda Griffin say the men's accounts were powerful and she hopes that their experiences will help sway people away from violence and help people stay off the streets.
"I hear so many people say someone needs to do something about this, but we don't recognize that we can be that somebody,” Griffin said.
Jones Jr. said he plans on holding similar services like this one once a month.