On a freezing winter day in December 2003, Donna Davis, head in hands, leaned on the desk in her Philadelphia home. For years it had been the spot where she experienced God’s peace as she read her In Touch daily devotions. But now she couldn’t focus. Why would anybody put a gun to someone’s head? she continually asked herself. Why my son’s?
On November 30 Ricky Davis, 23, was home, sitting at the dinner table with Mom, Dad, and his two siblings. Only hours later, he was shot and killed during an armed robbery. As it turned out, Ricky was murdered by someone he knew.
Bereaved, his mother did all she could to get through each day. After an acquaintance told her about a just-formed group that might help, she attended Mothers in Charge, an organization founded by fellow Christian Dorothy Speight-Johnson. A grieving mom herself, Speight-Johnson lost her son Khaaliq in 2001. He was killed in retaliation for breaking up a fight—all over a parking space. At the gathering, Davis was comforted by knowing she wasn’t alone.
The two women recently reconnected over coffee. In the decade and a half since they first met, the women have transformed the pain of their losses into positive outreach efforts. Davis returned to school for a master’s degree in education. She now mentors children at a domestic abuse center. Meanwhile, Speight-Johnson’s passion for change has expanded to serve several major cities. Over the past 16 years, her efforts have helped thousands of families and effected legislation aimed at curbing violence.
The organization’s message is that violence can impact people regardless of where or how they live. “No one is safe until we are all safe,” Speight-Johnson says.
Looking back, Davis understands that the man convicted in Ricky’s death had problems of his own. You were in that much pain that you had to take somebody else’s life? she imagines herself saying to him. Through her work with youths in crisis, Davis hopes she can get them to see violence is never the answer to life’s problems.
With renewed vision, Davis returns each morning to her desk to read the In Touch daily devotional and listen to Dr. Stanley’s program. She is encouraged that God could use one man to minister to millions. Her field of ministry may be smaller, but Davis nevertheless tends to it with similar courage and conviction.
Photograph by Ben Rollins