Leon Harris was known throughout his church as a handsome young man who worked hard for the Lord. He planned to go to college and possibly major in business, and he wasn’t far from the goal, especially since he was on the brink of completing his junior year of high school.
Late on the night on April 3, Harris was shot in the back during an attempted robbery while on his way home from work. This was just two days before his church, Victory Christian Center, would host the planning meeting for a “Crusade for Peace” aimed at lessening violent crime in Philadelphia. “I found it so ironic, well there are no ironies with God, that our son, our youth was gunned down right before we all met. It has hit too close to home for us to turn our heads and pretend that this problem doesn’t exist,” said Rev. Westley Proctor, church administrator and youth pastor.
The leaders of the church kept Harris in their minds and in their prayers as they got down to business on April 5. The deacon board was on post by 6 a.m. to get ready for the planning meeting.
“Despite our own crisis we had to put all those things aside and serve our guests. It was a humbling experience,” said Deaconess Carolyn Adams.
The hospitality ministry served breakfast to about 400 people before they were escorted to their seats in the main sanctuary to await the arrival of Bishop T.D, pastor of the Potter’s House, a mega-church in Dallas. Jakes arrived without fanfare or glitz and glamour.
“I don’t know what I was expecting. It proved that he is a man first, and when he is focused on Bishop T.D Jakes talked about the need to promote peace and delivered a sermon.
“This fight is not to just be fought with new laws or new strategies, but a new level of prayer. We need to get back to the basics,” said Jakes.
Jakes highlighted the importance of uniting to demolish “old “mentalities about “new” situations. He brought attention to the fact that the majority of the victims were young people and said that he believes very strongly that Satan is attacking the youth of this generation, “The Joshua Generation,” as he called them.
Since 2002, the homicide rate in Philadelphia has been on the rise, reaching 400 deaths last year and now resting on at over 100 victims. More than half the victims were under 21 years old.Jakes’ sermon ended up being the core of the meeting. The pastors and leaders appeared unmoved by the change of plans took notes as Jakes preached.
“The bottom line is without the word of God we will not be able to defeat the deep rooted issues that are facing the world. We are living in a corrupt time,” said Pastor Steven Walker, founder of Abundant Life Healing Fellowship Church.
None of the invited elected officials showed up for the planning meeting. Nonetheless, Bishop Jimmie A. Ellis, founder of Victory Christian Center. Said he was pleased with the outcome.
“I am overjoyed with the turnout. I do wish our political leaders would have come, but I understand that we all get busy. I’m just glad that for once we are uniting for a cause greater than ourselves and I’m looking forward to mass movement,” said Bishop Ellis.
Bishop Jakes said the crusade can’t just end with Texas or Philadelphia. It must be taken across the country, because everyone is suffering from violence, he said. With that in mind he has decided to fund a leadership conference in Washington, D.C., in the fall to begin a Crusade for Peace tour.
Leon Harris, the shooting victim, said he is ready to get back to work and is planning to participate in the coming events.