Ron Kooyman

Ron Kooyman

“I’ve been in Chicago 30 years. I came to Chicago to do inner-city youth and children’s ministry. I was 36 years old then, and violence has gotten much worse since then. That’s horrendous for somebody to be killed by a couple of criminals in his own yard while putting [Christmas] lights on his house.”

“Jose [Tellez] was a hard worker from what I could tell. After the news, I went over and gave his daughter and wife a card, a book about heaven and some money to express my condolences. A friend that speaks Spanish fluently went with me to see them. The family was angry and grieving, of course. They lost their dad unnecessarily.”

“For me personally, this violence next door to me, and the citizenry electing a new mayor soft on prosecuting criminals, were like signs to me from God I should get out of the city. It was the major reason I decided to move out of the city.”

“I came to Chicago in about 1992. I did gang outreach when I first came here along 26th Street, and I knew I was somewhat in danger when 11 o’clock at night I’d be on a street corner talking to the gang members. I realized at that point there could be a drive-by shooting. But as far as walking down 31st Street or 26th Street in the daytime or early evening, I didn’t have much concern.”

“There was always a chance that something bad could happen, but I didn’t worry about it because a lot of the violence was gang on gang. But it’s no surprise that people want to leave Chicago now because it doesn’t seem like it’s limited to gang members anymore.”

“I also ran Bible clubs for children, teenagers and college-age kids at my house. I gave out invitations for kids to come over from the various clubs. I had a basketball court in the side yard, a place to play soccer and pool.”

“They would come on their own and it always included singing gospel songs and a Bible lesson and hotdogs or pizza afterwards. It was a nice evening for the older ones, but I think kids are more reticent about going outside now.”

“When I moved here, it was rare in the news to hear about smash-and-grabs or several people in one neighborhood being robbed at gunpoint or somebody not involved in a gang having been shot and killed.”

“Now that I’m 66, I think twice about what I would do if somebody confronted me. I think we’re also not being as well protected. I know I’ve called 911 and that doesn’t do much good. I mean, why stay in the big city if you’re not feeling safe?”

Ron Kooyman
Pastor, Cicero Bible Church
Morris, Illinois

Want more? Get stories like this delivered straight to your inbox.

Thank you, we'll keep you informed!
Keep scrolling for more inspiring stories

Have a story to share?

Tell us how a state or local policy affects your life.
If we decide to feature your story, one of our writers will reach out to you directly.