Urban Chronicles
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Urban Chronicles


Band Hip Hop R&B


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Christian outreach ministry Hip Hop Haven hopes to reach teens through music and dance

Miguel Ortiz (front), organizer of Hip Hop Haven, is joined by teens Jamia Oliver (from left), Danny Lee and Tasha Morales outside Urban Promise in Camden.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Courier-Post Columnist

Picture a church service designed for urban teens. Instead of a choir, it would have hip-hop artists and step dancers. Instead of a live band, it might have a DJ. Instead of a pastor preaching from a pulpit, it might have somebody such as 28-year-old Miguel Ortiz "keeping it real" and delivering his personal testimony.

This is Hip Hop Haven, a Christian outreach ministry beginning next week in Camden. It's the project of Urban Mission Fellowship, an ecumenical and multicultural collaboration of area churches interested in hooking young people.

Pastor Noel A. Morales, a street preacher in Camden, came up with the idea after pestering a teenager on a street corner about why she stopped coming to church. She told him church was boring.

"Kids nowadays make a lot of excuses," said Morales, who holds an afternoon service at Urban Promise at 36th and Federal streets. "They have to do this and they have to do that. There's no time for God, no time for church. But if I tell them I'm having a concert, they say, `Oh, yeah! I'll be there.' "

How does a 51-year-old preacher do that?

Morales approached Ortiz, a former club and concert promoter whose life once mirrored the stereotypical lyrics of the big-name artists he brought to town.

Four years ago, after he was questioned in a fatal nightclub shooting, Ortiz walked away from his business, the money, the women and the drugs.

After he was released by police, Ortiz spent a day looking at his life and praying. The next day, he said, he was back in church.

"I remember the Holy Spirit just saying, `What are you doing? I haven't called you to do this. My streets are crying for you.' " Ortiz recalled. He turned his life over to God and joined the Coast Guard.

Now nearing the end of his enlistment, Ortiz and two partners have formed a nonprofit organization called Vigilant Multimedia & Entertainment, which seeks to promote the Christian Gospel through music, drama and the arts.

Lately, VME has been doing just that. In December, the Voorhees resident organized a holy hip-hop concert for his congregation, Revo Youth Church, under Cherry Hill's Kingsway Church. In March, at Morales' request, Ortiz put together another concert, this time at Urban Promise in Camden. About 140 kids showed up.

"Even when we told them, `You have to go home,' they didn't want to go home," said Morales. "Kids were fellowshipping, taking each other's names and addresses. They loved it. They are the ones that asked me to do it again."

He went back to Urban Mission Fellowship, which decided to organize a monthly outreach service through the summer on the last Saturdays of May, June, July and August.

Hip Hop Haven is not a church, said Carol Pavlicin, a 47-year-old Cherry Hill resident and a member of Urban Mission Fellowship's board of directors.

"Kids don't like to do church," Pavlicin explained. She prefers to call this "youth fellowship." The message will be the same, but the way it's delivered will be different.

Eventually, the organizers hope to broaden their outreach and become a resource for other churches. Urban Mission Fellowship already holds a weekly Bible study at Urban Promise. It hopes the monthlyservice will draw more to attend.

Pavlicin's 18-year-old daughter, Tracey, goes to the Bible study with her mother. The two have passed out flyers in Camden, inviting kids to next week's service. They've been receptive, said Tracey.

"I think they're ready to see who God really is," Tracey Pavlicin said. "They don't want the boring traditions. They want to live in a radical new way that's relevant to the culture."

When they do come, they'll hear the rap artistry of Jessica Garcia, aka Jusdis. The 21-year-old Philadelphian is signed with VME. She and her fellow artists perform mostly in churches. The kids love it, she said.

"My testimony is the biggest part of my ministry," said Garcia, who became a Christian about a year and a half ago. "If you can be real to the youth, the youth is going to respond to that."

Her life turned around one night after she accepted a friend's invitation to attend church. The pastor was preaching out of the basement of a house. As soon as she walked in, he looked at her and told her Jesus loved her, but didn't love the life she was living.

"The tears started coming to my eyes," recalled Garcia. "It was anger. This guy doesn't know me from a can of spray paint."

The conversation changed her and on Feb. 4, 2004, she became a Christian. Now, she said, she wants to share her - Courier Post (NJ)


VME along with Most High Records produced and recorded Urban Chronicles with DJ J Rivas mixed Holy Hip Hop CD. The CD is titled "Times UP" and you can sample the music here on our epk.



Vigilant Multimedia & Entertainment bring to the urban community DJ J Rivas a hip hop dj that has changed his life and given his heart to Christ. DJ J Rivas has true praise behind his talent which is shown in his "scratch praise."
VME also focuses on using multimedia to bring the Gospel to our community. Our primary venue is our
Hip Hop Church. Hip Hop Haven is on the last saturday of every month in philadelphia. -see pdf rider in this epk to read an article from the Courier Post.