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2002 Frontline Reports

Churches, members mobilize to help people with disease (December 30, 2001)

Pilot shows plane, shares the Lord (December 23, 2001)

SonBeams provides social outlet, spiritual training (December 16, 2001)

Veterans Day (November 11, 2001)

Chi Alpha chapter reaches the world (September 30, 2001)

Church's Independence Day celebration draws more than 50,000 (September 16, 2001)

A passion for missions (September 9, 2001)

Lifestyle evangelism influences hedonistic neighborhood (August 26, 2001)

Church takes Christ to inner-city needy (August 12, 2001)

Nontraditional services draw worshippers (July 22, 2001)

Dirt floors and horses: Welcome to Cowboy Church (July 13, 2001)

Northland Cathedral members know God's timing is best (June 24, 2001)

Youth, children's outreaches spur church growth (June 17, 2001)

Revival transforms blighted neighborhood (June 10, 2001)

Vacant mall becomes home for growing church plant (May 20, 2001)

Single moms find strength to build strong families (May 13, 2001)

Spiritual freedom is hallmark of three-decade ministry (April 29, 2001)

Modern hangout serves as haven for teens (April 22, 2001)

Merged congregation challenges stereotypes (April 8, 2001)

Hell's Alternative: The Reality (March 25, 2001)

Vietnamese congregation moves forward (March 18, 2001)

Rejoicing in the rubble (February 25, 2001)

Faith Health Clinic treats the whole person (February 18, 2001)

Former prostitute befriends box-dwellers (Feb. 11, 2001)

Crisis Pregnancy Outreach saving lives, helping mothers (January 21, 2001)

Ministering at the Gates of Hell (January 14, 2001)

2000 Frontline Reports

Ministering at the Gates of Hell

(January 14, 2001)

Lake Michigan’s shores are packed with people on the balmy summer day I tour the Windy City with nationally appointed home missionaries Tim and Sharon Thomas.

Sharon and Tim Thomas planted this church in 1991. Today they are working on their fifth church plant.

Once comfortably ensconced in a small-town pastorate in Nebraska, the Thomases could never have guessed how their first visit to Chicago would ultimately change their lives.

With a burden for the city on their hearts, they found themselves returning regularly to assist City Limits Ministries with inner-city Food Invasions.

When the burden became a call, they made the move to the inner city. Pouring new fervor into existing ministries, the Thomases saw numerous conversions. But they were frustrated by their inability to get new converts established in churches. The answer: church planting.

In 1991 the Uptown Area was the most densely populated part of Chicago — one and a half square miles with 65,000 people and an incredible 200 language groups, peopled largely by the homeless, mentally ill and occultists. Locals referred to it as "The Gates of Hell."

New Hope Christian Center became the first of four churches the Thomases have planted to date. Averaging only 30 in attendance after a year – all "hard cases," they say – they fought through discouragement to see the church grow significantly.

We pass a corner of Blood Alley where the ministry dispensed food, clothing and spiritual deliverance.

Near here we meet Lillian Knight, 73, on the steps of her apartment. She has been on the streets witnessing, as she does every Saturday. It was on the street that, carrying two sixpacks of beer and a pack of cigarettes, she was handed a tract by a team from City Limits Ministries. Soon thereafter, at New Hope, she was delivered from those habits. Now she is reaching others with those same bondages.

In 1993, the Thomases transitioned New Hope to Jerry and Jeanette Milliken, so they could plant a second church in an area of 100,000 people that had no full-gospel work.

We arrive at that second church, New Life Christian Center, which began in May 1997. The Thomases pastored here the first six months then turned it over to North Central University graduates Ron and Marianne Marsiglio.

Inside we meet 19-year-old Denise McDonald. Crowded into a small apartment with 15 other people, she only knew abusive living conditions. At an outdoor crusade held by New Life she committed her life to the Lord. Denise experienced deliverance and now feels called to ministry.

Hector Galvez, 23, a former gang member, shows me a scar on his chest where he still carries a .22 caliber bullet. When a friend’s mother encouraged him to attend New Life, he did reluctantly, and gave his heart to Christ.

A half-year later Robert Medina was baptized in the church. Medina had been a member of a rival gang that had killed one of Hector’s best friends. The remarkable circumstances that made these two former enemies best friends will be told in a future Pentecostal Evangel.

"We are seeing God raising up the castoffs of society," Ron Marsiglio says, "to do great things for God."

Mabel Alvarez was living in an abandoned building when her 8-year-old son, Ronald, gave his heart to Jesus at a sidewalk Sunday school. He begged her to come to New Life. She did and now she and Ronald’s father, Rodney, who accepted Christ through her letters while in prison, are leaders in the church.

Today as head of City Limits Ministries, Tim Thomas believes church planting is the most effective way of reaching the inner city. "To me the birth of a new church is as exciting as the birth of a human baby," he says. With a goal of seeing strong churches in all of Chicago’s 50 wards, Thomas is currently eyeing a location for his next church plant.

"We love the city," says Thomas. "The key is to love the people."

This love led to the salvation of Anita, a former prostitute who ultimately died of AIDS. "If God brought us to Chicago for nothing else," says Sharon Thomas, "it was worth it for Anita."

But there have been, and will be, many more than just Anita. For Chicago’s inner-city soldiers have determined that … the Gates of Hell shall not prevail.

— Ken Horn

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