Back Jamie Thompson ministers to prostitutes, drug addicts, and gang members in Chicago
August 19th, 2011
In 2009, Garfield Park had more murders than any other Chicago Police District.
A local hospital called it the most dangerous neighborhood to raise a child in.
Sixty-five percent of the children there live in single-parent homes,
Sixty percent of residents live below the poverty line.
"I grew up in the neighborhood next to Garfield Park," said Jamie Thompson, Pastor of Reborn Community Church. "It was just as dangerous back then. It was the kind of place you want to get out of, so I did."
But in 2004, Jamie had a vision from the Lord as he served with the missions ministry at Armitage Church in Chicago. God told him to move back into that neighborhood and start a church.
"I met the Brentwood Baptist Student Ministry team in 2005," Jamie said. "They'd come through to serve and I shared with them what I was looking to do in the west side of Chicago. Then, Scott Harris [Missions Minister] came to visit us and talked about a partnership."
Before he ever heard back from Scott, with no support or funds and by faith alone, Jamie moved his family into the neighborhood and started reaching out to the community. They bought a home and heard the Lord again speak to them: "Quit your jobs, trust Me, and minister to this community."
In the spring of 2006, with just a handful of people, Armitage Church Garfield held its first worship service and Bible study in the Thompson family's living room.
"I didn't have any way to provide for my family, but God kept pointing me back to what He'd called me to do through people and circumstances. Then, Scott Harris called and said Brentwood Baptist wanted to provide for our needs and help us get started," Jamie said.
That started a 7-year partnership of support from Brentwood Baptist to this thriving congregation in a broken, desperate community through the Hope for the World Missions Offering. From day one, their growth has forced them to move to larger locations to accommodate those who came through the doors.
They launched their first service at an elementary school in 2006, leased a bigger storefront in 2008, and just as recent as this past January, they took on a new name, Reborn Community Church, and moved into an old firehouse on one of the busiest corners in the area.
"This area is very poor, depressed. Most of the people don't have jobs," Jamie said. "Without partners working with us, we're not able to do the work to pour our lives and time into the lives of these people."
Elizabeth is one life that was transformed. On drugs for most of her life, she has a history prostitution, jail, and back again through the cycle. She cried out to God, asking for help, and Reborn moved into the storefront right under her home, introducing her to Jesus. Now, she's flourishing in her walk with Christ.
Teenage Sharelle was living in a crack house across the street from the place where Reborn had started a Bible study. Jamie reached out to her and the other kids living there.
"She and her brother were saved and now they're being discipled," Jamie said. "She was used and abused and is now serving the kingdom as an asset in our neighborhood. Support from a church like Brentwood Baptist allowed a young girl to move from a crack house to the honor roll, and now she's looking to go to college."
Shapel was on the streets, living under the lock and key of a violent neighborhood gang. Through Reborn, he found Christ, started walking with Him, and he's now sharing Christ on the streets he once terrorized.
Frank was living in a halfway house and was addicted to drugs when he visited Jamie's Bible study. He received Christ, moved into Reborn's group home, and journeyed with the church as he grew in his faith.
"The beginning of change is salvation, but there's a process after that of building new habits, behaviors, and skills in them so they can be a functional member of society," Jamie said. "Frank just graduated from culinary school and finished his internship. Now, he's looking to get a job as a chef in a restaurant."
These are just a few of the stories and transformations that have bubbled up since they began embracing the neighborhood's "least of these." Each week, they welcome in 60-70 people and minister to hundreds more on the streets.
Jamie said, "In the last month, we shared the gospel with 141 people and counting. We'd like to share who Jesus is with 1,000 between now and the end of the year. This is a tough place to live. I've been hit by a car. We've had fires. There are always prostitutes, drug addicts, and gang-bangers on our streets. There's constant stress having to live here or the inconvenience of always being in danger, but it's worth it."
Their slogan is: "Transforming lives…one soul at a time." And they mean it. They want to be a church that's a community center for people.
"Our church is more than just a Sunday morning service," Jamie said. "It's a mission in the neighborhood. It's a place of transformational hope. We're looking to make this current location our home. Without Brentwood Baptist, we couldn't do this ministry in a broken area and economy. And it's not a benefit to serve in this area. It's a necessity."
When Jamie first accepted the call to Garfield Park, he caught a vision for reaching the entire community with the gospel and that hasn't waned since he first began. Now, he's adds his gratitude every day for the support Brentwood Baptist has given in catching that vision as well.
"I can't stress how important this partnership is," he said. "We wouldn't exist without Brentwood Baptist. The Lord has all kinds of means to accomplish His goal, but he calls people to accept it and play their part. Brentwood Baptist has done that. This would've just been a dream if there wasn't a church who said they wanted to be a part of that. Words can't express how thankful I am that you've joined hands with us so lives can be changed here in Garfield Park."How you can pray for Reborn Community Church and Jamie Thompson:
- Pray that God would provide the funds necessary so they can purchase the old firehouse building and permanently plant themselves in the community.
- Pray for the safety of the members of Reborn, the Thompson family, and those they're trying to reach.
- Pray for the growth of their church and leadership team.
- Pray that the gospel would reach to the edges of their community and beyond.
Story by Kaylan Christopher, Staff Writer