Friday, May 19, 2017

Honoring Unsung Heroes

Marie Mellencamp with her son and her daughter
Heaven will be filled with unsung heroes. Though they serve behind the scenes, and rarely get any recognition, they make a significant contribution to the Kingdom that is felt by many. One such hero was Marie Mellencamp. Ten years ago, she decided to start knitting scarves for us to give out on the streets. She continued this ministry until she passed away earlier this month. She was 81 when she died, and remained faithful to the end. Only the Lord knows how many scarves she knit and how those scarves blessed the people we gave them too, but one thing we do know – she is an inspiration to us all.  
Our dear friend, Mr. Chan, wearing one of Marie's scarves
Some others who have used their gifts and talents to give to those in need are the ladies at the Stoneridge Village residence.  They made beautiful quilts to bless the unfortunate at Tompkins Square Park.  They served faithfully through the years until just recently when they let us know it has become too physically challenging to continue their service.
WE JUST WANT TO SAY THANK YOU!  It is evident in these women that we are able to serve God at any age if we just give away what He has given us!

A few of the quilts sent by the ladies of Stoneridge Village

God Has Not Forgotten Them

"No one from the Church has ever come to visit us before." Coming from one of the ladies who worked in the massage parlor, we knew the Lord was leading us to the right place as we prayed prior to entering.  Implicit in her statement was the notion that she had been isolated from the religious community due to her line of work.  Yet our presence and the simple gift bag filled with candies and lotion was enough to show her how much God loves her.
By breaking through stigmas and kindly initiating friendships with these women, we have the tremendous opportunity to share Jesus with women who have almost completely been forgotten - even forgotten by the Church. But God has not forgotten these women. In fact, He sees them every moment of every day. He has the hair on their heads numbered, He even knows when they sit and when they rise. Beautiful One, Street LIFE Ministries’ outreach to women in the sex industry, continues to be a picture of His tremendous love and care for each woman. In 2016 we went approximately 30 times to various massage parlors and strip clubs, giving out more than 1,000 gifts to the men and women who work there. We thank you for all your support and prayers that help make this ministry possible.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Bringing Light into the Darkness

"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden."
~ Matthew 5:14 ~

If we are the "light of the world", then we must be committed to going to the dark places. We bring the gospel to men and women in the LGBT community that feel alone, discarded, and rejected. We go to the women in the massage parlors and strip clubs who feel ashamed of what they do. We go to the homeless who are often passed by and forgotten by society. And for the ones from other religions such as Islam, Buddhism, or Hinduism, we break down their walls of defense through friendly interaction. It can be challenging to enter into somebody else’s world, but we must seize every opportunity that comes our way if we are to love people the way Jesus did.

One such opportunity came recently when I noticed a man standing at a distance, curiously looking at our prayer station. I approached the man and asked if he needed prayer. He said, “I am a Muslim. What’s a prayer station? What are you guys doing out here?” After explaining our ministry to him, I said, “To be honest, I don’t really know too much about Islam. Would you be willing to tell me more about what you believe?” It turned out that he had actually studied Islamic theology in Turkey for two years after graduating high school. Naturally, my question triggered an enthusiastic response from him, and we ended up talking for over an hour about our beliefs. It was an enjoyable discussion and, after becoming friends on Facebook, I asked him to send me videos about Islam from some of his favorite Islamic scholars so I could continue to learn more. And that’s exactly what he did!

After watching the videos he sent me, I asked if we could meet up again, not just to discuss theology, but also to hang out and get to know each other. Since our first interaction at the prayer station, I’ve gotten to meet him and some of his other Muslim friends. We’ve enjoyed each other’s company and discussed many matters of religion. I was most moved when he told me how much he appreciated all my intrigue and authenticity. He said most of his interaction with Christians had been disappointing because they had no interest in understanding Islam. He told me, “The fact that you actually wanted to know what I believe meant so much to me.”

I have learned that the best way to enter into someone else’s worldview is to actually get to know the people who adhere to that worldview. As we come to understand what other people believe, we will demonstrate compassion and care, and we will also understand how to share the gospel with relevancy. 

"Every Day of Our Lives can be an Outreach"

It's not uncommon for God to change people's perspectives during their time at Street LIFE Ministries. On our most recent team, a girl named Amanda had one such experience. She met a man named Isaac at the Prayer Station who she described as "overflowing with the love of God". He came up to them, blessed them, and started sharing the gospel with people who were standing by the table. He wanted everybody to hear about Jesus, and he was so excited to see young people out on the streets sharing the gospel. 

Amanda's team from Ohio
Amanda reported, "Even though he desperately wanted us to pray for him and I was the one on the missions trip, I think that Isaac had a way bigger, life-changing impact on me than I did on him. That was huge to me." Due to this experience she testified, "One important thing that God showed me on this trip is that everyday of our lives can be an outreach. We don't have to go on some trip because we never know how we are affecting people around us with the small things we do." 

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Muslims Need a Mediator Too!

“No, Jesus did not die on the cross, and he did not die for our sins.” Muhammad said to one of the guys from the Ohio team. “If we have more good deeds than bad deeds, then God will pardon us on the day of judgment”.

This is the Islamic view of salvation. Muhammad was a very knowledgeable and articulate man, and he had a lot of arguments against Christianity. Hearing their discussion, I said, “Excuse me, I’ve been listening to your conversation and I just have one question: you believe in a Holy God, you believe in a day of judgment, and you believe in hell fire, but even if you have more good deeds than bad deeds, you’ve still lived an imperfect life. Now tell me, how can a Holy God be impressed or satisfied with your imperfect and only partially righteous life?” I followed up by saying, “You have not lived up to God’s standards, and you know it. If God is going to accept your imperfect life, then He must lower His standards and become unholy.” This led to a very deep and meaningful discussion about what it means for God to be “holy” and how sinful men can be made righteous in His sight. I ended by saying, “Muhammad, we both believe in a Holy God, a day of judgment, and hell fire. The difference between you and I is this: I believe in a mediator – Jesus Christ, the Son of God - who has fulfilled the righteous requirement of God’s law, who has suffered the wrath of God in my place, and who has made his righteousness available to sinners so that we can be righteous, not by our works, but by his.” He confessed that he has never thought about these things, and he thanked me for sharing. I gave him my contact info and I hope to hear from him again soon.

Friday, February 10, 2017

When Rock Bottom Hits

Carol's report from our first night of Don't Walk By 2017:

As we walked down one of the long corridors of Penn Station, we saw an elderly man poking bags of trash with his cane. He was obviously looking for food, so we approached him to invite him back to the church for a warm meal. Our friendly invitation really cheered him up because he was having a horrible day. Just a few hours earlier he lost his glasses and then someone pick-pocketed him while he was sleeping on the train and stole his ID. He was at rock bottom. “I feel like God isn’t hearing my prayers.”, he said. After getting robbed, he was considering jumping in front of a train and ending his life. We prayed for him and he gave us a big, toothless grin. Meeting him that day was God’s intervention into his life diverting him from his suicidal plans. This is why we make ourselves available to the Lord, because he sees each person and wants to reach them in their moment of need!