His name was Leroy.
He was an older gentleman maneuvering on a scooter, and I could tell he had “been there and done that.”
I anticipated that Leroy was ready to share a story and eager to exchange a few laughs. By my estimation, the experience would be highlighted by a great nugget of wisdom. I couldn't wait to sit down next to him, and our chat did not disappoint!
Leroy is a former drug dealer, was wounded as a result of that lifestyle, and found God in prison.
Leroy is a former drug dealer, was wounded as a result of that lifestyle, and found God in prison. He spends Chicago winters “stuck” inside his government housing and loves spending the warmer months playing dominoes and cards across the street in Wicker Park. He understands the consequences of his life choices and would love to help straighten out the younger generation.
Leroy pictured above in the white suit
He pointed over to Scott Venable, the pastor of Mosaic Church, and said: “Yeah, he started coming around one day, and I decided I was going to check him out and find out if he was for real… or a phony.” Then Leroy tilted his head down and looked me in the eye and stated, “he’s the real thing.”
I decided I was going to check him out and find out if he was for real… or a phony.
...He's the real thing.
The next day, our group spent time with Scott Venable around his neighborhood. He explained how research and prayer had led him to Wicker Park and outlined how God had worked through the past few years. We took an incredible journey through the streets of his corner of Chicago and listened to Scott share highs and lows of Mosaic’s ministry. Scott gave glimpses of their future, their hopes, their barriers and people God had placed in their midst. Throughout this process we each had the opportunity to pray along the way, which proved to be a humbling, yet powerful experience.
Afterwards, I listened to Scott, a.k.a. “the real thing,” proclaim some simple yet trustworthy statements: “We serve and love in a tangible way… Service leads to conversation… Everything we do is intentional… There’s no break for The Great Commission.”
We serve and love in a tangible way… Service leads to conversation… Everything we do is intentional… There’s no break for The Great Commission.
In the days following, our team both observed and carried out those very truths.
Now that I’m home, I’m challenged. I ask myself, if Leroy was sitting in the park in our “famously hot” city and pointed his finger towards me, would I be able to hear him say
“she’s the real thing”?
Ashley & Scott Venable with daughter Brooklyn
Karen Hewlett was part of a 7-member mission team that went to Chicago in August 2014. The team assisted Shandon's church plant partner, Mosaic Church, with outreach and evangelistic efforts in the Wicker Park neighborhood.