Meridian Star

March 29, 2014

Reaching out to end youth violence

By Brian Livingston /
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —     AGAPE Storehouse Apostolic Church will host an outreach ministry with Testimony Outreach Day at Highland Park today from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.     There will be music, testimonies, and free hot dogs and drinks.

    "I won't be doing the singing," church co-pastor John H. Willis said while laughing. "I let my wife handle that. I will be on the grill."

    Willis hope the event will bring people in the community together to address problems such as the youth violence that has plagued the city.

    Even the place Willis chose to hold the event holds a certain significance.

    "Highland Park for many years was a place families could come on a nice weekend day and have fun, cookout, and just enjoy the time out," Willis said. "But in the past few years, and especially recently, it has been a place of violence. People are afraid to bring their children out to the park. We want to show the park is still a place that can be safe.

It's not the park. It's the people. If we can reach the people, maybe they will understand."    

    Willis has spent some time as a law enforcement officer in the Delta and knows the challenges and temptations facing the youth of today.

    As a co-pastor at AGAPE Storehouse Apostolic Church with his wife, Linda Willis, John Willis has also seen the impact God has had on the lives of those who chose the life of crime and ultimately went to prison.

    He has seen how the Lord has picked up former criminals and is now using them through the church's outreach program to try and reach out to those who are lost now. It is his hope the program can catch some of these souls before they fall too far.

    "People like to say their situation is so bad that it can't get any worse," Willis said. "But as most of us know, it can always get worse. That is where the Lord comes in. He has made a profound impact on the lives of these individuals in the outreach program. Now they are trying to show through their testimonials there is another choice. There is a light. There is the Lord."

    Willis said he has several members of the church who have spent 10, 15, 20 years in prison. They have seen the depths of their choices and now they have risen above it all. He said the message they will be bringing with them is powerful and inspirational.

    "This cycle of violence we are in right now is because people don't have their home in order," Willis said. "People need to get in the house of the Lord, and then take him home to their home. You have to have both houses in your life. That is the only way I can see that things will change."