By Mark Ellis
It has one of the highest crime rates in the United States. Yet amidst the wanton gang-related violence of Chicago’s inner city, Christian ministries are making a difference.
“Fourteen people were killed and 80 wounded over the 4th of July weekend,” says Rob Baker, national representative for CRU Inner City.
After a recent visit to Chicago, he found several ministries fighting back with the power of Christ. “Our ministry is touching almost all of the cultures and most parts of the inner city,” he says.
At the Agape Center on the south side of the city, an area which is 97% African American, young men are being shown an alternative to the gang lifestyle.
“We have run the Agape Center for 20 years and now have generations who have come to Christ,” Baker recounts. He participated in a “rite of passage” ceremony for nine teenage boys. Some of the young men have been mentored since fourth grade.
They were all graduating from high school and most are planning to attend college. “This is unheard of for most of these families,” Baker notes. “Only two of the nine teens had dads living in the home and one was a stepdad. One guy I personally spent time with had a basketball scholarship to Northern Illinois University.”
“We talked with them about being real men of God, meaning: providers, protectors, priests and servant leaders. We gave them gifts, including a study Bible and then we prayed for each one of them. The one Dad, who was there, through tears, thanked the Agape Center for all they had done to save his son from the gangs.”
In Chinatown Baker visited Pastor David Wu who has been ministering in the city for many years. God provided a historic building known as Pui Tak Center at the entrance of Chinatown for their church and ministry site, and CRU partners with them to reach out to a total population of 68,000 Chinese.
Baker also visited La Villita Church and spoke to Pastor Paco who leads the Say Yes Center in a largely Hispanic area of Chicago. Home to 80,000 people, the church is in the heart of an area called the “Mexico of the Midwest.”
“Many have come to Christ over the years through our partnership with several churches in that area,” Baker reports.
“Chicago is one of the 17 cities I consult with on a regular basis. Please pray for them as they seek to expand all that they are doing for the Lord in that needy city.”