Deacon Wes announced during his sermon that he has taken a position at our sister church in Downers Grove.
It was 10 years ago on 11 October 2008 that he met with Pastor Catiana at Common Cup coffee house [one block east of UCRP]. There, he shared with Catiana God’s call to start a youth program at UCRP. Pastor Catina gave her blessing but made it clear that there was no money for his idea.
The youth program started off with poor attendance. What he learned in school did not work in the real world of inner-city children. No one showed up for pizza during an youth night at the church. Having to change the expectations he had learned in school about youth programs, Wes instead listened to the community’s needs, and then the program grew.
First, the two-day a week after school program with about 10 children grew to 5 days a week. This free program is host to about 30 children. There is also a free summer day camp, with lunch, that has served up to 90 children in a day.
With no money, Wes raised funds from donations, grants, and the community. A current example is the Pumpkins Patch Sale. UCRP Pumpkin Patch sells pumpkins at three times the price than at the neighborhood grocery store, Morse Market. Wes believes this is because the community understands they are not buying just a pumpkin at UCRP; they are buying for their community and its children.
God called Deacon Wes to UCRP and now God is calling him to First United Methodist Church in Downers Grove. During his interview at Downers Grove, they asked why he was leaving UCRP? He told them that while at times UCRP is unable to reach it payroll on time, UCRP is more powerful and will overcome with Rogers Park community. Unbeknownst to Wes, after his interview was over, the powerful story of UCRP and it community that he shared led to one of the interviewees at Downers Grove to send a considerable donation to be used to support the clergy and staff salaries. “This is because the value of UCRP to this neighborhood is known them.”
In his sermon, Wes said, “The major news you hear about in the news is all happening at some level in Rogers Park--immigration and refugee issues, poverty, hunger, gun violence...and we address that” He feels strongly about this statement. But God has called him to move to his next chapter. “We cannot build a house of God because God is too big for just one house. God is in each one of us.”
Every church he has served: Mississippi, Barrington, Roselle still feel like home to him when he visits. UCRP will also always be home to him.
Wes ended with tears saying, “I’ve have been called and I’ve got to go.”
Our music director made a last minute change to the response hymn, to sing "Here I Am, Lord." Only 13 people sang the hymn after his message. It is believed that many in the congregation were absorbing his message. While Wes' departure will leave a large hole at UCRP, Wes believes that there are many volunteers who will fill these positions that Wes held. Deacon Wes' last Sunday will be the 18 November, and we send him to the next stage of his journey with love, admiration, and the deepest of gratitude for his service to this congregation and community.
"I will go, Lord, if you lead me. I will hold your people in my heart." - from Here I Am, Lord