Sunday, April 26, 2009

Chicago Peace Campaign Update...

Yesterday was the launch meeting for the Chicago Peace Campaign at the Chicago Embassy Church. I believe there was 100-120 people in attendance. We began with a time of worship and prayer. Then the pastor of Chicago Embassy and Chris Butler cast the vision for the Peace Campaign and exhorted us to collaborative action for peace. They also showed a tragic video, highlighting youth violence in our city, that set the tone for the urgency and importance of this campaign. We were reminded that this is not about convincing those who are doing violence to put their guns done, but rather this is about mobilizing people who are doing nothing towards creative and collaborative works of peace. In other words, the movement is seeking to create a culture of peace in Chicago that leaves no room for violence. In Biblical terms, darkness cannot overcome the light.

The web site for the Peace Campaign will be up in a matter of days. The next event is scheduled for Saturday May 23rd at Washington Park from 11:00am to 1pm. This will be the kick off rally.

Jeremiah 29:5-7
Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Global Stand By Me

Chicago Peace Campaign

In lieu of the challenge of violence in our city, a new movement has been started called the Chicago Peace Campaign. It is a comprehensive peace plan developed to mobilize churches, community organizations, and concerned neighbors towards collaborative actions that promote peace throughout the city. The movement is being spearheaded by Chris Butler (26 yrs old), who grew up in Chicago and is burdened to see Chicago's diverse communities unite around the cause of peace. He loves Christ and loves the city, and it is out of this heart for the Lord and for people that this vision has been birthed. I was privileged to be at the initial meeting for this movement, surrounded by urban ministry veterans, pastors, and community organizers. Each person at the initial meeting was then exhorted to recruit ten people to come to the launch meeting this Saturday. We are praying that 200 people will be in attendance at this initial launch meeting.

Here is a brief description of the mission of the Chicago Peace Campaign and its main pillars of action.

The Chicago Peace Campaign is a mobilization strategy to fill the city of Chicago with "the way of peace" through life giving words and action, leading to a measurable decline in the rate of violence in the city, especially among our young people.

Peacemakers Projects: Organize, coordinate and support service projects that will become deterrents to violence and monuments of peace.

Friday Night Lights: Night time outreach in rough areas. Light up dark corners with physical lights while lighting up dark souls with the light of the Gospel.

Beautiful Feet: Recruit a corps of street pastors to go house to house with message of peace and be a presence for peace in the streets.

Peaceful Speech: Communicate the message of peace through new media (website, facebook, text message etc.), traditional media (radio, television, newspapers) signs and events.

Pray for Peace: Cover the Chicago Peace Campaign and the city of Chicago with prayer.

I will write an update after this Saturday's meeting and as the various activities begin to unfold. The launch meeting is this Saturday, April 25th from 10am to 12pm at the Chicago Embassy Church 5848 S. Princeton.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Too Many Young People Are Dying

Last Friday morning I attended the funeral of 18 year old Tommie Williams. He was shot and killed the previous Thursday evening near 5pm on the corner of 61st and Cottage Grove. The church where the funeral was held was packed, primarily with young people. It was evident that he was a well-liked young man. His mother shared that the Lord was keeping her strong but that whoever shot her son didn't just shoot him, he shot their whole family (meaning it hurt all of them deeply). His father told those in attendance that he didn't want his son to be just another t-shirt. (In the inner city, when a young person dies, t-shirts are made that have his/her picture on it and usually say RIP.) Tommie had six sisters and four brothers.

On Thursday evening (of this past week) 14 year old Juan Cazares was playing basketball with his friends. At around 6:30pm two men walked out of an alley and began to shoot. Juan was shot, and eventually died from gun shot wounds early Friday morning. Juan was well liked and known for his sense of humor school officials said. Juan had two younger sisters and a younger brother. He lived with his mom and some of his cousins.

Juan became the 33rd Chicago Public School student that has been killed by violence this school year (2008-2009). A total of 508 Chicago school kids were shot (not all fatal) from September 2007 through December 2008, according to data compiled by the school system and released to the Chicago Sun-Times. Those CPS shooting statistics do not even include other school-age kids who have been shot. Adding those kids would double the 508 shootings of CPS students (according to Chicago Sun-Times March 9th article). That averages out to almost 32 children shot each month. Although (thankfully) not all of these shootings have been fatal, the damage is still severe.

“There is physical damage, which is awful enough. But the psychological damage can last much longer – both for the victim and their classmates. Many kids in the most violent neighborhoods of Chicago are paralyzed by fear, and it’s hard to blame them (Chicago Sun-Times March 9, 2009 article).”

I am still trying to get my mind around all of this. I have been praying and thinking about all of these shootings and all of these young lives that have been taken. It is sobering enough to hear the number and to hear the statistics, but when you start to personalize it and think about the families, the friends, and the classmates that are effected it becomes even more tragic. There is so much potential in the young people here in Chicago. I see it first-hand every day and every week. At the same time, many of these young people feel deep pain. There is a saying that I have been reminded of lately that says, "hurt people hurt people." Young people are hurting, and they are acting and reacting out of that hurt. The crisis of youth violence that our city is experiencing right now is a very complex issue. Unfortunately there is not a "quick fix." In the next few weeks I will continue to blog about this topic, thinking through preventative responses that the Church here in Chicago can engage in.

Please pray for our city. Pray for the young people and their families. Pray that peace would reign in the streets. Pray that the Church would rally and unite in acts of compassionate intervention.

I recently discovered a Chris Tomlin song entitled "God Of This City" that I have been singing as a prayer. The words are as follows...

You're the God of this City
You're the King of these people
You're the Lord of this nation
You are

You're the Light in this darkness
You're the Hope to the hopeless
You're the Peace to the restless
You are

There is no one like our God
There is no one like our God

For greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done in this City
Greater thing have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done in this City


Friday, April 10, 2009

Thinking on the Cross

Today we watched the Passion of the Christ with a small group of our youth. At the very beginning of the movie the words of Isaiah 53 scroll across the screen. Isaiah 53:5 reads, "But He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His stripes we are healed." It is such a powerful and sobering passage of Scripture. Throughout the day I have been listening to Shai Linne's atonement album, and one of the sermon snippets on his album especially stuck out to me today. The pastor explained that not only was the Cross an act done for us (ie John 3:16) but an act done by us (He was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities). He then added that it is not until we fully understand that it was done "by us" that we will fully understand the depth of His grace and love for us.

This video was done by the Christian hip hop group called Hazakim. You can check them out at

That's My King

John 14:6
Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

Monday, April 06, 2009

Appreciative of Podcasts

I know I am late, but I just recently discovered and started subscribing to podcasts. The last few weeks especially I have been listening to messages - at the gym, on the weekend, before I go to bed at night, etc. It really has been a blessing to "tune in" to these different podcasts. Here are some of my favorites...

Epiphany Fellowship
Pastor Eric Mason is the primary teaching pastor at this Philadelphia church plant. William "the Ambassador" Branch and Shai Linne also do some of the teaching. I have appreciated messages on being a missional Christian, the need for community, suffering in the life of the believer, and Biblical manhood.

Cornerstone - Simi Valley
Most of the messages on this podcast are by Pastor Francis Chan. I love his heart for the poor and his emphasis on living out Acts 2 community. I hope to visit his church during my California visit this spring.

Desiring GodThis is John Piper's podcast. I appreciate his passion for the glory of God, his teaching on missions and the "war time" lifestyle (countering the culture of materialism and comfortable living).

Heartcry Missionary Society
This is Paul Washer's podcast. Although I don't necessarily agree with with all of his statements, I really enjoy his emphasis on laboring with people in the gospel, the doctrine of regeneration, and his teaching on Biblical manhood.

Do you have any podcasts that you recommend??

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Pray for Kenya!

My last semester at Moody I had a brother named Paul in one of my urban ministry classes who had come from Kenya to attend Moody. I stayed in touch with him after graduation, and a couple of years after graduating he invited me to a celebration at his church - a Kenyan church plant on Chicago's northwest side. During the meal I met three young sisters from Kenya who were studying at Chicago State. All three of them are from the Maasai tribe in Kenya, and all three of them finished at Chicago State and are pursuing graduate studies here in Chicago with a vision to return to Kenya. Over the years, I have stayed in touch with the three of them via email. This morning, one of the sisters named Sitatian, sent me an email asking me (and others) to be praying for the people of Kenya. Here is what she sent...

Hello Friends and Well wishers:
I hope this finds you well. I am well. I am still living in Chicago. I am currently working for a few months after which I will go back to school for graduate studies. I have just been accepted at the University of Illinois School of public health to pursue a masters degree in Epidemiology with a concentration in Maternal Child Health. I am really excited about this opportunity and cannot wait to complete and go back to Kenya to help elevate the conditions of child health.

I am writing to ask for your prayer and support for the people of my community and family in Kenya who are suffering the effects of the severe famine that is facing Kenya and the bad economy world wide. Kenya and the Maasai community generally, depend on rains to sustain their animals and to grow crops. But during the last year, the rains were shorter than usual and this adversely affected the yield of crops which has led to the food shortage that is being experienced at the moment. Grass lands are very dry and cannot sustain the animals. Additionally, most streams have dried out and humans and animals have to walk more than 10 kilometers every other day to obtain water for drinking and house hold use.

I have just been informed that local schools at my village are closing because children are not attending school. The parents cannot afford to pay their school fees and in some house holds the children do not have food to eat so they are not allowed to go away from home. This is a very unfortunate situation that will affect the now and the future of these children. I know what they are feeling because I have lived it! I missed school so many days for lack of school fees and have gone hungry for a countless number of days. I am not there to share in their suffering but, I am hurting with them because I totally understand what it means for a young kid to go for a whole day or all night without food and actually not knowing whether they would get any on their next meal.

We are hoping that it rains in April as it usually does, but I am afraid that no animals will survive it till then. I hope the people do. Please remember them in prayer and any support will highly be appreciated. I am hopeful and wishing that one day they can get a borehole at the village that will, at least, provide drinking water.

PS: I have attached pictures of cattle that were recently sent to me. Notice how the grass land is dry! Just recently, some people received relief food from well wishers here in the USA but ,unfortunately it was not much to sustain them for long. The crowds you see on the pictures are women and children receiving the relief food.

Sitatian Kaelo- for the Maasai community.
You may contact me at any time for ways that you could help.

Sitatian along with three nursing students(now registered nurses) came together to form a non for profit organisation(Emayian) in the Maasai land to help educate the people on nutrition and basic preventive measures. Its through this organisation that the people of her community are receiving some help in the form of relief as you have seen on the pictures.

The conditions are very bad right now and she is trying to create awareness through churches/organisations and individuals. So feel free to share this need and opportunity with people who may want to get involved and support the Maasai. You can freely do so through EMAYIAN COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT.