West Palm Beach They closed their eyes in prayer. For a moment, silence inundated the southern edge of Dunbar Village – only thunder in the distance broke the peace. Then the call of a shofar, a biblical instrument used to signal war, and the crowd of several hundreds was sent to envelop the housing project in prayer.
"We are saying, for the next couple of hours, 'Satan: we're going to tear your kingdom down,'" Terriel Byrd said before unleashing the faithful to pray around the complex. "Let us become a unified army against the attacks of the enemy."
Byrd, professor of urban Christian ministry at Palm Beach Atlantic University, was one of dozens of preachers, ministers and pastors who mobilized their congregations to bring the power of prayer to a community stunned by the gang rape and attack on an immigrant woman and her son.
"In 19 years of ministry I've never seen this many groups coming to pray in the ghetto," said Bill Hobbs, founder of Urban Youth Impact, which organized the event. "The Christians are saying 'enough is enough.'"
The appalling crime galvanized the movement to bring people of different faiths and colors to the fenced-in project of unassuming apartments. Hobbs said the idea was to let Dunbar Villagers know they are loved and are not alone. They came from Palm Beach Gardens, Wellington, Delray Beach and beyond.
"Somebody has got to take the lead and pray for poor urban communities," Hobbs said. "Our culture is being inundated with lawlessness and crime."
Urban Youth Impact is a West Palm Beach faith-based organization that runs an outreach program at Dunbar Village. Seventy churches, religious organizations and radio stations participated in the event.
People stood Saturday for almost two hours praying in the same spot — some holding on to the metal bars that surround the complex while others knelt. Only the sound of passing cars and the occasional "amen" or "hallelujah" broke the silence.
Few residents, however, walked outside to join the groups in prayer. Several were reluctant to talk about the crime. Others peeked out of their windows or watched from their front porches.
"We might be needing prayer," said Myrtle Gamble, a 76-year-old resident. "Sometimes the devil just takes over."
Outside the complex, religious leaders led the crowds in prayer at seven different stations around the property. Pastors and ministers walked to the four corners of the complex, reciting specific prayers and singing songs of praise.
Resident Maria Asiatico said that since she moved to the complex a year ago she's felt the need to pray for her new neighborhood. She said the pray-in proves that she was meant to be part of a movement to change life in the crime-ridden complex.
"When I see all these brothers and sisters gathered for one purpose, my heart is humbled," she said.
Michelle Myes said Dunbar Village had never witnessed an event like Saturday's.
"They should have been doing this all along so people don't get into trouble," Myes said. "Look at this reunion here. After all the shootings and killings, it took the rape to do this."
Maria Herrera can be reached at email@example.com or 561-243-6544.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times