In August 2016, Bevelyn and Edmee went to share Jesus in Chicago for a week. Here’s what happened:
In The Ghetto
Once we arrived in Chicago, we met with the family that graciously hosted us. As we inquired about the rough areas, we were told that we did not need to go far. We were already in the middle of the ghetto! We then met Mariah and Yajaira who were staying in the same home with us. They later joined us and ministered with us that night, giving out Bibles and praying for people. Later that day, we headed out for lunch with Sharon (a former Latin Queen gang member) and Renee (a minister), two women we had previously met in Washington DC. After lunch, we drove through West Chicago with them to get acquainted with the area.
The following day we visited Saint Sabina’s church. While in the area, we met a group of people hanging out in front of a Walgreens parking lot. One person who stood out was a young man named Tyrone who asked for prayer, along with his friends, Jay and Brock. Later that day, we had our “Night Shift” on Madison and Pulaski Rd, a very popular street corner for drug dealers and gang members. We were joined by Sharon. We were also blessed to have one of Edmee’s good friends, a Chicago native, join us as well. She first had reservations on how things would pan out ministering at night in this specific area. But by the end of the night, we saw her getting totally comfortable ministering to people. It was amazing to watch Jesus show up while ministering. We encountered people like Tony who was high on heroin, Dante who was shot in the stomach four times, Aaron who needed healing, Henry who was struggling with addiction, Dolores who wanted to straighten her life out, and Hairio who did not want prayer. Hairio said, “I don’t want to step on God’s toes, and I don’t want him to step on mine.” In light of the fact that Jessica could not make this trip, the Lord did not waste any time, and provided people to come minister with us two nights in a row!
We then attended a community meeting in Humboldt Park along with Sharon to meet more former gang members who still maintained relationships in the streets. We were able to minister to the community while talking about the issues of gentrification in the area, as well as issues they were facing personally. Some of the concerns were: lack of jobs, businesses, and programs for children. Some people were also facing being stereotyped as gang members or bullies. Thankfully, a lady at the end of the meeting exhorted the community to get with Jesus and take responsibility for their lives.
The following morning we headed to West Side Chicago on Roosevelt and Independence. We met Zach, Chris, and Robert, who were hanging out. Once he realized that we were there to minister, Robert asked for prayer. We told him we would, but got distracted as we ended up ministering to the lady who was selling icees nearby and his two other friends. Yet, Robert kept asking for prayer. For a moment we thought he and his friends had sent us on our way, as we were looking for a specific location. As we began to delve deeper into the neighborhood, Robert called while waving his hand and began to run towards us. “What about me? Aren’t you going to pray for me?” This was when we realized we’d forgotten to pray for him.
Bevelyn spoke directly to what Robert needed to change in his life: being on the fence about Jesus, lust, and knowing he was making wrong decisions and taking advantage of women. In the middle of praying, Robert removed his hat, then about a minute later he removed his glasses. When Bevelyn was done praying, Edmee began to appeal to him as one of our Father’s sons, telling him that God wanted to help him make the changes Bevelyn had just described. Father God was a Good Dad who wanted His good son back, and commissioned him to come home. As she was telling him “Go home!” Robert looked in her eyes shifted his head and just LEFT without saying a word. He did not pass go or collect $200. He just dropped the mic and left. We followed him in shock and continued to pray but seeing him go without looking back just floored us. There was not a shadow of a doubt that this man heard what the Lord said and listened immediately. As he was going home, people called him but he just walked past them, and never looked back. Even the way he walked was divine. It was not slow, it was not fast: Those were deliberate steps.
After this amazing encounter, we prayed for Delanda, a mother of six who was dealing drugs. We then laid hands and walked with another woman, Delilah, and prayed with her friend as well. While, Edmee encouraged young Alanzo to choose Jesus, get dressed, knock on doors to get a job, and get off the drug dealing plantation, Bevelyn was ministering to Mike, Little T, and Chris. We then met a young man in red with crutches and asked what was wrong with him. He had gotten shot in the leg. Later on, we met a Muslim man in front of a Mosque. He shared that he has a business in the neighborhood but can’t find good help. We were somewhat taken aback in light of the fact that we had attended a community meeting the day before where people were complaining about not having jobs. We asked if we could record his testimony. He agreed and shared how he had hired three people from the neighborhood. The first one had stolen from him, the second was good but later on robbed him, and the third one was not doing a good job. Even though he was a Muslim, he let us pray for him and his business.
As we were getting our Night Shift started that day, we were shocked to randomly meet Robert again. He was on his bike with his son. He said that what happened earlier was a confirmation. We were so excited to see him again and encouraged him some more. As we continued for the night, we stumbled across a one-way street that was nothing like your typical “suburban,” residential street. This was a drug dealing drive thru!! Cars, loud music, people drinking, and drugs were all in the air. We started engaging with the people there and asked how they could deal drugs so blatantly. It was as if they were daring the police to even say something! There was a girl who seemed to be very guarded. Edmee told her how beautiful she is, and how she loves her because Jesus loves her. She responded, “You made my night, and asked for her hug.” We then proceeded to speak over her life. We prayed for more guys and called out a man out of his car for prayer. All of this in the midst of the most daring drug dealing area we had ever seen.
As we left that street, we came across people partying, gambling, and drinking. Block after block; we witnessed multiple groups of people hanging out, bumping music, and drinking. You can imagine the breath of fresh air it was when we saw a group of kids playing basketball. There were about a dozen children and teenagers. When we asked if we could record them, they beamed with joy and excitement! They did not waste any time showing off their skills. We encouraged them and cheered. No adults were present. You could tell they were hungry for affirmation.
We spent our Saturday night at Villapalooza, an annual festival dedicated to promoting non-violent spaces and community engagement. We didn’t meet many people, but on our way back to the car we met Jeremiah. The Lord had a strong word for Bevelyn to minister to this young man and sowed a seed in his life. Bevelyn knew how the enemy had attacked his mental health and spoke against it. Afterward, we met with Sharon and continued to walk around the Spanish neighborhood. People were outside their houses having a good time. We decided to go from house to house to pray and give out Spanish Bibles. “Thank you for changing my life!” one man said as we were praying. Another woman asked that we pray for her son. We all laid hands on him as we knew he was a gang member. Towards the end of the night we prayed and talked to a group of Latin Kings gang members who were posted on the corner that evening. We could tell they were waiting for something to go down. Nonetheless, we spoke life into them and prayed that they would live another day to find Jesus.
Our Sunday in Chicago was pretty cool. We visited Mariah’s church: New Life Community Church, and even organized a birthday celebration for one of her friends. As we took a few hours to rest later that afternoon, we got ready to go on another night shift. As we got in the car we wondered: “What’s the most dangerous neighborhood in Chicago?” Our friend Sharon and others had mentioned some parts of West and South Chicago. We’d always heard that the South Side was rough. Well, we Googled it. West Englewood popped up and so we went. As we got closer to the area we could not help but notice churches on almost every single block. Now, this usually would not have been a big deal. Hitting the streets in urban areas for the past two years, we are used to seeing the same types of businesses: Liquor stores, chicken joints, check cashing, beauty supply stores, and good old faithful churches. However, this was beyond. We decided to drive back 15 blocks or so and counted 14 churches. We then kept on counting till we got to West Englewood. We counted 23 different churches on a 1.5 mile distance. How could there be so many churches in just one street in what was considered the most dangerous neighborhood in Chicago?
Our entrance in West Englewood was pretty eventful. The police was everywhere! Police cars and trucks parked by a gas station. We parked a block away to inquire. A family was sitting in front of their house. We approached them and asked about what was going on and why the police were there. They explained that rival gangs were about to shoot out. They made it very clear that we should not be walking around. We, in turn, asked them how could they be sitting in front their house as they showed the bullet holes in their window. (They’d also explained that they usually would have to spend evenings in the back of their home away from the street.) Oh “the police is here.” This was their explanation so as to why they could afford to be sitting in front of their homes. So we walked away and met their neighbor. This woman asked us what we were doing walking around in West Englewood on a Sunday night. This was no place to have a stroll. We explained that we were there to minister.
She expressed her respect for what we were doing but also her reservations. She shared that the only reason she was standing in front of her home witnessing what was going on was that the police were there. “Once the police is out, I’m back in my house!” We were STUNNED! This was the BEST police endorsement we had ever heard. Real people actually living in the most dangerous neighborhood of the most murderous city in the United States were telling us that the reason they could afford to be standing outdoors on a Sunday night was because of the police. This was the only time they felt safe. Where was CNN? Where was Black Lives Matter? How come we don’t hear this in the news? We went back to the family we’d first encountered, blessed them with a prayer and headed to the car.
Once we got in the car, we had this witness that we should heed to their advice. We realized that this was the first time since we’d been traveling that we were deciding not to minister because of safety reasons. We could not explain it. We were not in fear. However, we felt we needed to heed the people’s counsel. We decided to drive around the neighborhood as we knew we had not come all the way there for no reason. “If only we could get to the guys that are behind these shootouts,” Edmee said in a wishful manner. We parked the car on another street and visited with people in the neighborhood. As we were done praying with a woman, we walked away and noticed a group of young men in front of a day care center. As they called us over, we knew we had gotten an opening to minister to them. We asked them what they were doing. There were probably ten men there, blasting music from their car. They sarcastically said they were working at the daycare that day. Clearly, this was false considering it was Sunday night.
As introductions were made, we told them why we were there and wanted to pray for them. They agreed and made a circle. We surprisingly ended up in the middle of all these men. As they encircled us, Bevelyn started to speak life over them. She shared that there was more than Chicago in this life. We continued to visit with them. Some of the guys asked Bevelyn if there were people around the gas station down the street. Now, this was the same gas station where all the police were located. For some reason, Bevelyn knew to say “No.” Nobody was there. This was obviously not true. The whole area had been occupied by the police. Two young men joined us. One of them really caught our attention. His presence alone oozed LUST. As we started to talk to him, he looked across the street and said to Edmee “I know this man.” She said, “Where?” “The man sitting in the car across the street, he’s a minister! Come, I want to introduce you to him!” So, we went.
The preacher’s name was Andre. He was visiting his grandma. Born and raised in the neighborhood, Andre had been an itinerant minister for a few years now. He knew the neighborhood very well and also had grown up with the guys we had just ministered to. Bevelyn asked if he could bless us with a prayer, which he did. Once we were done, she kept on visiting with Andre while Edmee was ministering to another man. About 10 minutes later, we noticed that the group of guys we’d initially ministered to in front of the daycare were all gone. Andre turned around and said: “Y’all saved a lot of lives tonight!” “What? Why, because they’re gone?” Edmee asked. “Y’all saved a lot of lives tonight!” Andre repeated. Puzzled, we looked at him so as to understand why he would say such a thing. Andre proceeded to explain that those were the guys behind the shootout that was supposed to take place that night. They were the reason the police had occupied the neighborhood. We were in total SHOCK!!!
As he kept explaining that these men had gone home that night, Edmee started crying. We realized that the Lord had positioned us to stop a shootout that night. We realized that He had sensitized our hearts to heed the counsel of the people who lived in the neighborhood, which caused us to leave the premises and led us straight to the people He wanted us to minister to. We realized that the Lord had sent a pastor to confirm that the people we had just ministered to were the very people who were causing havoc in the neighborhood. We realized that the Lord had heard Edmee’s wishful thought; “If only we could get to the guys that are behind these shootouts?” This was a total “Shawshank”!
For anyone who has seen the movie Shawshank Redemption, you will understand why we entitled this encounter “Chicago Shawshank”. We won’t go into all the details here, but being able to see the hand of God leading us to this amazing encounter was a spectacular experience. We went back to the car, recorded the testimony the best we could on camera and just praised God. If nothing else, lives were spared that night. We trust that the seeds sown into these men are bearing fruit. We praise God that He had us minister that night in a way we had ministered dozens of times. Nothing was different for us. We also find it interesting that we had no clue who we were praying with. What a King!
She Was “Gonna” Cut Us!
The next morning, we decided to hit Pulaski Road again. We saw a woman who was dressed like a man sitting on a corner. She had her head down and looked discouraged. We offered to pray for her, but she objected. For some reason, we did not care for her answer. We usually respect people’s will while ministering, but this was different. We felt Satan was the one talking back, not this woman. We went right ahead, laid hands on her shoulders and started to pray. We commanded order in her life, cast out any masculine and homosexual spirit off of her, cursed any suicidal thinking, and spoke hope and life into her. She got in agreement while we were praying and even thanked us.
There were two other women nearby. One had a pink wig and was dressed like a stripper. The other one looked like a church deacon. We felt we needed to approach these women but for some reason knew we were getting in some kind of trouble. “Hey ladies, how are you doing?” This question was enough to trigger the “Pink Wig Lady.” She just walked off. Her friend followed her, and as you can imagine, we went after them. “You can’t run from Jesus!” Edmee yelled. The faster we walked, the faster they walked. The “Pink Wig Lady” was screaming and cursing. Edmee was screaming even louder telling her how much Jesus loves her. Two blocks later, the “Pink Wig Lady” pulled out a foot long knife!!! “Y’all better leave me alone before I cut Y’all, stop f***ing with me!!!”
The “Church Looking Lady” who probably was getting tired of running asked “Why are you chasing us? Can’t you see this chick crazy? She’s scared!” “She’s scared? She’s the one with the knife!!!” Edmee retorted. As the “Church Looking Lady” settled down, we started to speak life over her, restoration over drug addiction. We commanded her blood to be clean and specifically spoke hygiene over her. She shared that her daughter was taking her to rehab that day and left us saying “I’m going to take a shower.”
A Pimp and A Drug Dealer
Later that day, which happened to be our last day in Chicago, we parked our car in front of Elijah Mohammed’s House. We visited for about an hour with the guard who was part of the Nation of Islam. The exchange was interesting, to say the least. As he shared his journey and we shared ours, we let him know that Jesus IS LORD, not our skin color. We later attended a Women’s Meeting. Edmee’s friend had invited us to share what we did on the street. It was a huge blessing to visit with them. And did we mention the food! There was lots of it! On our way out to minister that night, Bevelyn, who was driving, noticed a man in a car who looked like a pimp. She immediately made a U-turn and flagged the man down just to speak with him. Being familiar with the hood, Bevelyn was surprised to actually see a real pimp straight out of the old school.
On a more serious note, both of us got out of the car and ministered to him and his leading lady on our way to meet Sharon. We told them we wanted to pray for them. They agreed and got out of the car. As we were getting in a circle, Edmee looked at the woman and said: “You pray!” So she did. As they got back in the car, Bevelyn said “You will not leave this earth without receiving Jesus! You are supposed to be in His Kingdom!” We then gave them our ministry book Redeeming Love and asked if they had Bibles. The woman said, “I want one!” So we gave them Bibles and bid our farewells.
Our last ministering experience was on the street corner of Pulaski and Division. There we reunited with our buddy Sharon and did not even have to walk long before getting into the nitty gritty. We met Julius who had gone to jail for ten years and had shared he’d received the Lord, but then got out and started to hustle again. As he was chit chatting with Bev and kept giving excuses as to why he had not gotten serious with the Lord, Edmee looked him in the eye and said: “I see myself slapping you in your face with both of my hands! God is no BS! Stop playing games! This man who we could tell had a lot of authority in the neighborhood understood what we were trying to tell him. He knew he had to get serious with the Lord. However, we could tell he was not there 100%. We went ahead, and all prayed together, blessing him and his friends, and took Sharon home.
Our time in Chicago was amazing. We’d like to take this opportunity to thank all the people who took part in it, the family who hosted us, the people who ministered with us and most importantly the people we were privileged to minister to. Jesus ROCKS!!!
Ephesians 2.10 reads For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
If there were ever a time for this verse to be made flesh in our lives, it would have been the night we went to West Englewood and ministered to the gang members who were waiting in front of the Little World DayCare. They were about to get involved in a shootout but ended up going home. We did not know what we were walking into, but the Lord had everything lined up. While what we witnessed that night was nothing short of a miracle, it should be predictable. We are created for good works prepared for us. All we have to do is walk in them.