IRVINGTON -- critical year, Marques-Aquil Lewis and also Rev. Ron Christian were leaving Christian's parish in Irvington, your spirits high ~ a special organization for the reverend's 50th birthday.

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As they walked the end onto Lyons Avenue, a woman approached the renowned pastor and thrust herself right into his arms. Broke and also desperate, she confessed that she and her five kids were encountering eviction if they could not pay your rent.

Without a moment's hesitation, Christian went because that an envelope he was carrying, almost overflowing v cash from the organization offering.

"Reverend Ron got to in his back pocket and also reached for the envelope and gave it to this lady,' stated Lewis. "He stated 'God has blessed me too much for me to it is in stingy.'"

Though momentarily bring away aback, Lewis said he was hardly surprised in ~ the generosity shown by Christian, the influential pastor of Christian Love Baptist Church who passed away suddenly Friday morning in ~ the period of 51.

"This guy has given so lot to so countless people. The took treatment of so numerous families. He's a pioneer in Essex County," that said.

Outpourings that love and also support came from every corners that the Newark area Friday to respect Christian, who generosity to be matched only by his seemingly limitless energy and also compassion.

The boy of a Baptist preacher, Christian's path to the pulpit was far from typical. He started a career as a correction officer, ultimately rising come the rank of sergeant at north State Prison.

By the early on 1990s, however, the had started using cocaine and also heroin, leading him down a dark path that had 14 trips come rehabilitation facilities. The treatment failed to curb the habit, however, and also he was ultimately sent to prison for theft in 1996.

He arised a new man the following year, identified to turn his life end to God. He started visiting local rehab clinics and also homeless shelters, and developed a reputation as an energetic, fiery preacher v seemingly limitless compassion.

He took end the helm of then-bankrupt Christian Love Baptist Church in 2000, growing the congregation of about a dozen to more than 6,000 end the years and also transforming that dilapidated building into one of the area's most vibrant houses that worship.

Despite his conversion to a life the morality, friends and also parishioners say his checkered past was never far from his mental or his sermons -- exemplified through the large "All Sinners Welcome" sign posted exterior his church.

Thomas LaVone, a fashion designer and also part-time minister at Christian Love, recalled his witnessing his first service after returning to the Newark area indigenous Florida in 2002.

"Reverend Ron taught such a powerful message, it just drew me to him," that said. "He wasn't one of the pastors the preached and did no live what they were saying."

After security time through Christian, LaVone was inspired to fully invest in his designing career, i beg your pardon has since led him to stints working for Tommy Hilfiger and Armani Exchange, and also a duty on the truth TV collection "Jerseylicious".

Lewis do a similar conversion, crediting Christian v guiding that on his course from a corridor member to the ministry and also a career in politics (he is at this time a an elderly aide come Newark mayor Ras Baraka and vice chairman that the Newark school Advisory Board).

Christian's stature in the neighborhood often led murder suspects and other want criminals to seek him out for guidance. After some prayer and conversation, many opted to rotate themselves in.

"He wanted to be a conduit between police and also troubled youth in the community," said former Newark Police director Samuel Demaio, who currently holds the same write-up in Bloomfield. "He did it v a real careful balance. He had the ability to befriend both law enforcement and also some of the people involved in criminal task in the street."

By 9 a.m. This morning, more than 100 world had gathered exterior Christian Love church together word the his fatality spread. Anthony Ambrose, cook of detectives because that the Essex ar Prosecutor's Office, claimed a family member discovered Christian unresponsive at the Lyons path parish about 6 a.m.

Police execute not suspect foul play to be involved, and also Ambrose stated there were no indicators of trauma top top his body. A toxicology test will certainly be performed prior to an official reason of death is determined, that added.

Friends and parishioners say Christian had no obvious health issues, leaving them to wonder how their benevolent leader's life was cut short.

Essex County executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr. Authorize a explain Friday morning call Christian a "special and also tremendous individual."

"His energetic sermons spiritually urged his congregation at Christian Love Baptist Church and also his dynamic personality and also kind words influenced everyone he met,' the said. "It didn't issue who you were due to the fact that Rev. Ron welcomed human being from every walks that life right into his church and also into his very own life."

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