Pastors in Chicago are desperate for God to intervene in the city’s exploding murder rate. As a result, 40 days of outreach called “Jesus Summer” kicked off in Chicago recently.
The ministry is a response to the deadly gun violence that has been surging in the nation’s third largest city.
In just one weekend this month, at least 72 people were shot and 13 killed. But it is not just this year. Chicago has been struggling under the weight of murders and violence for some time and police and community leaders have been at a loss for how to stop it.
The staggering numbers have resulted in calls for change from those who would prefer different leadership altogether.
Dozens of prominent entertainers, sports figures and pastors black community leaders have called on Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to resign. One black community leader asked President Trump to send in the National Guard.
Other voices for change include Chance the Rapper and Rev. Gregory Livingston, a prominent pastor in the Chicago-area and long-time critic of of the city’s political machine.
Livingston spoke out against Emanuel ahead of a large anti-violence march in early August. Speaking at City Hall days before the event, the reverend said he and other demonstrators did not need the mayor’s support or approval, as they were calling for Emanuel and Eddie Johnson, the superintendent for the Chicago Police Department, to step down.
But for many Christians in the city, they realize a higher power needs to be called upon to change the war-like situation on the ground.
Local pastors, churches, city leaders and others have been gathering on street corners to pray for God’s divine intervention.
Pastor Darius Randall talked about the “carnage” and “evil plaguing our society.”
“We have to come together as a society. We have to come together as a church,” Randall said.
Pastor James Brooks said that he was out of town over that weekend but when he heard about the shootings “it broke my heart.”
“We can’t stand it anymore … we must save our children,” Brooks said. “Now is not the time to point fingers… it’s the time to say ‘What can we do?’”
Turning Prayer into Action
Prayers then turned into action as believers across denominational lines hit the streets in ministry opportunities such as feeding the homeless, street evangelism, a tent revival, and events for kids as part of “Jesus Summer.”
Pastor Dimas Salaberrios of Concerts of Prayer Greater New York, came to Chicago to help spearhead the project, which is a collective effort of many organizations working together towards holistic transformation in the city.
“We’re empowering the churches with millions of dollars’ worth of merchandise to make sure we can try to hit every home in Chicago with the gospel,” Salaberrios told CBN News. “That’s the mission and there are multiple events happening, at last count about 160 events taking place over the course of Jesus Summer, in the streets, in tough neighborhoods to share the love of Christ.”
Fasting Until Shootings Stop
As a former drug dealer, Salaberrios said he is fasting until there are no shootings in Chicago for at least a week.
His prayers center on those behind the violence.
He recently shared the gospel with local gang members and told them his personal testimony.
“I used to be a kingpin drug dealer,” he explained. “I sold drugs almost all my life until God got a hold of me,”
Salaberrios believes that targeting those committing the crimes is the answer.
“When you reach the shooters and the shooting stops, that brings peace right now,” he said. “I mean…no place in the United States has more murders than Chicago. If you add up the Iraqi war and Afghanistan, in the same time-period, Chicago’s homicides are far greater than the casualties of that war.”
Message to Christians: Make Chicago Your Prayer Target
“Now to have that on American soil blows my mind and we want to encourage the nation to make Chicago their prayer target as well as a place to come in and do ministry.”
Salaberrios admits that ministering in Chicago has its challenges, but he said he has seen breakthroughs, such what happened after praying with angry protesters following the recent death of a black man at the hands of police.
He explained, “We just started to pray for people. We started to target people that we saw that were really upset or were angry. We said can ‘we pray for you.’ We watched God’s peace literally come over them.”
Chicago native Donovan Price connected with Pastor Salaberrios when he arrived in the city.
As a victim’s advocate, he sees the violence and its impact up-close.
“About 20 minutes after the shots are fired, I arrive,” he said. “When the family arrives, I support the family, help them through this three or four-hour process at the scene.
“Sometimes you can’t always say a prayer or spout a Scripture. Sometimes it’s about loving and comforting and having that presence around somebody so that they know that the Holy Spirit is taking care of them,” continued Price. “They know that God is there.”
Sharing the Gospel on “Murder Drive”
Numerous Christians shared the gospel in one of the roughest neighborhoods along Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, also known as ‘Murder Drive.’
Duck Dynasty’s Willie Robertson was part of the team.
“A lot of people watched the [Duck Dynasty] show and I know it was strange to see me here, a little out of place,” said Robertson. “They wonder what I’m doing walking around. Yeah, we just tell ’em we’re here because we love ’em and just want to hug on ’em and try to show Jesus through our lives.”
Many responded to the ministry, which included door-to-door evangelism.
“A young lady was walking across the street in front of the apartments behind us, known as the projects – that’s what people refer to them as,” said Dr. Kellie Lane of Warrior Nation Ministries. “We stopped her, and she admitted she needed prayer. As we continued to talk, I asked her if she knew Jesus as her Savior and she said ‘no.’ And I was, like, can ‘today be your day? you don’t have to be perfect.’ She was just so broken, and she just said ‘yes.’ We ministered to her and prayed for her and then her son also accepted Christ.”
Although the shootings keep happening and Jesus Summer ends August 26, Salaberrios says he will keep pushing for a lasting change.
“We’re committed to going as long as we possibly can to draw attention to this, to get more Christians to come out, walk these streets,” he said.
“Because it’s only about 1,500 shooters. And if we can concentrate on that group, we can change the City of Chicago.
–Metro Voice and News Wire Services