WONDER LAKE – The angry and sometimes threatening phone calls at 4 a.m. used to make the Rev. Janie Long cry.
Long has preached on the public access channel so long that she can’t remember when she started, but the response hasn’t always been positive.
“I preach the word,” Long said. “I’m not there to make them mad, but I make them mad. I do. I make them mad. I get nasty, nasty phone calls. Just for preaching the word.
“It used to really bother me because I’m a softy. I come off like I’m hard, but I’m not. I’m a softy. It used to make me cry. It used to hurt me. But, you know what, after all of these years, my shoulders are wider, they’re stronger, and I’m not looking to please man. I’m looking to please God.”
Long grew up on a farm outside Lexington, Ala., and helped her parents grow cotton, corn, peas and peanuts.
Her siblings lived in Zion, so she went to visit them one summer. She got a job in Highland Park and ended up having that job for about 15 years.
Long sat down with reporter Emily K. Coleman to talk about her work in the church.
Coleman: How did you get into the ministry?
Long: I gave my life to Jesus when I was 12 years old, and I would read and pray and communicate with God and he would communicate with me.
I got married when I lived in Alabama, and I came up north. I continued seeking and fasting and going after God.
I asked God to send a pastor to Wonder Lake: “God send a spirit-filled pastor to Wonder Lake,” and he said, “Ask and you shall receive. You’re it!” And I said, “Not me, Lord. Not me.” And he said, “You’re it.”
I’ve been out here working for 40 years.
Coleman: It sounds like you weren’t quite prepared for it, so how did you manage?
Long: I continued to fast and pray and seek God. I asked him for his direction, “How do you want me to go about this? What do you want me to do?” and he said, “Put an ad in the newspaper.” I put the first ad in the newspaper that there is – I used to be Church of God before being ordained with the Pentecostal Church of God.
The first Sunday, one person came for the service, and I used to have it in my living room. I started the church out in my living room, and we got packed out. The people outgrew the living room, so we had to move. We had to have a door put in down here, stairs put in down here. We took the basement here, and we made it a church. We have had awesome, awesome services here.
Coleman: What were your thoughts that first Sunday when one person showed up?
Long: I was prepared. I was prepared to teach, preach to however many people showed up.
Coleman: How is living above a church? Is it strange?
Long: Not at all. I’m used to it. I don’t have to burn gas to go out. This is where the Lord wants it. I always said I didn’t want to put the body of Christ in financial debt. They did not mind coming to the church here because the church is always clean, smelled good, looked good, and it was a place to worship.
I would much rather worship in the church here than in a boat because Jesus taught and preached in a boat. I looked at that, and I thought, “Oh, my goodness.” I’ve had as high as 75 in the church here.
There was a storm once and water was coming down the stairs. People were coming and being saved, people were being healed, and water all in the front of the church here. But that didn’t stop them, and it didn’t stop God. He continued to work.
Coleman: How have things changed over the past 40 years you’ve been in the ministry?
Long: I’ve had a lot of people. They come, and they go. They come from far.
God brings them here, and they can find me on the Internet. When people really want the truth about the word of God and who God is and what Jesus has done for us, they come here. They look me up on TV. They know that I speak and tell the truth. I’m not here for them to fatten my wallet. I’m not here to tickle their ears. I’m here to get them born again. If Jesus comes today, I’ve done everything that I can do for every human being, and I’m going to work on you before you leave. I’m not ashamed of the Lord.
Coleman: How did you end up on the public access channel?
Long: I was in Waukegan at Victory Hospital. It’s Vesta now. Then one of the brothers in Zion said to me, “Sister Long, would you go by the hospital, going home, and see my mother and pray for my mother?” And I said, “I would be honored.”
We came by and the Holy Spirit got a hold of me and took me around and around and around in the parking lot and put me down on my feet and had me to look up. When I looked up, there was a light on the Victory Hospital Wall, and the Holy Spirit said, “You’re going to put me in lights.” You’re going to put me in lights?
Time went on, and time went on. It was too long until I was coming by Comcast. The Holy Spirit said, “Stop,” and I stopped. I went in and I asked, “Who would I talk to about going on TV?”
A man came out, and he gave me the sheet for me to put down my time. I stood there, and I said, “Lord, what time do you want me to go on TV?” And he wanted me to go on the later part of the day, into the evening. He wanted me to go on, so when people come in from work, they could sit down and relax and hear the word of God. I put down – I don’t remember – 10:30, 10 to 11, something like that. It was late.