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Finding faith on Chapel Hill Street

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I have seen a man take his first step toward Christ in the same building my dad and I bought my first bike, sold to us by Max, who at the time was God to me, the older, wiser biker of 16. Less than 100 yards away, just last year a good friend held a blood-soaked sweatshirt to the leg of a stranger to try and stop the heavy bleeding from a gun-shot wound. The stranger made it, the bike shop did not.

The 1000 and 1200 blocks of West Chapel Hill Street in Durham have been many things to many people over the years—auto shops, gas stations, abandoned buildings. Now there are five houses of worship on these two forlorn blocks, as well as the remains of the Durham Food Co-op—soon to be an acupuncture clinic—and several new businesses resurrecting the empty storefronts.

Muslims quietly observe Jumah, or Friday prayer services, sandwiched between a few Christian churches where call-and-response songs echo down the cracked street Wednesdays and Sundays. The people are searching for a new faith or seeking confirmation that their beliefs will get them to heaven when their time is up. Much like the city that surrounds them, we have all come a long way, hoping this time to get it right.

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