Archive for the ‘Get Involved’ Category

Here are two articles about last night’s Urban Dolorosa memorial service for those slain in Chicago since 2008. The include comments from Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

http://www.nbcchicago.com/blogs/ward-room/rahm-emanuel-michael-pfleger-urban-dolorosa-133044968.html

http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2011/11/01/urban-dolorosa-march-honors-murder-victims/

Advertisements

I attended the first Urban Dolorosa (the sorrowing city) memorial service last night at St. Sabina and it was very moving.  I attended the event in order to (1) support Chicago families that have lost children to this senseless violence, (2) to call out the people with guns and say, “stop the killing,” and (3) to ask God’s forgiveness for not doing more to stop this epidemic of death.  With this in mind, I’d like to pose the following question to you, “What are you doing to stop the madness?”  Your answer might start here. There are four more services this week. I highly recommend attendance and participation in this effort to curb or stop youth violence in Chicago. For more information on how to get involved, go to the Urban Dolorosa website at:

http://www.urbandolorosa.org/

 Make a difference.  Get involved.  Stop the violence.

Ron

Please pray for Chris, Javier, and Robert – guys from Martin’s neighborhood at 82nd and Buffalo.

Crossfire is beginning  a Prayer Calendar so that our partners can be praying for gang members 356 days of the year. To get a gang member that you know on this calendar, please send us his/her name and birthday. I’d like to know is/her affiliation but that is optional. Once I have received enough requests, I’ll put the Prayer Calendar so everyone can begin praying for the gang members as they appear on the calendar. You can respond to this website with a name or to our e-mail account (ganglifechicago@gmail.com).

When I was a kid we learned this little poem in Sunday School that was accented by hand movements.  One’s hands would be locked together with the interlocked fingers facing the speaker and the two index fingers pushed together pointing skyward like a church steeple. The poem goes:

Here’s the church,

this is the steeple;

open the doors

and see all the people!

As we said the last verse we would fling open our hands and wiggle all the fingers, a representation of all the lively people in the church. Cute, but i’m not sure just how lively the church is these days.

I just came home from driving through the South Side of Chicago this evening.  It was only 8:30 and the streets were filled with Gs, everywhere.  A perfectly refreshing night to be out and about. The sights, however, were not so perfect. The police were rousting out a big group of Gs  (maybe Blue Fin Black Disciples, but I couldn’t be sure) gathered at the southeastern corner of Washington Park. A little further on there was a fist fight going on between two 9-10 year old kids with 30 people egging them on. There were prostitutes on one corner and guys slinging drugs on the other. Oh, and there were lots of people who appeared to have already had too much to drink. Everywhere I looked there were people who were headed into eternity without Christ. I tried to do my thing but it was so little and so weak in contrast to the forces gathering out in the streets for the summer. It all seemed a little surreal and I wasn’t quite sure why I was feeling so sad.  Then, I passed a group of guys gathered in front of a church and it struck me.  Where’s all the people, the church people, that is!!!

I started looking past the gathering crowds and what I saw astounded me. Every block had a church building or two safely ensconced on the block, but they were all closed and not a light to be seen.  How ironic, I thought, that if Christians are the light of the world and the local church is the hope of the world, that each church was dark as the night, and whatever hope the building might claim to possess on Sunday was locked away for the night, just when those in the hood needed it most. How sad it seemed that in nearly every case, there were groups of men and women gathering in front of those churches who were without Christ and without hope. I guess they knew that after the Sunday services,  the church took Monday off. maybe the rest of the week too. Sin could sit at the doorstep of the church without even being challenged.

What struck me was that Christians are supposed to be the hands and feet of Jesus, but they were nowhere to be seen. What I saw, however, were the hands and feet of another, a more sinister and demanding master who was sending his cohorts out to enlist even more people to his cause. And everywhere, he was unchallenged! How can that be with Christians inhabiting every one of those blocks. How can it be with buildings everywhere that are dedicated to taking the Gospel (i.e. Good News) to the lost? I’m not trying to be overly critical and I am speaking to myself just as much as I am to all of you, but its time to open the doors of those buildings and start a procession of people going both in and out. There should be people going in who have questions about God and problems He can solve. There should be people going out to proclaim that there is a place where Gs can go to find real life and that there is a person who can give them  a living water that will refresh them and give them hope for the future. That living water will not dry up nor will it run out. If tonight seemed like a perfectly refreshing night, think what it will be like for that G who finds God because someone brought him that living water.

Let me close by saying that the pastors of my church have begun a series of messages where the theme is to “Go Outside,” sort of like the old Nike theme, “Just Do It.” That’s what we all need to do. Go outside, each day of the week, all summer long, and address those kids sitting on your steps with love, hope, and the gospel of  Jesus Christ. What if every church in every Chicago neighborhood found a way to turn the lights of their churches on at night and have people sitting on the steps of their church with a smile, a handshake, and maybe some fresh apple pie. What if every church in every neighborhood took up the challenge to Go Outside for these kids each day of  the summer. One need not go farther than the block your church was built on. In doing that, you’ll probably cross paths with Christians on the next block doing the same thing as you are. Link arms, love each other and pray for the kids you’ve both gone outside to help. Then let the Holy Spirit do his thing and watch what God does this summer. Just “Go Outside” and watch God work. Who knows what stories that will spawned, what ministries will be born, and what lives will be changed…forever. Well, God knows, so when it happens, write to us here at Crossfire. Let us know the miracles you see so that God’s work in one neighborhood will inspire His people in another neighborhood. Just “Go outside.” God will do the rest. Then, maybe some of you will write back something like:

We opened the church.

We turned on the light.

We went outside 

and God lit up the night.

You’ll probably do better with the verse, so don’t hesitate to outdo me on that! In the meantime,

JUST GO OUTSIDE!

There is this kid I’ve become friends with up in Rodgers Park. His name is Nicholas. He’s 16 and already been involved in the gang life for several years. Each day he seems to be getting deeper into the street life, just a step away from real trouble. Last Saturday I went up there to find him, so I had the opportunity to drive up and down Devon Avenue several times while looking for Nick. I was struck by the multitudes of people from different religious and ethnic backgrounds and became almost  despondent thinking about all those people going into eternity without Christ. The need was so overwhelming that my paltry efforts on behalf of this single young man seemed inconsequential, bordering on absurd, when balanced against this unsaved mass of humanity. Then, in the midst of that near-depression, God spoke to me saying, “Leave them to me. I’ve put one person on your plate right now, so deal with what I’ve asked YOU to deal with. You have one task right now, Nicholas. I’ve given you responsibility for Nicholas’ life so don’t worry about what I haven’t asked you to do. Be responsible for the one  person I’ve asked you to love.”

I’ve been mulling over that conversation with the LORD all week. Then, this morning, I attended the monthly Willow Creek Prison and Incarceration Ministry meeting where the Holy Spirit affirmed the LORD’s word to me when Anne Rand read a devotional about one, one, one… by Mother Teresa. In it the words of Mother Teresa came through loud and clear:

“I never look at the masses as my responsibility. I look only at the individual. I can love only one person at a time. I can feed only one person at a time. Just one, one, one.  As Jesus said “Whatever you do for the least of my brethern, you do it to me.” So you begin…I begin. I picked up one person…The whole work is only a drop in the ocean. But if we don’t put the drops in, the ocean would be one drop less. Same thing for you. Same thing in your family. Same thing in the church where you go. Just begin One. One. One.

At the end of our lives we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, or how many great things we have done. We will be judged by “I was hungry and you gave me to eat. I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless and you took me in (Matthew 25:34-36, 40). Hungry not only for bread but for love…naked not only for clothing but naked of human dignity and respect. Homeless not only for want of bricks, but homeless because of rejection.”

                                                                                                     Mother Teresa (1910-1997)

Please help me to be faithful to my calling of one by praying with me for Nicholas.

Prayer: LORD, I am often overwhelmed by the needs of the world around me, by the immense size of the need. Thank you that you are responsible for the world and that I am not. Help me see the individual today – the one, the one, the one – that the words and actions that flow from my life reflect your love. In Jesus name, amen.

A new movie is coming out in the near future about the intertwined lives of Nicky Cruz and David Wilkerson. The movie is called Thousand Pieces and is based on the book  Run, Baby, Run, the official biography of Nicky Cruz.  Information on the movie can be found at the following two websites:

http://www.runbabyrunmovie.com/main.php

http://thousandpiecesmovie.com/

There is an earlier “sanitized” film called The Cross and the Switchblade based on the book of the same name by David Wilkerson. The film is actually inspiring and worth a screening.  It’s a 70’s film that stars Pat Boone as David Wilkerson and Erik Estrada as Nicky Cruz , so it’s more on the “cute” side and not as” gritty” or realistic as a current movie on the same topic might be. Nonetheless, the film is worth watching to get a visual presentation of the story. See it at:

http://www.ovguide.com/movies_tv/the_cross_and_the_switchblade.htm

David Wilkerson impacted the life of Nicky Cruz and the gangs of New York, but he did much more, all because he was obedient to God’s whisper. If you want to change the world for the better, you might want to read this story about David Wilkerson’s journey of faith:

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2011/aprilweb-only/rememberingdavidwilkerson.html

Website by Lisa Taylor-Austin who is a gang expert witness, psychotherapist and trainer on the topic of street gangs. Find out more at:

http://www.gangcolors.com/?page_id=3

Gangs and At-Risk Kids provides a very informative and useful website for people wanting to know more about gangs, what they are, how kids get involved and the consequences of involvement.  For more on the website go to:

http://gangsandkids.com/

And don’t forget to look at some poignant poetry and stories from those affected by gang life at:

http://gangsandkids.com/gstory.html

Other links can be found at:

http://gangsandkids.com/glinks.html

Here’s a good video on an important aspect of reaching gang members:

http://www.streetgangstyle.com/street_gangs/video/reach-gang-member/

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:

http://blog.christianitytoday.com/ctliveblog/archives/2011/04/david_wilkerson.html

Hi DP-

       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?

http://www.streetgangstyle.com/street_gangs/editorials/im-church-relocation-gang-members/

Hey Gs~

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.

Ron