Camden, New Jersey — A New Jersey-based evangelistic ministry is on a mission to take the Gospel of peace to what is known as the most dangerous city in America.
Jeff Rose of Jeremiah Cry Ministries says that approximately three months ago, he felt moved to open-air preach in Camden, New Jersey, a city that is plagued by immense violence, drug use and prostitution. It is also a city that recently announced that it would be disbanding its police force due to financial reasons.
“Every time you bring up Camden to somebody, they just cringe and they get this look on their face like, ‘You guys shouldn’t be going down there. It’s extremely dangerous,'” Rose told Christian News Network. “[But], those kinds of places that are the darkest need the Gospel the most.”
“The city is completely given up to anarchy,” he explained. “They’ve got a new memorial that they’ve put up in front of the courthouse [due to] all of these kids getting killed … like these drive bys [and] children getting shot.”
However, things weren’t always that way.
“There was once a time when Camden was said to be a very safe town, where people could leave their doors unlocked,” he said. “And now, obviously it’s just crime infested to the absolute max, and the violence and the corruption there is just unbelievable.”
Rose stated that he believes a lot of the violence that is occurring throughout the country, including the string of deadly rampages that have broken out this year and climaxed with the Newtown, Connecticut shooting, are a direct result of our nation’s rebellion against God.
“Obviously, any time that God’s law and God Himself is rejected, and the society turns away from honoring God and exalting His law, I think these are the repercussions,” he said. “When we deny God or turn away from God as we have done, these are the byproducts.”
Rose, who has been in ministry since 2007, outlined that he was first inspired to reach out to the residents of violence-wracked Camden after discussing with a fellow street preacher the cities that they would like to visit for evangelistic purposes.
“So, I’m like, ‘I’d like to go down there and check it out,'” he said. “These people need to hear the truth.”
Rose and his friend Dave Griffin then decided to set up in one of the most populated areas of downtown Camden, where they could preach and witness to passersby and those that take the city buses. Rose said that he also decided to erect a wooden pulpit on the street so that the area looked almost like an outdoor church.
“We’ve set up this atmosphere like we’re bringing the church to them,” he explained. “They kind of have this reverent attitude when they see us, so they will stop and gather around.”
“Obviously we get people yelling at us and cussing at us [as well] because we are confronting the sins of the society that’s down there,” Rose continued. “We’re confronting prostitutes; we’re confronting the drug addicts; we’re letting them know that what they’re doing is wrong. It’s a sin against God, and God sees everything that they do, even those things that they think they’re doing in secret. God sees it.”
Rose recently witnessed the power of God working in the lives of the hearers when a man named Jason stopped in his tracks as he heard the Lord being glorified on the streets.
“A young man had went to jail for killing somebody in a drug deal,” he said. “He punched a kid and didn’t know he hit the kid as hard as he did and ended up killing this guy. He went to jail for a couple of years, and then he was going to be arraigned.”
While Jason believed that he was going to be sentenced to life in prison, due to a technical matter, he was released from jail and allowed to reenter society.
Upon release, Jason took a bus into Camden where he was going to buy some drugs to get high. However, God had other plans.
“We had a lady [named Sally] that was singing hymns in the middle of our preaching,” Rose explained, “And he was caught under the power of God as he walked by and heard her singing. He said that he had never heard anything like that in Camden in his entire life, and he said that he just knew that God was speaking to him.”
“He stopped and just looked at us with this look of bewilderment,” he continued. “Dave began to witness to him and he just was broken. He said he hadn’t smiled in years. It was like the first time that he’s ever smiled — he can’t even remember how long.”
Rose then gave the man a Bible, who received it graciously.
“He ended up giving us these big hugs, and he said, ‘You guys saved my life. I was on the way to get some drugs and I ended up running into you guys. And now, I’ve got a Bible and I’m going to go home.'”
Rose said that all that witnessed God working that day were left in awe.
“It was an amazing day for us,” he recalled. “We were just amazed at how God is working down there.”
Rose has been capturing the ministry’s outreach on film as he is currently working on a documentary of his time in Camden.
“We’re going to go into the city for a year, and then gather the statistics after one year of public proclamation, [and see] what kind of effect it has on the city,” Rose advised.
The film, tentatively titled Camden: Taking the Gospel Into America’s Most Dangerous City, is currently in production and will be released in 2013.
Rose said that just as he and others have gone out onto the streets to pierce the darkness with the light of the Gospel, more Christians throughout the Camden area should likewise be compelled to share Christ in the city, and not shrink back.
“We need the presence of Christians down in those areas: praying, preaching, one-on-ones, reaching out to the homeless — doing whatever we can to see the Lord Jesus Christ exalted,” he declared. “We need their witness in the dark areas. Only salt and light can heal an area like Camden.”