SELMA – The crowd of people chanting, carrying signs and filling the streets of Selma on Aug. 26 weren’t protesting, demanding political change or vandalizing as they marched along. Instead, they were marching for unity.
“Today is important to us as an expression of our faith as we march and declare our faith in Jesus,” Church of the Redeemer’s Pastor Nelson Schwamb said. “This March for Jesus is about unity and bringing people together, even though there’s going to be differences because not everyone’s going to believe in Jesus. It’s not about us separating people; we’re trying to bring people together.”
Schwamb has been leading an inter-faith effort to coordinate the third annual March for Jesus. The event culminated in another Bringing Broken Neighborhoods Back to Life block party at Valley Life Community Church.
This is the fourth year of hosting the BBNBTL block parties, where public service agencies set up informational booths, children splashed in a water play area and everyone enjoyed a hot dog lunch and food giveaway. Schwamb said that since the community’s churches started working together, they’re reaching more people.
“We want to take a message of hope to our community and give them opportunities to connect with churches and outreach agencies so they can get the help they need. And we also provide lunch and food for folks,” he said of the day’s event. “To see 14 or 15 churches working together for a common purpose and a common goal, that’s a wonderful thing to see. It promotes unity within our community.”
The march started and ended at Valley Life and wound its way along McCall, Floral and Thompson avenues to Hicks Street. Selma High Marine Corps Junior ROTC cadets assisted with set up and traffic control that day as hundreds marched through the route.
For those participating in the march, the timing was significant, as there has been an increase in violence and division in the nation, exemplified by the recent Charlottesville white nationalist protests.
Ramona Cano, of Parlier, serves with Damas Para Cristo, or Women for Christ. She said taking part in the march was important to her as a continued effort to reach out specifically to women who’ve been “lost out in the streets.”
Cano brought along a shofar — or a ram’s horn blown in Biblical times — as a call to prayer or a call to war.
“The blows had a different significance. Today, I’m blowing it for everything but especially for victory, because we have the victory in Christ and we have to enforce it,” she said as she marched along. “We’re in a war right now, a spiritual battle. We see the riots going on, but we have to stand as Christians for Jesus Christ. We’re taking a stand and letting the enemy know we’re here and we’re going to go forward.”
Cruising for Jesus Founder Horacio Aleman brought fellow classic car enthusiasts to the event who use their restored vehicles to bring attention to their faith.
“People always ask, ‘who are you guys and how did it start?’ Then I explain how the Lord saved me from the life of gangs in to His glory. We tell them our testimony,” he said.
Aleman said the antique car engines would overheat in the slow procession of a march, so they stayed parked at the Valley Life Church grounds.
“Everybody marches for good or for bad, or for complaints or for rights. But we should march for the one who made us, the one who created us and died for us and forgave us,” Aleman said. “We’re marching for something that, even if they believe it or not, is going to happen. He says 'I will come back and receive you into myself.'”
Tammy Rael Lawley was another of the marchers who came with her parents, husband and son. She noticed the diversity of marchers and said she believes it’s a sign of things to come.
“It was such an awesome opportunity to march for Jesus and to be doing it with all kinds of people: black, white, brown and all from different walks of life," she said. "There were nothing but smiles, praises and good will towards each other. [It was] the way it should be, the way it could be when Jesus is Lord of your life. Our country is so divided, but this morning, while marching for Jesus, we were all united regardless of our skin color, nationality or cultural background.”