There was an older gentleman sitting at the bar, and he looked lonely. I watched him order another drink as he looked around the crowded room for someone to talk to. Remembering that one of our goals in Greater Love is to form relationships with people in the LGBT community, I decided to venture over and give him the company he seemed to be looking for. That night, a friendship was born.*
"Hey, how are you doing this evening? My name is Ryan... and you are?"
"Well, Hello. My name is Daniel**, and I'm doing fine."
"Pleasure to meet you Daniel. Do you mind if I take a seat?"
"No, not at all!"
I sat down next to Daniel and just started asking him questions to get to know him. I soon realized that a little interest would go a long way. I only had to ask a few questions and pretty soon Daniel was unfolding his entire life story to me, including the details of his upbringing, when he discovered his same-sex attraction, and the difficulties he faced growing up as a homosexual in the 60's and 70's. I so appreciated his willingness to share his story. After some time, he began to ask me about myself and what I do here in NYC. I told him that I am a Christian missionary and about the work I do with Street LIFE Ministries. He had a Catholic background and enjoyed hearing about our work with the homeless. "Going to the poor and homeless... that's a pretty big part of what Jesus told us to do, right?" He said with a sarcastic smile on his face. "It sure is!" I replied.
Knowing that I was a Christian, Daniel made the point to tell me, "I'm an atheist, I don't want to talk about God or religion. I just want to talk about art, music, and history." I assured him that was alright.
Since that night, Daniel and I have gone out to dinner twice and even attended a small jazz concert in Manhattan. One of the more significant moments I had with him was after our first dinner when Daniel insisted that we take a walk to the Hudson River. "Let's go see the river!" he said emphatically. "C'mon, it's really close!" As we stood at the bank of the river he told me how often he comes here to look at the beautiful scenery. We both stood there silently for a while, soaking in the view. In that moment God reminded me of Psalm 19:1, "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands." Daniel's desire to see the river reminded me that we can't escape the beauty of God's creation, or the message that it sends to us; that there is a God and that He is awesome. Daniel might be an atheist, but I know everything in him is crying out for God (even if he doesn't know it), and we are patiently waiting for the opportunity to introduce him to the God who made the Hudson River.
*To clarify, this outreach is done by a team of screened applicants. This testimony is simply written from the perspective of one of those team members.
**Name changed for confidentiality.