In 1974, God sent angels to the South Side of Chicago, in the form of deacons from a neighborhood church. He sent them to help rescue me from a lifestyle of heroin and alcohol addiction, hopelessness and homelessness, crime and a looming prison sentence.
The grimy, cold streets and back alleys of Chicago became my places of worship as I lifted my addictions up as idols which consumed my entire life. My friends and I prophesied over our lives by declaring and believing that we wouldn’t live to celebrate our 30th birthdays. Sadly, most of them didn’t.
Drug overdoses, violence, and life on the fast track took them out way too soon. But God had a different plan for me. One afternoon while out stealing to support my habits; I was caught red-handed walking out of a neighborhood grocery store with two shopping bags full of stolen meat. Five men confronted me at the front door and instead of calling the police they took me in the back of the store and prayed for me.
These were deacons from a local outreach-minded church who cared enough to look past my addiction to see my need for Jesus Christ to change my life. They prayed for me and drove me to the Chicago Teen Challenge where Jesus radically changed my life through the Word of God and some tough love.
And to think that five years prior to this encounter I stole a purse out of the same church where these deacons served. I know that their prayers and the prayers of that church brought me full circle back to where they could help me accept Jesus as my Savior.
The church cared for me and it made all the difference in my life. A government program couldn’t help me, a job couldn’t help me, mama and daddy couldn’t help me; only Jesus Christ could help me. I’m so grateful that church was bold enough to share Jesus with me.
Years later, at a prison ministry conference, Pastor John Alarid – Lead Pastor of CityReach Church Springfield, was on a panel. After he spoke, my wife Kacie and I looked at each other and agreed that I needed to speak with him. Pastor John confirmed what I already felt in my spirit. It was time to answer the call of God on my life to be a pastor and church planter. Pastor John introduced me to CityReach Network and the rest is history.
On September 17, 2017, my wife, Kacie, and I will plant CityReach Church St. Louis with the same heart, love, and care that was shown to me in my darkness. We will aggressively “reach the one who is far from God and help them become passionate followers of Jesus.”
St. Louis is known for topping the national murder rates and crime. And I always knew since the time Jesus saved me that my calling was to give back to the environment He delivered me from. Since 1978, I have been involved in several outreach ministries with the same goal: reach the one who is far from God.
I wrote the following poem from the mindset of a young man far from God, stuck in the streets looking for someone who cared…
A poem by Alfred Long Sr
I see the look you have when you pass me on the streets
You lock your car doors, speed past me and hurry to your next meet.
I wish you’d stop but you wouldn’t dare so you stare and I stare and you stare and I stare without really seeing behind the mask that we both wear.
When I wonder is it even fair to expect someone to care.
Mama used to care until she fell in love with a dream merchant by the name of crack.
Who sold her a false hope that left her hopeless…living to feed that gorilla on her back.
Daddy left and never looked back; he exchanged his love for me with life on the fast track.
And to be a man you have to see a man
And I’m trying to fill in the blanks the best that I can
But I can’t see the lines and the only colors I have are gray and black.
Can someone please talk to me and help me understand this struggle I’m going through to prove that I’m a man.
Can you look past my sagging pants to see my sagging heart, and then
Understand the part I play; I play to fit in because I’m tired of playing left out
And though I look tough and face death with a grin
Dodging bullets on the outside…I’m dying within.
So don’t talk at me, about me or just shake your head
Talk to me and with me before I’m dead
And become another wasted life snuffed out before time but here’s the real crime
You had the answer and didn’t share it with me; you gave up on me and didn’t hear my cry…that somebody helps me before I die…before I just die…