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 eventually he just became 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 and 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 Children and Their Parents

The parks in New York City are just teeming with children! During Worship Warfare Week these kids are a significant focus of our ministry, and 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."

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Soothing Charlie's Sorrow

We meet some real characters on the streets of New York City. But behind every person there's a story, and within every story is an intricate trail of experiences that explain why people are the way they are. Our friend Charlie is no exception. He is an eccentric little man who roams the streets and stops by the Prayer Station every Saturday, often sporting a new piece of jewelry that he designed out of the various things he found on the sidewalk throughout the week. He has a childlike sense of humor, and a whole lot of energy. Interactions with Charlie are always an experience, to say the least. But as fun as he can be, he is also deeply troubled.

Growing up in a war-torn country in Southeast Asia, he witnessed family and friends die as he watched foreign armies burn down his village. He copes with these memories by trying to escape reality and often by self-medicating with alcohol. We don’t know if Charlie has any real companions, and it’s very possible that the reason he comes to see us every week is because he feels loved and cared for.

This was confirmed last week when I happened to see him while walking down Main Street. We hadn't done our typical Flushing Prayer Station for a few weeks, so I knew Charlie was eager to see us. I said, “Charlie! So good to see you!” The look on his face showed that he was totally shocked to see us, and the glazed over look in his eyes gave away the fact that he'd been drinking. Tears started running down his face as he asked, “Where have you been?” He whimpered and said, "I need you guys!" I opened my arms to hug him and he clung to me so tightly. He didn't want to let me go, so I let him cry on my shoulder for a while.

People may seem strange or scary on the outside, but we have to learn to look past those things and love them where they are. I can picture the Father loving Charlie through that hug. 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Seeing Beyond the Sin

To be honest, I haven't always looked forward to the Gay Pride Parade Outreach. Sometimes I've even dreaded it. Don't get me wrong,  I completely believe in what we’re doing and why we’re there, but the biggest challenge for me has been being able to look beyond the sin and the "homosexual" label to just see the people. But this year, that changed for me. This year I saw the PEOPLE. It sounds obvious, but it was hard to get past what I didn't understand.

Our prayer walk prior to the parade was key in helping me see things differently. My prayer partner prayed how this outreach is about the people. This became a recurring theme throughout our walk, and when we arrived at the festival the next day, I recognized that something had shifted in me. After the first few surveys, I realized I wasn't feeling as awkward as I had felt in years past. I had a new confidence, and I wasn't afraid of the people we were talking to. Instead of thinking to myself, "Oh, I'm talking to a lesbian." I had a genuine interest in the person and what they had to say - even if I disagreed.

There were some moments where I felt my love was recognizable to the people. Instead of being afraid or repulsed, I smiled and was able to look them in the face. The parade is always filled with a lot of vulgarity and immodesty, but instead of being disgusted with them, I was able to see beyond that and see the person. Since the outreach, I cannot seem to escape the image of the crowds of people walking by and how each one of them needs to know what Jesus had done for them. This is why we go to reach them where they are.

Friday, July 14, 2017

"I was the Answer to His Prayer"

"I was the Answer to His Prayer"

He was drunk, but the music seemed to draw him in. He couldn't help but hear our worship since we were set up right across from his home, the street corner where he slept at night. The lyrics took him back to his childhood and the days he spent in Church. Our songs reawakened him to all that he learned about God, but he was simultaneously beginning to feel a lot of guilt and shame. Regardless of his experience in the Church, the present reality was this: He was living on the streets drinking away his sorrows. How could he come back to God after having strayed so far? How could He attend Church again after all this time in sin?

These were the questions that troubled his mind as the worship began to prick his conscious. I comforted him and reassured him he was welcome to be there with us. "This is church on the streets right now, my friend. Your brokenness is what makes you welcome here with us." I had him stay and watch the dramas. Afterwards, I reminded him about the cross and the prodigal son, and urged him to trust that God's love was strong enough to forgive even the backslider.

 As we spoke, he interrupted me and started shouting, "God doesn't hear my prayers! God doesn't hear my prayers!" I grabbed him by the shoulders, looked him straight in the eye and said, "Listen to me. The fact that God has called me here to Brazil and led us to come to this specific street corner tonight so that I could remind you of the gospel is proof that God has heard your prayers, and not only that - He is answering your prayers right now. This conversation is the answer to your prayers!" After that, he was silenced. He bowed his head and just began to weep uncontrollably. As he wept, I too was amazed at what just took place, and it began to sink in... I was the answer to his prayer. It's amazing how God positions us so that He can reach others through us!

He did not give his life to the Lord that night, but once thing was clear, God wanted me there that night to interrupt his unbelief and remind him of the gospel of grace.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Free Haircuts!

"What? You're giving free haircuts??" Our friends at Tompkins Square Park where overjoyed when they found out that Tyler, a professional hairdresser from Freedom Gate Church in Marietta, Ohio,  was offering his services free of charge to the people of the park. From the moment we arrived to the moment we left, Tyler had a line of "customers" eagerly waiting for a new "do".

As you can imagine, it's not always  easy to keep up your appearances when you're living on the street. Some go long periods of time without getting haircuts and they aren't always able to keep it well groomed. All the people who came  walked away looking and feeling good! Having Tyler give free haircuts was a huge blessing. There's so many different ways to bless people in Jesus' name!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Honoring Unsung Heroes: Walter Hoving Home

Founded in 1967, the Walter Hoving Home has been helping to restore women who's lives have been shattered by drug-addiction, alcoholism, and prostitution. This faith based program has successfully helped many women find new life and hope in Christ.

A few times a year, the Home sends small teams of women from their base in Garrison, New York to come serve with us at Tompkins Square Park, and they do so well! Their compassion and kindness towards others is so evident. They always enjoy our ministry at the park because they often meet people with a similar story to their own, which opens the door for them to share their testimony.

 We rejoice in what the Lord is doing through this wonderful program, and we are so appreciative of their willingness to serve alongside us!

Check out their website for more information!

The ladies from the most recent Walter Hoving team!