General CBF / Racial Reconciliation

“What about Antonio?” — A Ferguson reflection

By Harold A. Phillips

Last week I enjoyed a few days making contacts with friends in St. Louis. On Wednesday night, I visited with Von Smith. Von is “servant pastor” of the True Vine Missionary Baptist Church in Ferguson, Missouri–yes, that Ferguson. We are also proud to have Von as a member of the CBF Heartland Coordinating Council.

Soon after the recent events in Ferguson, CBF Heartland sent True Vine a modest donation from our Disaster Response fund. “Do with it what seems best,” was our request.

As part of our conversation around an empty table in the fellowship hall, Von shared his perspective about the event and responses since then.

He told me the story of 11-year old Antonio, who attended school where Von also works. He spoke about a recent night when Antonio was home playing on his computer with his little sister nearby. Gunfire erupted in the neighborhood, and Antonio jumped up to push his sister to the floor. A bullet came through the window, killing Antonio.

Photo by Robert Cohen,

Antonio’s Chair; Photo by Robert Cohen

Rev. Willie James, with the Homicide Ministers Alliance, visited Antonio’s family after the shooting. The Alliance provides physical presence and prayer support to the grieving family. It may also find a church to host the funeral, purchase appropriate clothing for the deceased, if needed, and provide for other needs.

Von reported that Antonio was the 118th homicide in St. Louis this year. He also noted that many police officers were at the funeral in support of the family, and even collected funds to assist them. Von also noticed that no media covered any of this.

Von noted that the church had given CBF Heartland’s modest donation in response to the events in Ferguson to the Homicide Ministers Alliance for whatever needs they had. I assured Von (on behalf of CBF Heartland) that we would be glad to partner with True Vine in whatever way requested, as an extension of their work with the Homicide Minsters Alliance.

By the time I left St. Louis, the number of  homicides in 2014 was up to 122–and as Von said, “What about Antonio?”

CBF Heartland is grateful to Von Smith and True Vine Missionary Baptist Church as they serve grieving families and the many ministry needs they encounter in Ferguson, St. Louis and a world without borders.

Harold Phillips serves as Coordinator of CBF Heartland in Liberty, Mo.

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