Sanctuary

For a century this inner-city church has served as a refuge. But its most important mission has always been outside the walls.

The boys nodded, then took off.
Barry was proud of how he'd handled the situation. Maybe I got through to them, he thought.

Twenty minutes later he was standing outside the church with Woolfolk. He was getting ready to take the parents of the little girl who'd been murdered and thrown in a dumpster to a drug rehabilitation center.

Suddenly a car came screeching around the corner, running the stop sign and slamming into a parked car. Three kids piled out of the car. One was the kid who'd had the shovel. He looked a lot like Galen at that age.

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Amazing grace,
how sweet the sound,
that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found,
was blind but now I see.

The congregation at Agape Christian Church launched into the old spiritual with their usual gusto. Woolfolk smiled as he sang along. It was a good crowd today.

While filling the pews wasn't his chief mission, one of the frustrations of the job was that whenever the church got someone on his feet, that would be the last Woolfolk would see of him. People wanted out of Five Points, not in, and that was no way to rebuild a neighborhood.

Close to half the congregation today was children--thanks to Barry, who was in the front row belting out the song while keeping an eye on his charges. It was still a tug-of-war with Barry, but Woolfolk had a feeling he was going to make it. Maybe someday he'd even be a pastor.

But right now, Barry was scowling at two small brothers wrestling over a toy. They looked up, saw him and stopped. That brought a smile to Barry's face as he joined back in the song.

"Amazing Grace" was his favorite. Sometimes it seemed like it had been written with him in mind. As a reminder to him, like the prison number he carries and the shiny black shoes from his gangster days that he always wears, that sometimes you can be blind with your eyes wide open.

He had a lot to be thankful for. The church had received another grant to continue his position. Galen was doing well in Missouri, although he'd have a lot of proving to do when he came back home before his father was ready to believe gangs were a part of his past. And Barry was even getting along with his mother. For the longest time, she'd simply refused to believe that the change in him was real. But she had just given him his own key to her house, and that was a very big deal indeed.

Barry smiled. They were just getting to his favorite stanza in the song.
Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come.
'Twas grace that brought me safe thus far,
and grace will lead me home.
"Amen," Barry thought. "Amen.

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