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Salvation in the Streets

Evangelist takes the gospel to people unlikely to walk into church.

Street-side ministry holds a powerful meaning for evangelist Ivan Itzkowitz Jr.

He became a Christian on a street corner late one night in 2004, and since then he’s led a ministry on one of the busiest thoroughfares in Hollywood, Florida. He says he has led 5,000 people to salvation in Jesus.

Fourteen years ago, Itzkowitz, now 45, says he was an angry man carrying pain from a childhood in an abusive and controlling home. He even plotted killing his father, going as far as buying a shotgun. Then he learned what it meant to be a Christian from an unlikely source: his best friend, a gang member and drug dealer.

His friend had killed the son of a fellow drug dealer and afterwards fled and disappeared for years, even though authorities deemed the killing occurred in self-defense. Eventually, the friend said he felt compelled by God to return to preach on streets in the same neighborhood where he shot the man earlier.

“This was not the person I knew,” Itzkowitz says. Itzkowitz prayed for God to open up ministry opportunities like his friend’s. He says God told him to forgive his father, so he went to his father’s home immediately and asked for forgiveness.

“He told me words I had never heard: I love you, son,” recalls Itzkowitz after initiating the reconciliation. “The weight of hate was gone and I was set free.”

Itzkowitz says he sensed God call him to minister to people on the streets. He began preaching and praying for the sick just two weeks after receiving salvation. Walk for Christ Ministries began small, but has grown, with his wife, Jeanette, 17-year-old daughter Natalie, and 13-year-old son Nathaniel involved.

“Some people don’t want to go to church because they have this stigma that the church wants their money,” says the Assemblies of God evangelist.

The ministry’s primary outreach is an annual three-mile walk on Pines Boulevard and University Drive. The walk is always the Saturday before Thanksgiving, this year landing on Nov. 17.

Itzkowitz says nearly 1,000 volunteers — people from various churches, backgrounds, and ethnicities — have joined him on the walk over the years. The ministry features live worship, preaching, and prayer.

“We try to get as many Christians as we can and we do a walk right on the busiest street,” he says. “God wants to show people you don’t have to be within four walls to see His glory and see His power.”

Pastor J. Abraham with International Street Outreach has partnered with Itzkowitz since 2005 for the walk. He says it’s an unusual ministry that’s brought together many organizations to preach the gospel.

“We have one purpose: reaching people where a lot of churches won't go,” Abraham says. “We stand together to give honor and glory to Jesus Christ. I have seen miracles as we pray for others on the street.” That includes a wheelchair-bound man able to walk after receiving prayer from volunteers in 2016.

In addition to the annual walks, Walk for Christ hosts men’s and women’s conferences and Rock the Block ministry events.

Christine Temple

Christine Temple is a writer based in southwest Missouri who works as the features editor and audience development director at the Springfield Business Journal. She previously managed communications at Ozarks Food Harvest, worked as a reporter at the Springfield News-Leader, and served as editor of Evangel University's student newspaper, The Lance. Temple graduated from Evangel with a Bachelor's Degree in journalism and was named the Student Journalist of the Year by the Society of Collegiate Journalists in 2013.