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Hope in the Midst of Violence, Community Chaplains for Change

As a youth minister and volunteer in the Mayor’s Faith Based Task Force assisting in crisis response, Pastor Danny Sanchez works in a city of over a million residents, but makes it his mission to "see people as individuals and reach them on a personal level."

It is a privilege and an honor to serve my community and to be named a Champion of Change.  I am an Assistant Pastor at Calvary Chapel San Jose, where for eight years I have had the opportunity to work with students, schools, recovering addicts, community service projects and also families in times of loss.  I presently serve as a community member of the Mayor’s Gang Prevention Task Force among a remarkable team of dedicated men and women. In our current economy and times of limited resources, I am finding ways to unite and mobilize the faith-based community to reduce and respond to gang violence. To this end, I have partnered with the city to create a volunteer Community Chaplaincy First Response Program.

In a city of almost one million residents, it is important to see people as individuals and reach them on a personal level.  After a gang-related homicide, a Community Chaplain meets with the family of the victim to aid in specific needs and reduce further violence or retaliation.  We assist by listening, offering spiritual care as requested, arranging hot meals, and at times participating in funerals.  All services are provided by the faith-based community on a volunteer basis on behalf of the city.

I have lived in San Jose, California my entire life, which makes this city and this cause dear to my heart.  My wife and I have a blended family that includes five children and almost all of our extended family resides here as well.  I strive to keep San Jose one of the safest big cities for my family and others.  My firsthand experience with gang culture and its repercussions allow me to connect and communicate openly with people in times of crisis. 

I reached out and found help at my darkest hour and that is one reason why I am working with a team to start a hospital-based intervention program.  Community Chaplains will be part of a first response support system after someone has been injured in gang-related violence.  It is important to reach the victim and family members while they are at a vulnerable crossroads and most likely to see the need to break away.  This opportunity is fleeting, and if it is missed, the victim will often become further enmeshed in the gang through retaliation or bearing their injury as a badge of honor.  It is critical to intervene in their lives immediately after the incident through a bedside visit. 

Because of my past I am all too aware of the dangers and consequences of gang activity, and I also know it is never too late to get out.  My aim is to give hope to young people and help them to personally envision their life beyond their present experience.  My faith in Jesus Christ drastically changed my life, and loving people in my church took the time to invest in me at a critical point.  Now I am able to pass on the grace and hope that I have received to others in need.  I believe that you should never give up on anyone or write them off as being a lost cause, because there is always hope for anyone who is willing to make a change of heart and direction. 

Pastor Danny Sanchez is a fulltime youth minister and volunteers as a member of the Mayor’s Faith Based Task Force assisting in crisis response.