Jamie Thompson (left) has found an ally in former Chicago gang member Roy Brown in seeking to transform inner-city Garfield Park with the Gospel.

Roy Brown wasn’t sure what to make of the white guy in the storefront window one morning, wondering what he was doing in Garfield Park.

Brown, a former west side Chicago gang member, was already a walking miracle. Surviving the streets is one thing, but exiting gang life often entails a premature date of death.

Jamie Thompson, the guy on the other side of the plate glass, also is a local with a linebacker’s build who grew up one neighborhood east in Humboldt Park. And he is on a mission.

Brown, one of the founders of the Four Corner Hustler gang, “grew up in the streets and living the wild life,” Thompson said. “He and some others in the community started the gang to protect the neighborhood but it led them into a lot of evil things — drugs, prostitution and the like.”

Thompson’s life on the streets was much the opposite of Brown’s. The son of urban missionaries, he spent his days reaching out to people with the hope of the Gospel.

“My parents moved [to Humboldt Park] to work with a nonprofit organization that reached out to at-risk children and youth. After the Lord got ahold of my life, I thought I would just be reaching out to guys on the streets. But through the process of going to school and the Lord pulling at my heart, He helped me see that He wanted me to move in and start a church in the middle of one of the worst areas of Chicago.”

The church plant is Reborn Community Church, which has become a fixture for community transformation through the power of the Gospel, street smarts, entrepreneurial moxie and a miracle or two. Like Brown.

Thompson did not know it at the time, but that morning was a decision point for Brown. As he looked from the outside in, Brown wondered if he could trust this man. The thought that Thompson might be an undercover cop crossed Brown’s mind more than once.

“For a number of years, Roy just dropped his kid off at our after-school program. In the mornings he would see me in the church storefront praying. I always have coffee out so I can talk to people and pray. That morning Roy was going through something. He came in and we starting talking.

“Roy was watching me ever since I had moved into the neighborhood to see if I was legit. At that time, he had pulled back from the gang after spending a lot of years in jail, but he still wasn’t living a moral life. The young guys in the gang were killing off the chiefs. Roy had to leave to protect his life. He was making a living scrapping metal.”

A morning discussion and a cup of coffee began a Gospel conversation that would run a year-long course. Thompson was faithful to pursue Brown with truth.

“He went AWOL for a while, but he came back around. Through loving him and sharing the Gospel, he came to accept Jesus as his Lord and Savior. He left the worldliness to the side and started being a responsible father to his children again.”

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SOURCE: Baptist Press
Joe Conway

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