CHICAGO, Ill. (8/8/14) — "Weekend shootings leave 40 injured and four dead," "Sixteen killed, over 50 wounded during 4th of July gunfire" — The daily headlines and TV news from Chicago this year seem to read like a war zone. No one can explain the surge in drive-by killings in the windy city. But all agree, something needs to be done.
Last weekend, members of Crave The Movement, made up of young Christians from Muhlenberg County and the surrounding area, drove into what has become the Chicago "combat zone". They took with them a message desperately needed in the violence-weary city — a message of hope, peace and Jesus.
The team was greeted by a packed house for the first ever Crave Chicago. The many young people who showed up were reeling with fear after seven bloody months that has brought senseless drive by shootings to Chicago and the surrounding area.
The Crave Movement began in Central City just over a year ago, and as reported in June by SurfKY News —Muhlenberg Teens to Celebrate First Year of Crave — and, the craving for a youth-oriented Christian message is spreading across much of the nation fast. Yes, the music is loud at a Crave, but the message is also very clear — say "no" to violence, drugs and alcohol, say "no" to sex before marriage, and say "yes" to Christ.
Making the trip to Chicago were Josh Wilson and Whitney Gruver, as well as Victoria and Josh Rich. Victoria and Josh are the daughter and son of Living Word Church pastor Enoch David Rich and Central City Tourism Director Carmel Rich. Victoria Rich told SurfKY News that the team knew from the newscasts what they might be in for in Chicago, but said their fear was overpowered by faith.
"There was a park across from the venue, where there were several shootings just the week before," Rich said. "We had to have a team of police there in bulletproof vests. It was really serious. But we really wanted to go."
Rich said that the Chicago Crave came about by accident.
"I was speaking at a Spanish-speaking church there a few weeks ago," Rich said. "An area businessman heard our youth-oriented message and invited us to bring Crave to Chicago. We were unsure what the response would be, but it turns out, the music and party atmosphere that have worked here with Crave Central went over there as well. It was amazing. It was like the exact same spirit we have back home in Kentucky. Over 300 young people gave their lives to Jesus in one night. There was a line all the way around the building."
Rich noted that the response from the Chicago area police force was also great. The overworked, under fire men and women tasked with protecting the public were on hand to make sure the hundreds of young people were safe. Rich said the response from the police was as overwhelming as that of the young people.
"The police chief of one of the Chicago suburbs was there," Rich said. "He was really touched. He took us aside and thanked us. He said that in his entire time as a police officer he couldn't remember anyone reaching out to the youth the way Crave did. He told us he would work all night if he needed to, until the last person left, because he was so appreciative. He said he hoped we could come back soon."
There were over 10 policemen there, according to Rich.
"The other policemen and women also kept coming up to thank us," Rich said. "They really couldn't believe we were there doing this with all the violence going on. It is really like being in another country. But we were never really afraid. We knew we were there for a reason. We knew that someone had to do what we were doing."
The entire weekend event went off without incident, and the Crave Central team is back home in Muhlenberg County. There are now plans to form a local Chicago Crave team. Rich said there will be more Chicago Crave events, but right now the Crave Central team is spreading the word throughout Kentucky and beyond.
"The first Louisville Crave is getting ready to happen," she said. "Also, the first Evansville Crave is coming up. And the next Crave Central event is set for Friday, Aug. 15 at the Living Word Church. Doors open at 8 p.m. It will have a 70s hippie type theme."
Living Word Church is located on the 189 bypass/Phillip Stone Way, in Central City.
"We're excited about all that God is doing right now," Rich said.
Keep up with CravetheMovement at Crave Central on Facebook and on Twitter at twitter.com/CraveCentral or call (270) 977-2017.
Photos Courtesy of Carmel Rich
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