Thursday, January 11, 2018

God's Heart for the One

This year was probably one of the coldest New Year's Eve Outreaches that I have ever experienced.  Honestly, when it gets so cold, sometimes I wonder if it's still a good idea to be outside in that kind of weather.  Typically less people are out and about when it's freezing.  But every time I start to think that way the Lord shows me otherwise.  
One day we set up a Prayer Station in Harlem and the snow was coming down.  There weren't very many people walking around.  But people were still stopping for prayer.  My partner and I were standing at the station when a young woman approached in tears. 

"Can you PLEASE pray for me?" she asked as she was sobbing.  We prayed and then talked with her a little more.  She shared with us the multitude of things she was going through.  My heart broke when she said she didn't have anyone to support her.  Perhaps she's burned some bridges along the way but it's not easy to walk through life alone.  If I could have taken her home with me at that moment, I would have.  I wish I could've given more than a simple prayer, a listening ear, and some encouragement.  With street ministry, sometimes it's about being there in that moment for the person even though you may never see them again.  Bottom line, God brought her across our path that day in order to show His love and care for her. 

On New Year's Eve, a man hobbled up to our Prayer Station on 47th St.  He looked over the bibles and tracts and someone from the team struck up a conversation with him.  After a while, I was called over to try and connect him to resources.  He talked a lot about the Bible and his battle with leukemia.  My partner and I took a moment to pray over him.  As we prayed, God's heart for him overwhelmed me.  Here was a broken and sick man that we got to meet on a cold New Year's Eve night.  Once again God had sent us the one that He wanted us to meet.  The one that needed to know God's heart for him. 

These are only a couple of the testimonies like this.  Several others on the teams from Canada, New Hampshire, and Texas had similar stories.  It reminds me of the story of the demoniac man from the land of the Gerasenes in Luke 8:26.  Jesus crossed over the lake and calmed a storm to get to this man.  Once he was delivered and commissioned to tell others about what happened, Jesus got back in the boat and went back to the other side.

ONE man was worth crossing a lake and going through a storm.  ONE person on the streets of New York City is worth standing out in the frigid cold for.   

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Bringing Christmas to the Streets

Freshly fallen snow and the smell of warm cookies from the oven, family gatherings, presents, Pine Trees, Christmas music, stockings by the fireplace - each of these are emblems of Christmas, things we all hold dear during the holiday season. But for those living on the streets, this season can trigger painful memories from the past, of times long ago when they felt loved and cherished.

This is why, every December, we do what we can to bring Christmas to the streets. Each year we organize a cookie bake and make hundreds of Christmas cookies to serve at our different outreaches. Our neighbors look forward to the plate of goodies. The homeless always appreciate these home-baked gifts, and the ladies at the massage parlors always feel particularly blessed to receive them. It is the cookies, plus our friendship, that gives these people (whom the world would call “outcasts”), a sense of belonging and importance during the Christmas season.

And yet, even with all the cookies and carols, we would fail to bring Christmas to the streets if we left out the one thing that makes Christmas so special - The story of Jesus,  the story of God humbling himself to become a man in order to save us. It is this story that motivates everything we do and remains the central message of our ministry. May the message of Christ bring true peace to the hearts of those we serve this holiday season, the people he came to redeem.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Breaking out of Comfort Zones

The men's group from a nearby church recently joined us for a day of street evangelism. I could tell they were getting nervous as we prepped them, but I also knew God would give them the grace to face their fears. Most of the teams we serve are often intimidated by the idea of street ministry because they don't have much (if any) experience. But we exist to come along side our fellow believers and help break them out of their comfort zone. In the end, these guys ended up having a great day and really appreciated the opportunity to serve with us.

Perhaps the most notable moment was when one of the more reserved members of the team was able to answer the questions of a curious Chinese man. He came up to the table asking us questions in Chinese, and so this young man from the team used his broken Chinese to explain what we were doing. The man was very confused about why Jesus had to die on the cross - like why did he have to die like that? Why not die from an illness? Why not burn to death or drown? The young man went on to use his broken Chinese to explain. "God planned out the death of Christ on the cross because that's how the Romans executed the worst of criminals. So when Jesus died on the cross it was not because he was a criminal, but because he was bearing the guilt and punishment of our sin - our crimes against God."

What an excellent answer! I was so proud of him for getting out of his comfort zone and talking to a stranger about Jesus. 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Big Difference of a Small Church

Jeanie in the center with the other ladies at The King's Fellowship
Jeanie made The King's Fellowship her home church in November of 2016, and in only one year's time, the Lord has done quite a bit in her life. Though she was raised Catholic, she was born again as a Christian while in college. Since then, she has typically attended larger churches with congregations ranging from 500 to 1,000 members. Though these churches provided her with plenty of good spiritual nourishment and helped her to kick-start walk with God, there were also some setbacks. She explained, "When I was attending larger churches, I would at times find myself 'going through the motions' on a Sunday morning." Jeanie also felt that the large number of people made it easy to get "lost in the crowd", but in a small congregation, like The King's Fellowship, such situations are impossible.

Jeanie and Carol out at the Prayer Station
"I never thought I would see myself attending a very small church, but since being at the King's Fellowship, I've been finding myself regularly involved and really connecting with David, Robin, and the SLM staff. Everyone is really welcoming, which is something I didn't always find in the large corporate settings. It keeps me accountable and there is no 'going through the motions'. It has stretched me in many ways, and it's a good thing."

One of Jeanie's favorite parts of the service is the fellowship meal. It gives her the opportunity to connect with everybody in a setting that makes her feel like she's part of the family. Since attending, Jeanie has been able to serve with SLM in various ministry settings and has even contributed her musical abilities to the worship team. We have certainly been blessed in having her attend!

She concluded by saying: "I have much more joy in my life now than I ever had before. I always look forward to going to The King's Fellowship."

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

"You Guys are Definitely Going to Heaven"

It was a brisk morning down on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. When the chill of autumn starts to set in, our friends at the park get very excited about the warm soup we bring. The soup doesn't last long out there.

As I was pouring a fresh cup to set out on the table, an older Spanish man from the streets came up for his second helping. "You guys are so nice," he said sincerely, "You guys are definitely going to heaven!" I didn't quite know what to say. I thought to myself, "My 'kindness' earns me a right to heaven? No way!" After a brief silence, I said, "Thank you for your kind words, but my kindness is not the reason I'm going to heaven."

He looked up at me as if he was confused. "What do you mean?" he asked. I said, "The only reason I'm going to heaven is because Jesus died to cover my sins and I have trusted in Him to save me."

He chuckled to himself. He didn't seem convinced that a "nice" guy like me would need a Savior. So he retorted, "Are you a criminal?" "I used to be!" I replied. My answer shocked him. I continued, "You're looking at one of the most wicked people on the planet! I'm not good and I definitely need a Savior."

We went on to talk about different sins that he and I had both committed. We shared a common guilt.  I explained what the Bible said about all of us falling short of the glory of God and how we can all be justified by faith. This is the only hope for sinners like us. The One Person who qualified for heaven was Jesus Christ.  We can’t get there on our own merit but solely through His.  The way to do that is to repent and believe in Christ and the all-sufficient atonement that He made on the cross!

It always amazes me the way God gives us these kinds of opportunities to explain the gospel in such a wide variety of circumstances - even over a cup of soup!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

"Why haven't you asked for money yet?"

As soon as I saw him, I knew God wanted me to speak with him. He sat down on the bench across from the worship band, and watched very intently as we set up the music gear. Before we started our first set, I approached him and said, "What brings you out here today?"

"Oh, just enjoying the weather." He said. "You guys are playing some music?"

I replied, "We sure are!" When he asked why, I explained that we come out to worship Jesus in public places because he is worthy of our praise. He began to explain the confusion he's had about all the different world religions. He had tried to make sense of it all but couldn't, and he eventually settled into a frustrated agnosticism. We talked for a while about why I follow Jesus instead of other world religions and we continued to talk between each worship set the entire day.

After our third or fourth talk, I wondered if I was getting through to him. But everything changed when I sat down with him the last time. He asked, "Why haven't you guys asked for money yet? You guys don't even have a place for people to put money as they walk by like most street musicians do."

I smiled at him and said, "We haven't asked for money because we aren't out here for money."

"Well then why are you out here?" He asked.

This gave me the opportunity to explain that my motive was purely to praise Jesus and to share Jesus  with the people at the park. As someone who ran a very successful business, it was hard for him to process how we could do all of this work without asking for money. It really rocked him. He was humbled by what we were doing. I just continued to explain that this is the Love of God that he was witnessing at the park, and that he could also know this love if he turned and followed Jesus. 

Reaching Families with Kindness

The parks in New York City are just teeming with children! During Worship Warfare Week, these kids are a significant focus of our ministry. Our time spent with them often opens up opportunities to minister to the parents, who would otherwise take no interest us. As Hannah from the New Hampshire team told us, "I loved to watch the parents as we interacted with the kids. There was a lady at the third park who came to have her kids' faces painted but she stood at a distance, watching with a skeptical look and her arms crossed. After painting their faces, I sat down and drew chalk pictures with her kids. They loved it! Her face began to soften and eventually I was able to talk with her about her kids, their talents and aspirations. Eventually they left, but about an hour later they showed up again. She said her kids had such a good time with us that she had to bring them back. This time I sat with them just blowing bubbles and laughing. The mom stood and watched, but this time she had a smile on her face. It was cool to see that I was able to minister to her by loving her kids and spending time with them."