Here’s a good video on an important aspect of reaching gang members:
Archive for April, 2011
David Wilkerson, the man who impacted the life of Nicky Cruz so heavily, was killed yesterday in a car crash in Texas. The story of David and Nicky is told in both the Cross and the Switchblade and Run, Baby, Run. Lest you think that Nicky Cruz was the only person helped by this man of God, open the following link and read about what many many gang members, addicts, and average everyday people have to say about how God changed their lives through this man. These short tributes are proof that God is still in the business of changing lives, so if you’ve been looking for proof of that fact, just start reading! Dave Wilkerson has always been one of my heroes and now he’s with the LORD. We remain, however, and are asked to carry on the work he started at Teen Challenge. Read more at this site:
I want to thank you for responding to the earlier posting on “Dismantling Racism.” I can understand your feelings on many levels. I have seen the harm done by gangs in Chicago and around the country. I could probably cite a dozen socio-economic reasons why gangs have grown into the current menace they have become. As a Christian, however, I want to do everything I can to undercut the reasons why these socio-economic disparities exist and to reclaim these Gs for Christ. I am all for social justice and for trying to alleviate the poverty, pain, and hopelessness that have created an environment where gangs can grow and prosper. There are, however, many programs and organizations that have attempted to do just that. Still, the gangs grow. Why is that? It’s because there is one underlying element in the human existence that breeds this sort of behavior and it’s not addressed by these programs. It’s called sin. It’s a love of self that works not only on the mob side of things, but on the civic side as well. They feed off of each other. It’s pure selfishness on both ends of the spectrum that creates the environment where gangs grow and prosper. Governing bodies for years have allowed a system of racism to exist which perpetuates stereotypes and fosters a climate that manifests itself across town in the form of greed, political corruption, and ‘gangsterism’. People in power usually think of themselves first, so what’s a kid in the hood supposed to do? They emulate what they see from the governing officials. It’s all about selfishness and self-love as opposed to what Jesus told us to do. In Philippians 2: 3-11 Paul the Apostle writes that we should:
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death-even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
In other words, Jesus asks us to become servants. If we all put others ahead of ourselves, like Paul asks, the nastiness of the hoods would cease to exist. If we were students of servanthood instead of students of selfishness, we would be able walk through our neighborhoods in peace and security. If we had each other’s backs instead of trying to stab each other in the back, endless possibilities for mutual reconciliation and community building would exist. Instead, we put our own wants, needs, and desire first. This goes not only for gangbangers but for those of us outside of the “ghetto.” People tend to be selfish instead of selfless. We follow the example of another instead of the example of Jesus. Because of that, we pay a heavy price. We think of our own needs before we think of those around us. The inequalities that motivate the gang lifestyle are rooted in the selfishness of those who created a political system that dehumanizes those who are different; it sucks the hope right out of their souls.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Gangbangers make decisions too, and they need to be held accountable for their decisions. They are where they are at because they (not their fathers) chose to do the things that gangbangers do. When things get too hot for them, some of them do take advantage of organizations that try to help, like the church. They are selfish and in need of change, just like you and me, and that is what I am aiming for in this ministry, total transformation. That’s also why Jesus came. He came for the sick and not the healthy. He came for me and he came for the gangbanger wanting to change but not knowing how. He came to transform us. When we become transformed into servants as Jesus taught us, there would be more hope, trust, and possibility in this world.
There are many reasons why gangbangers decide to “drop their flag.” One of them is when they see that what they’re doing doesn’t work. Remember that they did not create this system. They are only the latest installment of a system that has failed them on a personal, familial, and communal level. These guys are smart, however, and they can come to the realization that what they have been espousing is just plain bad. The problem is that by the time that they recognize this, they have long rap sheets and couldn’t by a job if it was for sale. This drives even the most well-intentioned G back to the streets with jarring consistency. Gangbangers make bad decision, decisions that are contrary to God’s will and local laws. These decisions harm their communities. Admittedly, they are not commonly served by the socio-political community that they call home, they often lack the familial infrastructure that teaches them how to live, and yes, they suffer because they make their own selfish decision too. Choices are made and those choices are most commonly based on sin, giving in their own wants and desires with little or no regard to the community they live in.
Other reasons why a gangbanger may want to chance is out of fear of retribution from another gang, fear for his family, a fear of going back to jail, a desire to rid themselves of the drug and alcohol abuse that commonly accompanies gang life, the fear of injury and death, and, finally, pure exhaustion from that lifestyle. While some Gs may have the best intentions, one must understand that the gang lifestyle is addictive and no matter how good the intentions of the gangbanger are, they often relapse into the gang lifestyle because of the addiction. That’s why mentors who see these guys as creations of God and who are willing to serve them are so vitally important to changing the gang culture.
We sometimes think that a bad ending to a gang lifestyle is inevitable because we see it so often. Change is possible, however, both on an individual level, as well as on a communal level. It doesn’t happen often because we tend to look at gangbangers as neighborhood sludge, but when we understand that these are men and women that Christ loved and when we look them in the eye and understand that he loved them so much that he died for them, it changes everything. You realize that change is possible because that’s God’s business. He changes lives, or better yet, he transforms lives. When one gangbanger’s life changes, that change impacts the lives of everyone around him. The life of Nicky Cruz (as portrayed in the Cross and the Switchblade and Run, Baby, Run) is just one example. The problem is that, because there are not enough men going into the streets to reach them, there are not enough of those changed lives to point to as examples and, in the end, Satan turns out more Gs than we can reach out to. We need more servants willing to walk across the street and show a Gs what the love of Christ is all about. That’s how neighborhoods change, one life at a time.
Change comes, contrary to political opinions, not from some powerful individual such as Barack Obama, but from God. We must understand that the gang problem is a spiritual battle and has to be fought on the spiritual battlefield. That’s the only way to change the “ghetto.” There are plenty of battlefields scattered across the world that were once desolate places of death and destruction, but have now returned to nature and are beautiful places to behold. That’s the way the “ghetto” will be. It’s a battlefield full of death and destruction, but some day, the Humboldt Parks of the world will be reclaimed and once again become beautiful sights to behold. That will only happen, however, when we fight the battle on the enemy’s territory and free the world from the sin of selfishness that rests at the center of all racism, hatred, pain, and gang activity. Keep in mind, gangs don’t run the city. Satan does. The Bible calls him “the Prince of this world” (see earlier post called “Asking the Wrong Question”). Gangs, however, represent just one face of Satan in a world gone wrong.
Truth be told, there are different forms of ghettos in Chicago. We most easily talk about the ones portrayed in pictures as deteriorating, dilapidated, and dirty blocks of crumbling apartments, but there are other ghettos that we don’t often think about, places where men and women are bound by greed, sex, and self, places where their souls are dirty and deteriorating. Sounds familiar right, but you would never recognize these places as “ghettos.” One definition is that a “ghetto” is an:
“Environment of isolation: an environment where a group of people live or work in isolation, whether by choice or circumstance.”
I know it’s stretching the definition a lot, but bear with me. These “ghettos” present an “environment of isolation” and are located in places with big fancy houses, like Barrington, and in beautiful apartments along Michigan Avenue, places where people are bound and isolated by their pride and inflated perceptions of self-worth. There are also university “ghettos” where men and women wear their accomplishments as commendations on their own self-worth. Yeah, these are ghettos too. They’re just prettier ghettos. Fancier, more respectable “ghettos.” They’re just places where people are bound to a lifestyle borne out of pride and sin where they think too highly of themselves and not nearly enough about God. So, when you talk about gangs, keep in mind that they are just one manifestation of a larger issue. Gangs are part of a spiritual battle going on for the hearts and minds of men’s souls all across this city, in Humboldt Park, at the University of Chicago, along the “Magic Mile”, and in affluent suburbs such as Kenilworth. The suburban “ghetto” may seem cleaner, more affluent, and more respectable, but they can be just as deadly to a man’s soul as any south side or west side “ghetto” you can describe. Sin is sin, no matter where it occurs. Souls are being lost in all of these places. Satan’s modus operandi is different from place to place, but just as deadly. In one he tricks people into thinking they have no hope because they are living in what seems to be perpetual poverty. In another he tricks them into a false sense of security based on the lie of accumulated wealth. In a third, he gets people to trust in their own intellect for knowledge about the universe and their own “salvation”. In each of them, however, people act out of pride, greed and selfishness. And don’t think there’s no connection. If you read your history books, you’ll find that the Black ghettos or Puerto Rican ghettos are just as much a product of selfishness in city hall and white America as it is of the gangbangers who can’t find jobs and tear apart their neighborhoods with violence. Truth be told!
In the end, I know that this may not be the answer you wanted to hear from me, and the reality of the situation is that the answer is a lot more complex than I alluded to in this response. The truth I wanted to get across in all this is that life is all about spiritual battles, whether we talk about gangs or businessmen, scholars or truck-drivers. So if you think you haven’t had a fair chance, you have to ask yourself, “How am I faring in this spiritual battle? How close is my walk with God?” The Bible says that “If God is for us, who can stand against us” and “Greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world.” Never forget, God IS in control of this broken world, not only in the larger world picture, but also in your life, if you will allow him to be. That’s something that the gangbangers may not want to admit but which each of them will one day have to confess before Christ himself. The same truth, of course applies not just to gangbangers, but to you and me, and everyone who has ever lived. And eventually, we will hear God pose the question, “How have you used your talents to further my Kingdom here on earth?” May we be able to say, along with Jesus, that we used those talent so that “your kingdom will come, so that your will may be done, on earth, as it is in heaven.”
Here’s an interesting article on the relocation of gang members by churches. Something to think about. What do you think?
Hey all. I’ve noticed from the searches that are filed on Gang Life Chicago (ganglifechicago.com) that many of you have questions about things for which there are no posts to supply an answer. I’m going to try something new and create a page that will be a bit of a research tool. I hope it will help me as much as I hope it will help you. The page is found at the top of the this website and labeled “Your Questions.” So, if you have a question you want an answer to, please ask the question and I’ll try to find an answer for you. It may take some time because I have a full-time job and a family that need attention too. So, be patient, but don’t hesitate to ask Your Questions on this page. I’ll see what I can do to get you an answer. If you happen to see a question posed by someone else that you can answer, by all means, help me out and answer that question. This is an experiment, but let’s see if it works, OK?
Bring on the questions!
A Gangster’s Prayer (adapted from Gangstyle)
If you have come to the point where you want to make a change in your life you may feel it’s time say the prayer below. Having said this prayer you are committing yourself to change and to live a life in line with the Bible.
Three things you must do to become a Christian and inherit eternal life.
1. You must recognize that you have sinned and ask God to forgive you. The Bible says, “If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
2. You must repent of your sin. To repent means to turn away, to change your direction. The Bible tells us, “Repent and be converted that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.”
3. You must believe in and receive Jesus Christ into you heart. The Bible promises, “For as many as received Him, He gave the power to become son of God.” Even as you read this Jesus is standing at the door of your life and asking you to let Him in. Jesus said, “Behold I stand at the door and knock. If any man hear My voice and open the door I will come in.”
One way to open the door is a simple prayer like this:
“Jesus, come into my heart. I know that I am a sinner, but I thank you for dying on the cross for my sin. I ask you to forgive me and cleanse my sin. Be my personal Lord and Savior. Help me now, from this day forward, to follow you.”
If you prayed that prayer sincerely, Jesus Christ will come into your life and begin to change you from the inside out.
Take a moment to let us know of your decision so we can encourage others. We’re also willing to talk with every one of you that has decided to follow Jesus, as well any of those of you who have questions or need to talk. Would you like someone from our team to contact you?
Here are a couple of useful web sites to help you in your walk:
If you do not have a bible you can go to www.crosswalk.com and access their bible study program. Chap D recommends getting started by reading the book of John and also reading from the book of proverbs. You can also go to the top of this page and look under “Studies” for the One 2 Won Crosstraining Studies put online by Men at the Cross. These are basic studies about what it means to follow Jesus.
To find a church near you www.american-churches.com they carry a directory of churches nationwide. Choose carefully, find a Bible believing church that you feel comfortable with and preaches the Word.
A message from a pastor who cares:
Dear friend: Please know that there is a God in heaven that loves you and is offering you a better way. He alone has the power to take the anger away from you. Jesus Christ is the person who came from heaven to make all the wrongs right in this world. It will not happen over night, it will take life times and more. But, Jesus Christ will come through for people like you and me. We may be in different places in life, but Jesus is the one that is able to make the difference and He is with you now. Invite Him into your life and He will come in. Go to a pastor near your home and ask one how you can live, don’t be afraid, He will tell you how to connect up with God and show you that He will protect you. I want you to know that only God can tell the future, no man has the power to do that. Listen my new friend, if you believe that Jesus died on a cross for you and rose up from the dead and you want to follow Him the Bible says that you will be saved.
Life is hard and we go through many things that we don’t understand. Begin to trust Jesus Christ to help you and He will. He is in the business of changing futures.
Pastor Marc P.
“If I could take it all back, I would. I would have died a hundred times over to let my brothers and sisters live… but i cant. All I can do now is promote an anti-gang message…drop your flag. Start your life over… it’s neva too late.'”
Hey Gs. This is just a reminder. Tomorrow is Gsus Day or, as other’s call it, Easter. This is the day we celebrate how Gsus rose from the dead and conquered death for you and me. That conquest of death means that every G can have a new life of freedom, hope, love, joy, and peace, not to mention the best thing ever, eternal life with God. If you want to talk more, I’ll be at Willow Creek Chicago for the 9 am Gsus day service (there is also a 11 am service if you sleep in). That’s at the corner of Wabash and Congress in the Auditorium Theater. A great place for church! If anyone wants to join me there, I’d be happy to talk and show you around. Ask for Ron Gorny if you come. There will be coffee and donuts when you get there. I’m usually in the right balcony of seats. If you let me know, I’ll save you a seat! If we don’t connect, let me know you came and I’ll come talk with you wherever you are.
Happy Gsus Day
This is a brief talk by Nicky Cruz who was the leader of the infamous Puerto Rican Mau Mau street gang in New York City. Nicky’s story is portrayed in books such as The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson and in his own book, Run, Baby Run. It was through reading those two books that my own life changed and because of what happened to Nicky, I went to Chicago to work for Teen Challenge. That’s when I got involved with the Latin kings and all the other sets I got to know at that time. I even had Nicky come to Chicago back in the early 70s where he had an open meeting for north side street gangs in Humboldt Park. Nicky is just one of many examples of how Christ CAN change a life, even in the worst of circumstances. jesus can do the same thing for you that he did for Nicky. Think about it. See what Nicky has to say about his life in the Mau Mau street gang and what happened to him when he met Jesus.
For more on Nicky Cruz Outreach, go to:
Hey, you guys from the Latin Jivers, I noticed several “Latin Jiver” searches on the website so I take it that some of you are peekin in at the site. Let me know who you are and what you’re interested in checking out on the site. I’d like to meet some of you when you’re out and about. Let me know and we can talk sometime. In the meantime, check out the Crossfire Videos (on the left side) and all the other parts of the website. Hope to talk with you soon.
Here is some wisdom about getting out of a gang from someone who knows. See his thoughts at:
Live in the here and now. Live for the moment. Don’t think about the end of your life, only the now. Smile now, cry later. Those are things I hear from Gs who don’t want to think about the future. I ask about what it means to break God’s laws and they say, “I don’t want to think about that”. I ask them what comes after death and they say,”I don’t want to think about that” . I ask them what’s gonna happen to their kids if they get killed, and they say, “I don’t want to think about that”. Denial like this is like an ostrich that, seeing a lion coming and sensing danger, sticks his head in the sand so he doesn’t have to see the approaching lion. When a G says,” I don’t want to think about that”, he’s doing the same thing as he ignores the reality of the coming danger. He’s ignoring all the warnings of God, Jesus, and the Biblical prophets because “he doesn’t want to hear that.” While they all clearly say that while God is love, God is also just and will judge the unrepentant people who have ignored his call to open their hearts to him. These Gs don’t want to hear that, however, because if that’s correct, they’re in big trouble. Everything they’ve believed, said, and done is contrary to what God says he wants us to be. For the moment, its easy to ignore what Jesus has to say about life after death, but the time is fast approaching when you will stand before Christ and you will no longer be able to ignore him. For some it will be sooner rather than later. And when you’re standing there, you won’t be able to say “I don’t want to think about that” any more because “that” will be staring you right in the face. No more denying the truth of God. No more denying what he expects from us. No more hiding your head in the sand. No more alternative philosophies that have lied to you and made you look the other way. No more time, period. It’s judgement day and you’re dead meat. Without the saviour, you’re roadkill.
That’s my message to you, pure and simple. Think about it, just sticking your head in the sand because you “don’t want to hear about that” doesn’t mean its not going to happen. God’s judgement is on the way, whether you want to hear about it or not. Without Christ, you will be judged and, quite frankly, it will not go well for you. The good news is, however, that Jesus can and will change your life if you take a moment to listen. All you have to do is think about it a little bit and you’ll understand why you need Christ. With the huge mound of sin, transgression, betrayal, and pain you’ve created, it becomes clear that you can’t be rid of that mountain of trash you created by yourself. You begin to see that the mound is to big for anyone but Jesus. Once this realization hits you between the eyes, however, seriousness of the situation may disarm you to the point where you think you should wait and try to clean up your life before coming to Christ. Don’t be fooled. He wants you and he wants you just the way you are. If you try to clean up from the outside and gradually work inward towards your heart, you’ll fail. You can’t clean yourself up well enough good to make yourself presentable to God. You can’t do enough good things to make him change his mind about judgement. What you need to do is come to Christ, confess your sins, allow Christ into your life, and let him clean you up from the inside out. You need to trust him to do the dirty work, and that’s what he did when he gave his life for you on the cross. He did the dirty work. All you have to do is accept it. So wat up G? Wat u gonna do? Here’s what the Bible says to those “that don’t want to hear that.” In the famous Parable of the Sower we read that:
4 While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable: 5 “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up. 6 Some fell on rocky ground, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. 8Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.”
When he said this, he called out, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”
9 His disciples asked him what this parable meant. 10He said, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that,
“‘though seeing, they may not see;
though hearing, they may not understand.’[a]
11 “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. 12 Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. 14 The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. 15 But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.
The moral here? Don’t ignore the words of the Bible. Don’t stick your head in the sand because the Bible tells us that the “devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (I Peter 5:8)” If you refuse to listen to what jesus has to say, you’re like the ostrich with his head in the sand. You will be ignoring the inevitable as that roaring lion pounces on you when you’re least expecting it.
So the next time you’re tempted to say, “I don’t want o hear that,” consider the warning of Jesus when he said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”
Here’s a song for you:
Lecrae – Take Me As I Am: http://vodpod.com/watch/448911-lecrae-take-me-as-i-am
This is an invitation to every G out there who is wondering is God is real. Come find out what the Gsus Nation is all about. The Church in the Hood is open for Easter. Come join us for Gsus day at Willow Creek Chicago. We’re located in the Auditorium Theater on Congress and Wabash. Service are at 9 and 11 am on Easter (This Sunday). Let me know if you’re coming so I can meet you. Coffee and donuts are offered before and after the service. Dress any way you want, but come and join me in “Section G” for the 2011 Easter service.
Check out this amazing organization that works in Little Village and Lawndale. Beyond the Ball was named the winner in a worldwide competition for the “Most Courageous use of Sport” created by Beyond Sport, a global organization that promotes, develops and funds the use of sport to create positive social change across the world. Read about Beyond the Ball at:
And read even more at this site:
Another Basketball league doing similar things is the Miracle Basketball League run by GRIP. Read more at:
Tedashii at Blacktown 2008:
Lecrae at Blacktown 2008:
A lot of Gs have told me that it scares them to have to close their eyes when they go to bed at night. It’s when you’re alone with yourself that all your misdeeds and crimes come back to haunt you in the dark. It’s when a G lays down and tries to sleep that he sees the people he’s hurt, the women he’s dishonored, the family he’s disgraced. That’s when the faces of people he hurt come back to visit him in his sleep. It’s when he thinks of all the friends he’s lost and wonder where they’re at now. Is there a heaven, and more importantly, is there a hell? It’s when a G wonders what’s going to happen to his own kids. Who’s going to get them? Will those kids face the same hopelessness as he faces? Will they grow up and have the same nightmares the G is facing now? What sort of legacy will this G leave for his own kids? Who’s going to remember him when he’s dead and gone, especially if the kids are dead and gone too. And that brings up another point. Its tough enough, its scary enough, when you’ve done bad stuff and have to get alone and face your past in the dead of night as you close your eyes. But that’s not the only time you lay down and close your eyes. As bad as the nightmares at night are to face, can you imagine what it will be like when you lay dying and have to close your eyes for the last time here on earth. What’s that gonna be like? What kind of fears will you face then? Oh, you’ll wake up, but this time it will be to face Christ, the divine creator that you’ve been dissing all your life, the saviour who you’ve ignored and even spit on, the eternal judge who has promised to dispense justice for those who remained unrepentant in this life. How do you think that’s gonna go…
To see how this affected a NYC gang leader go to:
You might also want to try this video on for size:
Death Story by Lecrae: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cou5I3jcsRs