Violent deaths lead Chicagoland pastor to organize prayer walks

by Tess Schoonhoven, posted Monday, July 20, 2020 (13 days ago)

CHICAGO (BP) – Shaken by the reality of death, the city of Chicago desperately needs the message of Christ's hope, according to Edgar Rodriguez, pastor of New City Fellowship.

Edgar Rodriguez’s oldest son prays over Illinois in a street painting of a map of the U.S. in the Logan Square neighborhood in Chicago while on a prayer march.
Submitted photo
In the last few weeks, Chicago has been riddled with violence, including the tragic deaths of a 41-year-old, a 10-year-old and a 1-year-old, as reported by the Illinois Baptist Newsjournal.

Burdened by the need for healing, Rodriguez began to organize prayer walks in the evenings, stretching across deeply affected neighborhoods.

"My heart behind it is (that) the truth of the Gospel and God's people being salt and light, would be able to engage these places," Rodriguez said. "Potentially me calling people to march and walk would spur them on to not only just do it as a one-time thing, but in their rhythm of everyday … (to) engage, pursue and be present in these places especially where these shootings were taking place, in hopes that the kingdom of God would invade these spaces."

On July 13, Rodriguez and two other men started walking at 6 p.m. They started in Humboldt Park and ended in an area with a large population of homeless people and others. Rodriguez said walking in the evenings is intentional, because it allows for more opportunities to interact with people who would not be on the streets in the daylight.

"They congregate in this one place, and so by the end of the night, we got a chance to spend some time there and share Christ and ask them pretty intense questions in light of the violence," Rodriguez said.

A statue in a Chicago neighborhood depicting Jesus grieving over the killing of an individual.
Submitted photo
Among the questions they asked: "What have you heard about the violence? What would you do? How would you be a part of the change? If you were shot, where would you spend eternity?" Those led to some Gospel conversations. Rodriguez said the small group didn't get any pushback from anyone they spoke with.

"The atmosphere, not just in my community but in Chicago, because death is so prevalent and, in your face, now, people are just still kinda shook by it," Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez said his goal is to capitalize on that collective sober attitude to point to Christ, and the hope of the Gospel. Sharing Christ has to be done with urgency, and with unity from the church, he said. Calling and reaching out to multiple congregations in the area, Rodriguez said he believes now is the time the church has to step together into these difficult moments.

He added that prayers for boldness, strength to continue pursuing the lost in the community, and the raising up of more laborers are vital to the delivery of the Gospel message.

"The church has to rise up," Rodriguez said. "This is the church's moment to stand up and lay down all other languages of networks and denominations and as brothers and sisters adopted by the Father because of the good news we believe in, we have to come together and stand together."

Rodriguez plans to continue orchestrating the prayer marches through September, focusing on different neighborhoods in Chicago.

Tess Schoonhoven is a Baptist Press staff writer.
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