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Category Archives: Prayer Request

Feeling Insufficient

There always seems like there is more to know. More to learn about counseling, more to learn about substance abuse, more to learn about the court system, more to learn about working in the urban context, more to learn about the Bible and so on and so on. It seems like the list is forever. Therefore, whenever I am presented with a new class to teach or new group of youth to take on, I often feel insufficient, that I don’t know enough or that I will fail. God used the story of Moses approaching Pharaoh in Exodus 4 to really encourage me.

Moses Given Powerful Signs

4 Then Moses answered, “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you.’” The Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?” He said, “A staff.” And he said, “Throw it on the ground.” So he threw it on the ground

, and it became a serpent, and Moses ran from it. But the Lord said to Moses, “Put out your hand and catch it by the tail”—so he put out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand— “that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.” Again, the Lord said to him, “Put your hand inside your cloak.” And he put his hand inside his cloak, and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous like snow.Then God said, “Put your hand back inside your cloak.” So he put his hand back inside his cloak, and when he took it out, behold, it was restored like the rest of his flesh. “If they will not believe you,” God said, “or listen to the first sign, they may believe the latter sign.If they will not believe even these two signs or listen to your voice, you shall take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground, and the water that you shall take from the Nile will become blood on the dry ground.”

10 But Moses said to the Lord, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” 11 Then theLord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? 12 Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” 13 But he said, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.”14 Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses and he said, “Is there not Aaron, your brother, the Levite? I know that he can speak well. Behold, he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart. 15  You shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth, and I will be with your mouth and with his mouth and will teach you both what to do. 16  He shall speak for you to the people, and he shall be your mouth, and you shall be as God to him. 17 And take in your hand this staff, with which you shall do the signs.”

God has equipped me and he is faithful. Sometimes, I am the one who needs to stop out and trust God, for in my insufficiency, he is all sufficient.

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Heavy Heart

I met Sarah last week. She came to my house with a few other girls.  Later that week, I received a phone call from a friend, who had received a phone call from the police officier who works in the local high school, Officier Moreno (who is a believer).  He said there was a girl who has been suspended pending a parent/ teacher conference but she doesn’t have parents. Her mom is in Mexico and her dad passed away. Her sister has guardianship, but doesn’t care about her and she is an A/B student.  It was Sarah. I saw God’s hand at work. I heard yesterday that Sarah is possibly being offered $3000 to drive to Miami with a truck driving. I am fearful this is a sex trafficking ploy. This is just Sarah’s story and I am sure only the surface of it. Let’s not forget about…

-the 16 year old girl who has been sleeping with her step dad (this story is ALL to common)

-the 15 year old who was called a juvinile deliquent by her mother

-the 16 year old who is sleeping with a 35 year old married abusive man

These are stories I just heard yesterday! I have heard countless more of gang rape, abuse, neglect and the list goes on.  I have nothing to offer these girls apart from the love and hope in Jesus. And so I woke up this morning with a heavy heart…

God, bring your good news to the poor, bind up the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to the captives.  May these young girls see the profound and deep love with which you love them. Soften their hardened hearts. May they see that I am not just another person in their lives to abuse and mistreat them. I will not abandoned them, because you have not abandoned me. God do a great work here in Little Village.  It is all pointless without you at work in their lives. So Abba, do that, take the scales off their eyes that they may see you as their Abba. Heal them from the pain, abuse and neglect! Grant me favor with them. Oh Jesus come!

 

*Names have been changed

We Expose, Not Impose

Today the Urban Life Skills team had lunch with the judge who oversees our district here in Little Village. We shared our passion to mentor and see lives change here in the community. Hector, the probation officer and brother in Christ, explained how we desire to expose youth to what we believe and not impose it.

Lord as we expose you to the hurting, lost, hopeless  people of this neighborhood may you soften their hearts to see you as the king of Kings and Savior. May they see that you are their true and only hope.

Speaking of exposing, we invited the judge to come to our annual Christmas party next Friday (December 9). Please pray the judge attends as the Gospel will be shared.

Too Many Youth Are Dying in My Neighborhood

CHICAGO, October 26, 2011 — La Villita Community Church and New Life Community Church (my church), located in Little Village, and Westlawn Gospel Chapel, located in neighboring North Lawndale, are calling for action after last Saturday’s murder of a Little Village youth who had crossed into North Lawndale. A neighborhood march will be held at 1:30pm on Sunday, October 30, beginning at New Life Community Church (2657 S. Lawndale Ave.), continuing to La Villita Church (2300 S. Millard Ave.), and finishing with a rally at Westlawn Gospel Chapel (2115 S. St. Louis Ave.) at 1:45pm.The march route will run north on Lawndale Ave., west on 23rd St., north on Millard Ave., east on Cermak Rd., and finally north on St. Louis.

The Little Village and North Lawndale neighborhoods have a history of violence, both within and between the two communities due to a number of factors including racial differences and gang activity. Recently, two Latino youth from Little Village were attacked–and one was beaten to death–after crossing into North Lawndale. The attack may have been linked to an incident two weeks prior where two African-American youth from North Lawndale were shot by Latino gang members. The incident occurred near Westlawn Gospel Chapel, where witnesses called 9-1-1, but response from the fire department took 15 minutes and police did not arrive for 30 minutes.

In response to the continued violence, the three churches are seeking the following actions:
1. We are calling on the community to step up to address the inter- and intra-racial violence in our neighborhoods.
2. We are calling on the churches in our community to be an instrument of peace to end the violence in our neighborhoods.
3. We are calling on the City of Chicago to explain the 30 minute response time between the 9-1-1 call and the arrival of help on the scene.

“We cannot stand for this,” said Pastor Victor Rodriguez of La Villita Community Church. “We cannot go waiting 30 minutes to wait for an ambulance while our children are dying. We are coming together as churches to create action and demonstrate unity across neighborhood and racial lines.”

Will you join us in prayer?

Gangbangers in the Kingdom

Below is a story of God working the lives of gang bangers here written by one of the male mentors. The names have been changed for their safety.

“Romans 10:14-15,”How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?  And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

This is the verse that the Lord laid on Marco’s [one of the mentors] heart this past Saturday as we drove, praying on our way up to Lake Villa to meet Carlos, Julio, Sergio and Javier who are in drug rehab.  We also prayed that the Lord would favor us by allowing us to take the boyz out for a walk to the lake on the premises since  [the drug rehab center] has changed their policies with respect to taking the boyz off site.  Prior weeks ago, we had visited the same group of boyz and two were fairly new arrivees but the excitement in the conference room at that time was electrifying as Sergio actually volunteered to lead in prayer over the food we were allowed to bring in. In his prayer he voiced his joy and as an ambassador for the others, expressed their joy as well for our visit.  As we left that first visit we could see the massive change that has and continues to take place in Carlos and Sergio.  Afterwards, much to my surprise, Marcos informed me that during this past week the boyz had actually called from the drug rehab center asking us if we could have a return visit with them this past Saturday.  They also asked for two bibles, one for Carlos and one for Sergio.

With gas prices up and my daughter coming from the great U of I (Ha! 5-0!) to visit for a weekend and me having to drive her to Indiana and then later picking her up from there on the same day of a possible visit to the drug rehab center I thought for a split second to myself, “Man, I don’t know if I can make it this Saturday”.  But as I said, it was a split second.  I often tell the boyz, “You have not  because you ask not”.  Once I told one of my boyz, because you asked me to visit you at Abraxas twice a week, that is the only reason why I went, otherwise who knows how often I would’ve visited you but because you asked. So with that in mind, Sergio (my partner in Christ) and I knew God willing we would be on our way to Lake Villia (or “chilla” as I call it or “thrilla” as Marcos calls it). As we were running late, Marcos reminded me of the 2 bible requests and at first we decided that we’d bring the bibles on a subsequent visit but then I said let’s just pick up 4 bibles at the church instead of 2 so that each one would have their own.

We were not allowed to take the boyz for a walk to the nearby lake.  We so wanted to be out in God’s nature where we thought self reflection would be enhanced. But as Paul would say about entering a specific country in the scriptures, that the Spirit would not allow us to enter (some might say the enemy didn’t allow it but I don’t think so in this case).  So, we understood that we would need to make the most of our time together in a conference room and that the Lord had His own plans and we had to be sensitive to the Spirit.  We gave each boy a bible.  Marcos explained how to look up verses, the make up of the bible, etc.  Then he opened with the above verse and with natural ease shared his testimony as I prayed to myself “Lord, please let his testimony penetrate hearts” and “your Word does not return void” and “Look at Javier, Lord…is he getting it?”  Then Carlos started asking some deep questions, some related to end times which surprised me since he seemed to know more than I had thought (don’t we tend to judge our boyz sometimes the wrong way!).  His questions opened the door for the others to start asking questions.  Julio was counting the cost…asking but what happens when I get back to da hood, how am I suppose to act.  Marcos told him not to worry about that for now but to trust in Jesus. Also, I said, “God wants you to come the way you are.  He knows that you gangbang, he knows your personality, after all, He created you! You can’t think that you can clean up your act first and then come to God.  You can’t do it without God!” (During this time we had an interruption from one of the boys there.  Sergio said that was his celly and that he too recently got a bible. We wanted to invite him in but knew we couldn’t.)  So from the above verse Marcos went to read all of Romans 10, re-reading verses 14 and 15 to them, telling da boyz that he was sent to bring them the gospel, “the good news”.  Then he moved on to Ephesians 2:8-10.  So, then Marcos said “I have to do this, the Spirit is prompting me.  I need to do an altar call.”  He did an altar call with me clarifying that you can’t be “forced” into accepting the Lord as your Savior, it has to come from you and you alone. Also, I mentioned that you  truly become God’s son and that even sometimes when I pray, I say, “Dad…”. So after some more discussion, the question was posed again, who wants to accept the Lord and who doesn’t.  Four hands went up!!  Praise the Lord!!…A celebration in the heavenlies by God’s angels!  So we gathered in a circle to pray. Suddenly Julio (what a kid!) starts shedding tears…tears falling cleaning, crisply down ever so gentle to the carpet floor.  One tear, then another and another.  Shamelessly, crying with tears of a new life…a new life in Christ.  Yeah!  A new life in Christ!  It hit me, God chooses the lowly, the unwise of life to comfound the highly, wise of life.  For the first time Julio (some say abandoned by his parents and living with his grandma), handpicked by God feels WANTED, feels LOVE for who he is by a God who treasures his life.  Yeah, let the tears flow until the cup overflows!! (Doesn’t the Word say…”my cup overflowth”?)

You know the ULS ministry can be difficult at times but a moment like this takes away all the pain of ministry…kind of like childbirth (apologies to the woman) when the baby is born, like Jesus says, who remembers the pain after the baby is born!  A born again birth of four of our boyz!  Who remembers the pain of ministering to Carlos when time after time Marcos would want him to turn himself in for a warrant and for Marcos not ever giving up on him.  For Sergio’s family who have Santa Muerte statues all over his house.  For Javier saying he’s not a good reader can someone else read that verse (unwise to comfound the wise!).  And then, Julio, a tough dude, a VIP kid of Marco’s. Did Marcos ever realize 3 years ago when he first met Julio that this day was orchestrated by the Lord but only if he remained faithful? They call Julio “CONAN!” on da streets as he was now crying.  A crying, I’ll never forget!  A crying that I have relived countless times already since this past Saturday.  A crying that will forever be part of my life!  Innocence brought back to life for a youth that had lost it and had it stolen by the enemy!

And so as I end , please pray for these four boyz as they prepare to come home in a couple of months.  We don’t have any real after care for them.  Pray that the Lord will prepare Christians to be sent into their lives that will spiritually mentor them.  Pray for a desire for them to read the Word.  Pray that they will be spiritual leaders for their generation and the next that follows them.  Pray for their peace and safety as attacks are probably happening to them right now.  Pray that these four would be the next horsemen of the Lord’s, bring sweeping change to La Villita.  Pray for their fruit.  Pray for their families.  Pray that they will bring others to Christ and be on fire like they were for their gang.  Pray against any gang violation they may have to encounter.  Pray for their boldness.  Pray against ridicule.  Pray against falling back into the mix when they return.  Finally, pray for ourselves as we come under further attacks.

Man, I can’t wait to see how the Lord will use these boyz for His kingdom work!

Marcos and I are planing to go up there on some Saturdays to possibly do bible study / discipleship with these boyz as kind of a new ministry so to speak, with visions of possibly expanding to other boyz (like for the one who interrupted) so please keep us in prayer on this.

I’ve been contemplating Julio’s question, “Art, but what do I do when I get back to da hood…you know”.  The Lord put this verse on my heart when Naaman was healed of his lepracy from Elisha the prophet. We need to reassure our boyz that the Lord knows and understands the struggles they will have when they accept Him as their Lord and Savior.  They should be secure and at peace in the Prince of Peace.

2 Kings 5:18-19, “But may the LORD forgive your servant for this one thing: When my master enters the temple of Rimmon to bow down and he is leaning on my arm and I bow there also—when I bow down in the temple of Rimmon, may the LORD forgive your servant for this.” “Go in peace,” Elisha said.””

Aerobics for Jesus

Well, that’s not how it started out…

Over the course of the next few weeks, I hope to attend all the services New Life offers. One of those services is aerobic classes.  It all started with Maria ,the instructor, walking into the church one day asking if she could use the building to teach an aerobic class. The church said yes. After a few months of having the classes, Maria started coming to the church. She has since trusted in Jesus as her Savior.

She offers aerobic classes for women in the neighborhood for $1.00 per class. The classes are offered Monday through Friday at 9 AM and Monday through Thursday at 6 PM.

I am SO excited about this! For several reasons:

1. Everyone participating in the class is from the neighborhood, I didn’t recognize anyone from the church, giving great opportunity for Gospel proclamation

2. Everyone speaks Spanish and I need to practice my Spanish

3. These women are in shape!!! AND I need to get in shape!

I am hoping to make it at least once a week to begin building relationships in the neighborhood.

Introducing the DeMateos

I met Matt and Sarah DeMateo at Urbana in 2006. Matt was the leader of the youth group at Little Village when I was involved there in 2006-2008. Now Sarah helps oversee the women’s ministry at New Life Community Church and Matt helps oversee Urban Life Skills, the gang intervention program run from the church. I cannot wait to work along side of them. Below is there latest update.