Participants in Saturday’s prayer walk, hosted by Impact Ministries, pray for Impact’s leaders, Pastor Anthony Pelegrino. | Sebastian Hidalgo/VFP
Tuesday, August 1, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews
On July 29, Pastor Anthony Pelegrino, who heads up Impact Ministries in Maywood, led around two dozen people on a prayer walk along the Prairie Path, from 17th Ave. to 11th Ave. and back.
The walk through Maywood was more than a demonstration for the 42-year-old resident of Downers Grove.
“I used to buy drugs out here,” Pelegrino said while standing on a plot of grass where the path meets the concrete road at 17th Ave., near Madison St.
Nowadays, Pelegrino, who said he has been clean for 10 years, is looking for a physical space for his burgeoning ministry. He said he has sights set on Emerson Elementary School, 311 Washington Blvd. in Maywood.
Around 20 people participated during Saturday’s prayer walk, which spanned roughly six blocks along the Prairie Path. | Sebastian Hidalgo
Those are, admittedly, unlikely hopes for someone who never imagined he’d be preaching, Pelegrino said.
“I started hanging out with gangs at 12 years old and then it escalated from there,” Pelegrino said. “I was doing drugs until my 30s. At 20, I lost my sister and when that happened, I told myself, ‘If there’s a God in heaven, I don’t want him in my life.’ I said I was just going to be the devil’s right hand man and for close to 10 years that’s what I did.”
Pelegrino said that his life changed gradually after he started working part-time at a financial company that prioritized “God, family and business.” At his job, he met Tracy, the woman he’d eventually marry.
Pelegrino, second from left, and others pray in shadow. | Sebastian Hidalgo
“One day, I was coming down [from a high] so bad that I yelled out, ‘Lord, if you give me just one more day I’ll stop doing drugs’,” he said. “It was a lie. The next day, I got up and bought an eight ball, but from that day on, God started putting people in my path to see his love—that came through the business and my wife.”
Tracy began inviting him to church. Pelegrino tried to leverage the invites into a first date—something that was easier attempted than done.
“I hadn’t been to church in over 12 years,” he said. “I thought I’d get lucky and she’d go out on a date with me. That didn’t happen. But eventually the Holy Spirit got into my heart. I would sit in this church for a year and a half every Sunday with my arms crossed, crying my eyes out.”
Saturday’s prayer walk is one of many community outreach events hosted by Impact Ministries. | Sebastian Hidalgo/VFP
Gradually, however, Pelegrino relented—both to Tracy and to God. They got married and he drew closer to what now has become his mission. Since founding the ministry several years ago, Pelegrino has hosted regular outreach events, such as food drives and prayer walks.
The next step is a brick-and-mortar worship location. The pastor said that he’s received supportive feedback from District 89 officials, as well as village officials.
The walk last Saturday came about after Pelegrino approached Maywood Police Chief Valdimir Talley, asking him for input into what kind of community outreach efforts would be most needed.
“I asked the chief what he needed from Impact and he said, ‘Go do a prayer walk for us,’” Pelegrino said. “He told me where and why and I said, ‘That makes sense.’ The village has been very receptive in the process.”
Members of Impact Ministries crossing 11th Ave. during Saturday’s prayer walk.
| Sebastian Hidalgo/VFP
Maywood Trustee Kimyada Wellington, who participated in Saturday’s event, said these demonstrations give residents “a sense of purpose.”
Rev. Darryl Bass, a Maywood resident and the president of the Washington Dual Language Academy PTO, said that he came out to the walk in support of Pelegrino’s message.
“These kinds of things are important not only to Maywood but to our nation,” Bass said. VFP