The city of Chicago is well-known among conservatives as a common talking point to refute the effectiveness of gun laws, but when you get beyond the policy debates and headlines, there is a city full of people yearning for safety and peace from awful and ongoing violence.
One pair of pastors is addressing the violence at its absolute root — the need of lost souls to be set free from spiritual torment.
Pastor Dimas Salaberrios is the man behind the documentary film, Chicago: America’s Hidden War. According to data from the U.S. Department of Defense and cited by CBN News, more people were killed on the streets of the Windy City between 2001-2020 than in Afghanistan and Iraq’s respective military conflicts — combined.
The idea for the film came to Salaberrios, himself a former New York City drug dealer, after he fasted for forty days and forty nights. He would spend the next two years filming in the city, and told CBN that he sees a “demonic presence” in the city that he senses when he’s “praying and interacting with people on the street.”
“There’s a real spiritual battle going on in the city of Chicago for the lives of people,” agrees Pastor Corey Brooks, who leads the ministry Project Hood. “There seems to be a spirit of murder throughout the city.”
“Some of it is gang-related,” Brooks explained. “You have a bunch of splinter groups who are part of organizations. And these splinter groups go from block to block, neighborhood to neighborhood, and it makes things very difficult.”
Horrifically, many of the victims of the perpetual gun violence are children, who live in constant fear of being shot.
“We’re halfway through the year and over a hundred children have been shot already,” said Salaberrios. We have a child in our film, Quincy, who sleeps under his bed because he feels like he can get shot. He realizes from the bullet holes on the walls of his house from many drive-bys in the neighborhood that are the level of his bed – if he slept in his bed – he would be shot.”
The film which was eligible for an Academy Award earlier this year, follows church members as they try to reach out through the darkness and share the light of Christ.
“They’re having marches, going door to door. They’re doing things they have not normally done,” Brooks explained of the effort.
“We have a violence prevention team of ten full-time employees that go out into the neighborhood to help make sure there is no retaliation for violence. To make sure that we have conflict resolution with individuals who participate in that type of lifestyle,” he said of his ministry’s efforts.
One can easily see why Salaberrios believes so adamantly that the hardened criminals and lost youth of Chicago can be reached by those who are willing to go out on the street and minister to those in need of Christ’s saving grace.
He was once one of them.
“There were Christians. Three women reached out to me when I was a street god, one of the largest drug dealers. They said, ‘Can we pray for you?” he explained of his own testimony.
“I didn’t know what that was. When they laid hands on me the power of God knocks me to the floor, demons come manifesting out of me. They started praying in the name of Jesus. I felt a peace come over me like never before and I quit selling crack cocaine,” he said.
Brooks said that it really is a spiritual force they are seeking to combat, and the most urgency lies in providing more than simple temporal support.
“At the end of the day, we can try to supply jobs. We can try to supply counseling. We can try to give all kinds of different resources, but I really do believe ultimately it’s spiritual warfare and a battle that we’re in and it’s a battle for people’s souls,” he said.
“The enemy is out to kill, steal and destroy people in our community and we have to do everything that we can to push back the darkness, to push back the evil. And the way that we do that is showing the love of Christ in very practical, meaningful ways,” he admonished.
Amen! What an incredible testimony of God’s saving grace these two men have — as well as an urgent reminder that our battle is never against flesh and blood, even in the most violent enclaves of the country.
Pray for their mission on the streets of Chicago — and pray for God to reveal to you how you can offer the same radical ministry to those He places in your life as these brave soldiers of Christ are conducting in a very dark corner of our country.
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