Friday, December 14, 2018

Tragic Fall on 40th Road

Her street name was SiSi but she was known to her parents as Song Yang.  The day after Thanksgiving last year, she plummeted to her death from a third story massage parlor to avoid being arrested.  One Saturday, God arranged a divine appointment when Song Yang’s mother came up to the Flushing Prayer Station.  She and her son traveled from China desperate to find answers about their loved one’s senseless death.  Sobbing uncontrollably at times, she was absolutely devastated.  Song Yang’s death may have gone unnoticed by society but she is precious in God’s sight and certainly to her family.

That’s why Beautiful One exists because the Lord goes after “the one”.  Since 2013, the Beautiful One team has been visiting immigrant women working in massage parlors around Flushing.  The team consists of only a handful of individuals, some from SLM and other volunteers from different churches and organizations that can offer help. 

One theme is common in each of the conversations with the ladies we visit – they came to the United States to earn a living and have a better life.  Many leave their families – their children, their husbands – and travel thousands of miles to end up in a massage parlor, selling their bodies.  Some women accumulate a large debt to come here and have a limited chance to make enough money to pay it back.  Others have been deceived by someone they know or someone from their hometown that there is a “great opportunity” to make lots of money.  They end up working 6-7 days a week, 10-12 hour days, sometimes through the night.  There is limited time to make friends, see the sites of New York City, and even attend church.

That encounter with Song Yang’s mother and brother brought the realty and necessity of the Beautiful One outreach. The ladies in the massage parlors are in a serious position.  How can we be there for them?  How can we build trust so they can seek assistance if they need it?  How can other tragedies like this be avoided?  No woman should ever have to feel that selling her body for sex is the only way she can survive.

We encourage you to read this gripping story of Song Yang’s life.  The Case of Jane Doe Ponytail:   

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Encounter with a Searching Muslim

At our usual spot with the Prayer Station, a young man approached the table. 

“Do you have something that I can read about Christianity?”  I offered him a Gospel of John and he was happy to receive it. 

Then he began to tell his story.  He is Muslim but he has many questions about whether it is the truth or not.  It turns out some in his family are Muslim and others are Christian.  Many a family meal times revolve around which is the right way.  This young man confessed he is trying to figure it out for himself.  He’s visited churches, read Christian materials and the Koran, and asked questions. 

“I just want to believe the truth,” he admitted.  We talked some about the deity of Jesus; Muslims only believe Jesus is one of their prophets.  We also discussed how the Koran and the Bible are not the same. 

When our conversation came to a close, he walked away with a growing desire to know more about Jesus and Christianity. 

In New York City, we have many opportunities to reach people with different belief systems and religions.  God’s heart is for all peoples to know Him; this is a perfect place to spread this message.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

School Returns for 10th Year in a Row

Each year students from Troy Christian School in Ohio have the opportunity to take a class trip to serve at Street LIFE Ministries.  Here is some of what they learned this year in their own words:

"God showed up on this trip while we prayed.  Before this trip, I would pray just because I had to.  Now I understand more of the meaning of prayer and that prayer is not just talking but believing."

"This trip this year, taught me about humility and relying on God's strength through all of it.  SLM has always been a place that I see God show up time and time again.  I know I must rely on His strength; it is challenging and grows me up.  I leave with the fire of the Holy Spirit, showing me again the power of prayer and I'm forever grateful for my times here."

"I watched a team of students show up in New York City with fear and nervousness but leave with Spirit-empowered boldness and courage.  God really gifted this group with love, compassion, and His power.  They responded by blessing all they encountered." -from a team leader

Sharing Warmth at Tompkins Square Park

Several weeks ago, two of our friends at Tompkins Square Park made a special request.  “Do you have a sleeping bag?  It’s getting cold and we sleep outside.”  They also asked for some particular items of clothing.  When someone asks for certain things, we try our best but can’t make a guarantee or promise that we have what they need.  However, this time we were able to easily find the items of clothing they wanted in their sizes.  Usually we don’t have sleeping bags, but we managed to find a few to give to them.  The next week we gave them everything and the week after they were wearing some of the items.  They expressed how grateful they were and even gave us a small gift in return. 

I had a chance to learn a little more about their lives.  They immigrated to the U.S., fleeing the dangers of their home country.  Unfortunately, life’s challenges caught up with them and they started drinking.  They confessed they want to stop; one guy has been in and out of detoxes multiple times.  Yet alcohol still has a grip on them.  We talked about how it is possible to be free from the bondage of alcoholism.  Our prayer is to see them redeemed and restored to the life that God has for them. 

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Homeless Pastor of the Park

     A number of years ago a conversation began with Joe.  He came out of a life of drugs, alcohol, and women and was beginning to recognize His need for Jesus.  For several months, I encouraged him in his new found walk with God.  I felt like the Lord was calling him to be a “pastor” of Tompkins Square Park.  He knew a lot of the guys that hung around there and was familiar with their lifestyle.  They needed to hear that Jesus can set them free.  In those conversations, I shared with him that we are not meant to be “lone ranger” Christians.  We need to be part of a local church.  At the time, it was hard for him to swallow but he took it to heart. 

     Fast forward to present day, many of the truths of those talks he is now walking out.  A local pastor continually reached out to him and encouraged him to stay for their Bible study group.  Finally, to get him off his back, he stayed.  Now he keeps going back.  Joe often shares with me how being part of the group has helped him.  He sees for himself that being part of the Body of Christ has made a difference in his life.  Not only that, the pastor speaks purpose over his life because he recognizes his calling. 

     Joe is beginning to accept it and surrendering to what God is placing in his life.  Guys from the park keep coming to him for counsel.  He often tells them how Jesus has changed his life.  Joe is also being given responsibilities in different places that he volunteers and works.  Others are recognizing his gifts and putting him in positions of influence.  God is lifting him up because he is humbling himself. 

     It is our joy to encourage him along the way.  Joe’s circumstances have not changed – he’s still homeless – but his heart has changed.  Keep Joe in prayer as he continues along the path that God has for him. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Learning to Give out Living Water: Renee's Experience with Street LIFE Ministries

My week at Street Life Ministries was so incredible. I saw love poured out to people on the streets, served with others who shared the same heart of the Father, and I had personal encounters that I will never forget. 

One thing that never ceases to amaze me is that God has a strategic plan, and that we get to watch that plan unfold. The first day there was a change in the weather that switched our location from Tompkins Square Park to Jamaica, Queens. The few people I was able to pray with at this location walked away in tears. There may have been a language barrier, but there was no doubt the presence of God was in our midst. The first woman I prayed with had broken English, but what I could pick up on was "job, homeless, and happiness". I began praying for these things, and as I was praying there came a time of prophecy over this woman. I believe in that moment God translated those words to her as she looked at me with tears streaming down her face and said "Yes, Yes" to everything that was said. then she gave me a big hug. Through this encounter, God showed me that I had a fear of language barriers and a fear of reaching the nations because I only knew how to speak English. This was an underlying burden I didn't know I had until I faced it, but it lifted after this encounter.

It doesn't matter if there is a language barrier, God hears it all and His presence was SO evident in each of the following encounters, just as this one! We also made connection with new believers who wanted to get involved with Street LIFE Ministries! If the weather had not changed, these people would have not had this new connection. How amazing! 

Later that week, as we were on our way to another location, I heard in my spirit loud and clear, over and over again, "The woman at the well." I knew the story but I wasn't too sure how it would relate to what we were doing that day. While I was serving at the prayer station and handing out water, it suddenly hit me. I am the woman sitting here giving water... I am a picture of the woman at the well! The Holy Spirit starting speaking to me about how these people are asking for water that helps for but a moment, but I'm the one who is sitting there who has the REAL living water within that must be poured out so they may be truly fulfilled. It was such a simple yet heart hitting moment that will forever be apart of me. Wouldn't you know the rest of the week I somehow ended up at that station more than I had expected to be! From that point on, each time someone came up for water all I could see was the opportunity to give them more than what they came for.

This week has truly given me a paradigm shift of how easy and fun it is to give away the gospel. Yes, there is work but It's all motivated by the love of Christ, the finishing work of the cross, given freely to us! Street LIFE Ministries is truly a place where the love of the Father is what drives everything they do, and it was certainly felt every moment of every day. I so cherish each day working alongside the staff at Street LIFE Ministries and I can't wait to return!  

Friday, July 27, 2018

She Trusted Us?

On a recent outreach, we returned to one of our usual places. It's a massage parlor that we've been going to since the beginning of our ministry. We've known one of the ladies there for years and we've had numerous interactions with her, but she never really seemed interested in talking too much. She's usually busy with a customer. Yet something special happened this time. For whatever reason, she opened up and began to share her entire story with us. It was the longest conversation we've ever had with her. I was amazed at the number of hardships she faced in coming to the United States, including paying off a massive debt. Now she is an American citizen and her family is living here too! It's incredible what some of these women go through just to try and make a life for themselves. We recently trained two new volunteers and we are looking to add more. If you are interested in supporting our efforts to reach the ladies in the massage parlors, you can visit the Beautiful One page on our website.

Hasn't Everybody in the USA Heard of Jesus?

There were dozens of children enjoying the activities and face painting we provided, but one girl stood out. She was a nine-year-old girl of Chinese descent who wanted more than the fun and games. She wanted to talk. One of our volunteers named Kimberly sat down with this little girl to discuss the gospel, and this is what Kimberly had to say about the experience...

"When I found out that this little girl had never heard of God or Jesus, I sat down with her and we went through one of the Children's booklets called "The Way to God" in its entirety. I took the time to answer all of her questions and even ended by praying with her and recommending that she try and attend a nearby church. Now my prayer is that the Lord would bring others into her life to water the seeds than have been planted!"  

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Blessing the Prisoners

"Thank you so much for coming." said one of the prisoners before returning to his cell. "You guys showed us a fresh presentation and demonstration of the gospel."

What incredible words to hear from an inmate. They've had other ministries come to the prison, but it usually just consists of someone preaching a gospel message. This is all good and wonderful, but we saw that these men had a need to have love demonstrated to them. As we began our worship set, singing about the love of the Father, many of the men started weeping. One man in particular began to wrap his arms around himself, as if he was giving himself the hug he had never received. Tears were streaming down his face. The men on our team started to go around and give the men a loving embrace along with words of encouragement. They were so receptive and grateful. This display of love helped them open up to us about their lives and allowed us pray for them and share more about the Lord with them. 

We also went to a women's prison but, due to logistical issues, they were not allowed to come out of their cells and mingle with us as we ministered to them. Instead, we went in front of their cells, worshiped, and gave an individual gospel presentation to each group of ladies. It will be hard to forget the desperation and appreciation in their eyes. They are women who were desperate for change, and they were grateful to have a group of American's travel so far just to bless them with music and the hope of the gospel message. 

The people we met in these prisons may be hardened criminals, but God knows how to touch the soft spot of their hearts. He is so committed to rebuilding broken lives!

Worship at the Rooftop Bar

We knew it was a long shot, but after many years of faithfully ministering at the brothels, Tio Pedro was gutsy enough to ask the manager if we could do a worship set on the roof of the brothel. Surprisingly, she said yes! It was all of God's favor, and what an amazing night we had!

On the roof of the brothel is a bar with an open patio area that overlooks the city. This is where the men come to get drunk before or after being with the women. It's the last place you'd expect to hear worship, which makes it the perfect place to go and proclaim the King! 

All of our songs that night were focused on declaring the character and majesty of God. As we worshiped, we also sent teams of people down into the brothel to minister to the women who were working. The worship shifted the atmosphere and prepared the way for the gospel to be shared with the ladies in their rooms. 

One might think that the management might get upset with us or ask us to stop, but the woman running the bar that night actually demanded that we keep worshiping. She loved what we were doing, and even said she would have us back to do it again! How incredible is that?!

Even more remarkable is how some of the men reacted to our worship. One man arrived right as we were getting started. It didn't take long before he started tearing up and getting on his knees seeking forgiveness. At the end he said, "I came here to get drunk and see the ladies as I always do... I had no idea I was going to church." 

This just goes to show that God is able to open up unique ministry opportunities in the most unsuspected places! 

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Testimonies from our 5th Annual Gay Pride Parade

On June 24th we completed our 5th annual outreach to the Gay Pride Parade.

Why? Why do we keep going back to the parade every year? To put it simply, the Gay Pride Parade is an environment of deception, and it is exactly those places where Jesus went to minister truth, healing, and freedom!  So we believe that's where the "church" should be because we bring His love and light into darkness. That's why we go.

Outreach at the Gay Pride Parade isn't easy. You see things you wish you didn't see and hear things you wish you didn't hear, and you have a lot of very sensitive and difficult conversations. Yet, in spite of all of this, God has been faithful to open up some tremendous opportunities to discuss the nature of God, the gospel, and the wisdom of God's sexual ethic with the people we meet at the parade. So, yes, the parade is always very difficult, but it's also always very good. And it is worth a few hours of discomfort if it means you can share the saving message of Christ with people who are perishing.

We had a small team this year (only 7 people total), but we were able to engage about 30 people with our surveys, getting their opinion on a wide variety of questions pertaining to human sexuality. Conducting these surveys serves as an easy, non-confrontational way to initiate conversation with people and it helps them open up to us as we try to steer the conversation back to the things of God.

Here's three quick testimonies of good interactions we had this year:

1 - The Pain Behind His Self-Perception
One of our volunteers names Audley was doing a survey with a transgender man (biologically male, but identifies as female). When Audley asked him questions about his family relationships and family history, the man broke down and disclosed to Audley that he was raped by his father when he was nine years old. He recognized that this traumatic experience had an impact on his own self-perception and his own experience of gender-dysphoria. He was noticeably broken and still hurting from what his father had done to him. He continued to tell Audley that he has been seeing a psychiatrist to help him deal with this painful experience, and then he actually gave us his phone number and asked us to reach out to him because he wanted to talk more with us! How remarkable is that?!? Audley and I will definitely be reaching out to him this week so we can help him through his pain.

2 - Addressing Misconceptions 
One of the longest discussion I had this year was with a man named Sean. He asked us why we were doing these surveys and I explained that we are out here because we've noticed that there is a tremendous lack of communication between the Church and the LGBT community, and so we come to the Pride Parade every year to initiate conversations with people to learn more about their experiences and what they believe while trying to share our beliefs with them. He was pleasantly surprised by this answer, but then, after giving it some thought, he said, "If you guys are out here to talk with people and help those who are hurting, that's great... but if you're out here trying to save people from their sexuality, then I am going to have some serious problems with you." I thought to myself, "Save people from their sexuality?? Um... that is NOT what we are out here to do..." So I asked him if he would give me a few minutes to speak into that. I went on to explain that he does not need to get "saved from his sexuality", he needs to get saved from sin and the judgement that is coming because of his sin. I explained that God is not trying to eliminate our sexuality. After all, human sexuality and gender were God's idea in the first place, so God doesn't want to take that away from us. Rather, he wants to teach us how it is that he intended for us to function as sexual beings, and that, ultimately, we must submit our sexuality to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

3 - He Came Back to Learn More!
There was another man named Richard, who identified as a "straight man". Even though he was not LGBT, he was just out at the Parade to enjoy the festivities. But he did tell us that due to the popularity of the LGBT community and all the friends that he has who are LGBT, he is thinking about experimenting with men and possibly becoming more bi-sexual (it was sad to see how the LGBT ideology was influencing Richard to experiment with sexual sin). He also told us that, even though he is not a Roman Catholic, he is currently attending a Roman Catholic College, and that he has been required to take a few theology classes. He knew some of the basics about Jesus and the Bible so we had a good discussion about Jesus' position on sin and homosexuality. It didn't seem like he was very receptive to what we were saying, so after he left I was a little discouraged. I just wasn't sure if anything we said would stick with him. But then, about 10 minutes later, he came back over to me and said, "Hey can I get your contact information? I really enjoyed our conversation and I think I want to learn more about Jesus and Christianity." At first I was speechless... I didn't think anything we said had gotten through to him, and now he's asking me to learn more - awesome! So I gave him my business card with my cell and email on it, and I also gave him the information form my YouTube channel so he could go and watch some of the videos. I told him to call me if he has any questions. I really hope to hear back from him!!

Overall, it was another good year at the NYC Pride Parade. Thanks for praying!

Trusting God and Leaving the Brothels: The Story of Fabiola's Faith

During our trips to Brazil, we reach out to a variety of people in a variety of ways. We go to prisons, favelas (slums), rehabs, and the crowded city streets of Belo Horizonte, but our main focus every year is reaching out to the women who work in the brothels. Over the years, we've seen many come out of prostitution and give their lives to the Lord, and some have even become missionaries. The transformation we've seen is remarkable. It's only explanation is God. I am grateful for the opportunities I've had to serve and care for these women. It has truly been one of the greatest privileges of my life.

One of the biggest and most famous
brothels in Belo Horizonte
We went into the brothels one morning to host a breakfast for the women who were working the night shift, to provide some nice food for them right when they got off work. We brought all the food into a small side-room near the front desk of the brothel. Once we got everything set up, we went to invite the ladies.

It's a heartbreaking environment in the brothels. The hallways are narrow and dimly lit with rooms on either side. The women stand naked in the doorways of their rooms, presenting themselves to try and attract potential customers as men walk up and down the hallways and essentially go grocery shopping for women. When a man finds a woman he wants, he goes into the room, pays her, does with her as he pleases, and then the process starts all over again. It is a horrifically dehumanizing experience for the ladies, which is exactly why we make the effort to reach them with the Lord's love and compassion.

As we walk the hallways to invite them for breakfast, many of the ladies will grab a towel to cover themselves. They know we are from the church, which can make them feel embarrassed to be in our presence. But we just look them in the eyes and greet them with a warm smile, paying no mind to their nude or scantily clad bodies. We refuse to treat them the way others do, and, as a Christian man, I refuse to look at them the way their customers do.

Some of our team members evangelizing
the men outside the brothels
After the first round of invitations, several women gratefully joined us for breakfast. We sat and talked with the women as they came in and out. It wasn't too eventful until one lady grabbed me, another girl on our team named Yudy, and our translator, Gaby, and asked us to come into her room to pray for her. It was obvious that she wanted privacy. I knew something interesting was about to happen.

Her room was small, with just enough space for a twin-sized mattress and a sink. After we crammed into her room, she closed the door and locked it. She then turned, sat on the bed, and introduced herself. "My name is Fabiola." she said, "and I want you guys to pray for me." When Gaby, our translator, asked her what she wanted prayer for, she looked at her with tears in her eyes she said, "I went to Church on Sunday and when I was there I decided to trust God and leave the brothels." We were stunned, but we quickly responded with positive words of encouragement and affirmation, letting her know how happy we were for her and that we supported her in this decision.

Fabiola was now sobbing. It seemed like this was the first time she had told anybody about her decision to leave the brothels. She was experiencing a lot of emotions that manifested themselves in tears. It was a mixture of joy, relief, and trepidation. She was joyful to share this good news and confide in us, and she was relieved to finally be leaving a profession that exposed her to some of the most horrendous experiences imaginable. But she was also experiencing feelings of fear and apprehension about her future. After all, what is a woman with little or no education that has been working as prostitute supposed to do to support herself and her family? 

These were the thoughts running through her head, so we seized the opportunity to encourage her with the promises of God's word and other scriptures about God's faithfulness. I told Fabiola that I was honored to be in her presence because she was a woman who was brave enough to trust God with her life. And after talking with her for a while about the trustworthiness of God, I remembered the passage from Exodus chapter 6 and the prayers I had been praying in preparation for the trip.

I asked her if she was familiar with the story of how God saved the Israelites. She said that she used to go to Church when she was younger, but had forgotten the story. So I took some time to remind her of the oppressive slavery that Israel experienced in the land of Egypt and how God delivered them from slavery and brought them into the Promised Land. I explained that God had compassion upon the Israelites and that he exerted all of his power to deliver them from their bondage so that they would know that He is the one true God and serve Him the rest of their days. Then I told her, "Fabiola, this is the same God that you are calling upon, and He is able to deliver you and lead you into a better life, just like He did for the Israelites. All you have to do is trust Him and follow Him one step at a time."

"I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burden of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm, and with great acts of judgement I will take you to be my people and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord, your God, who has brought you out from under the burden of the Egyptians." (Exodus 6:6-7)

Every building on this street is a brothel
She was weeping. Our words seemed to wash over her and God alleviated every fear and anxious thought. I was also starting to tear up at this point. I couldn't believe God allowed me to be there with Fabiola to encourage her. I didn't know it until that moment, but all those prayers we had prayed to see God deliver women from prostitution - those prayers were for her! God's been pursuing Fabiola, and now she's redeemed. Our translator took her phone number so that they could stay in touch, and now the Church is starting to come around Fabiola to help her in this time of new beginnings. By the end of our time together, Fabiola eyes were filled with life, and she had the biggest smile upon her face. It was as though God sent us there that morning because his new daughter, Fabiola, needed some support and encouragement. 

Words cannot capture that moment. I cannot explain what an incredible honor it was to be with Fabiola in that moment and see first hand the work that God is doing in her life. I am truly humbled by God's power and Fabiola's faith, and I am so grateful to God to be His servant.

Fabiola has a long journey ahead of her. It's not going to be an easy journey, but I am confident that God will prove himself faithful. Please pray for Fabiola, that she would keep her eyes fixed on Jesus, the "author and perfecter of her faith" (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Backpacks from Alabama

Shane and Trenia Oliver, along with their two sons, Isaiah and Bryson, recently traveled to NYC all the way from Alabama just to give backpacks to the homeless. It all started when Isaiah won a trip through his school for being one of the top five students in his graduating class, and he wanted to use this opportunity to serve the homeless in NYC. Additionally, their youngest son, Bryson, had the ingenious idea of giving out $5 McDonalds gift cards to the homeless. His mom organized a bake sale that raised enough money for them to give out about 80 gift cards! 

So on June 6th they joined us out at Tompkins Square Park, and they brought with them 100 backpacks filled with toiletries to give away and each person also received a McDonalds gift card. The people at the park were extremely grateful to this family and their generosity. It's awesome the way these boys are already demonstrating a heart for the poor at such a young age! 

You can watch the video of Trenia telling the story below. 

Here are some pictures of the family handing out the backpacks and gift cards

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Jesus is more Loving than Allah

I've really grown in my ability to dialogue with people from other world religions. I've also developed the mentality that I am always "on call" for the Lord, and that every place I go is a mission field. These two lessons converged for me recently when I was flying back to NYC and sat next to a Muslim man on the plain.

Ryan discussing the gospel with a
devotee of the Hare Krishna  religion
I knew I needed to try and talk with him about the gospel. Surprisingly, he actually initiated the conversation with me and started asking about my trip and where I was from. He was very kind. We made small talk for a while, just getting to know each other. His name was Tameen and though he was only a teenager, he already had ambitions of being a Muslim scholar, an Imam (one who leads prayer in a Mosque), and one who interprets the Qur’an and the Hadith (a collection of the sayings of Muhammad). He is currently enrolled in a school for Islamic studies. He’s 17 years old and he already has the ENTIRE Qur’an memorized! Seriously, that’s impressive.

We maintained a lively dialogue about our beliefs for the entire flight, but towards the end I realized something was lacking. We had talked about his religious practice, Islamic theology, and the history of the Bible and the Qur’an… but I had yet to actually share the gospel with him.

I was trying to think of a way to bring the conversation back to the cross, and I remembered that there was a question I’ve always wanted to ask a Muslim, but until that day, I had never had the opportunity to do so. The question was this: “When has Allah loved you sacrificially?” Muslims assert that Allah is the “all-good" and "all-loving” god, yet I don’t know of any instance when Allah has demonstrated sacrificial love – and isn’t sacrificial love the highest expression of love? If Allah has never done this, can he really be said to be “all-loving” in the highest sense? And if not, is he really deserving of our worship if he has not loved us in the most excellent way?

So I asked my new friend, “Tameen, thank you for all the information you’ve given me thus far. Now I just have just one more question for you - When has Allah loved you sacrificially?” He look at me, puzzled. “What do you mean? All that I have comes from Allah”.  

“I understand that.” I said, “But that wasn’t my question. When has Allah loved you sacrificially? When has Allah done good to you at his own expense?” He paused and pondered for a while. I said nothing and let the question sink in until he finally said, “I don’t know… I don’t think he ever has.” I turned, looked him in the eye, and said very gently, “Tameen, that’s why Jesus is more worthy of worship than Allah, because Jesus has loved you better than Allah ever has.” And from that point on I went on to explain the gospel from the vantage point of sacrificial love – that Jesus (who is God) actually humbled himself to serve us by laying his life down for us. That’s love!

We discussed this matter for a while and he acknowledged that it was an important point that he needed to think about more. I pray that our conversation would stick in his mind as he continues in his Islamic studies and that he would ultimately see that Jesus is more excellent than Allah. I’m grateful for all I’ve learned at Street LIFE Ministries that prepared me for my conversation with Tameen that day!

The Influence of Street LIFE Ministries Extends to Ohio

Emanuel Old Stone Church from Wooster, Ohio has continuously grown in their heart for missions since getting involved with Street LIFE Ministries. One year the ladies at the church made some incredible mats for the homeless out of spare plastic bags. Then they started bringing teams to serve with us in NYC, and last month they just had their first ever missions conference in which they featured Street LIFE Ministries and made a cardboard version of our Step Van! They served the soup we make for the homeless and even set up a Prayer Station! It was amazing to see how our simple outreaches have had such a huge impact on this body of believers!

A trip to Street LIFE Ministries could have a similar impact on your congregation as well, so come join us this summer to gain first-hand experience in living a lifestyle of worship, prayer, missions, and service. 

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Building Trust with Women in the Sex Industry

Since 2013, Beautiful One has visited the same massage parlors once a month which has helped us build a good connection with some of the women.  We've even known one lady since the very beginning! This has enabled us to have many conversations with her about Jesus and her Buddhist beliefs. We prayed for another woman who had a pregnant daughter. Now she frequently shows us pictures of her beautiful grandchild and always reminds us, “You prayed for me.”  It's so important to share in the joys and the heartaches of these women.

Over the years, we have come to know several of the workers by name and they've opened up to us about some very personal and intimate details in their lives because they know they can trust us. This is the value of consistency and commitment. It took at least a year for most places to welcome us openly.  But trust takes time, especially in an outreach like this.  Now they know us and invite us in to sit down when they aren’t busy. We’ve learned so much about them and have been able to share the Gospel openly with them. Now we are working with with another local organization to offer ESL and Bible study classes with the ladies. We are still in the planning stages, so please be praying for this!

Thursday, March 8, 2018

No Romance Required

Starting in 2016, we have been making a focused effort to reach the LGBT community. So when I learned about "The Center", a community building for LGBT individuals in Manhattan, I knew I needed to go check it out. I saw it as an opportunity to learn more about the community and maybe make some friends. As I mingled with people in the lobby, I met a gentle, and soft-spoken man named Henry, who comes to The Center for their support groups. He’s had a life-long battle with depression and seeks comfort by attending these meetings. When I told him it was my first time at The Center, he took me on a tour of the building.

We had a good time just hanging out and making small talk, but when he told me he needed to leave to get to his next meeting, he reached into his back pocket and pulled out his wallet. In his wallet was a small scrap of paper with his name and his phone number on it. He paused for a moment, and hung his head in shame, and proceeded to say, “Ryan I’ve really enjoyed hanging out with you… I know that I’m probably too old for you, but if you ever wanted to meet up again, here’s my number.” Clearly, he was longing for companionship.

I started laughing because, at this point, he had no idea that I wasn't gay. Henry thought I was laughing at him, and so he started to apologize. But I explained, “No, Henry, you don’t understand. It’s ok… I’m not even gay!” He looked confused. So I continued, “I’m not gay, but I enjoy learning about LGBT issues and meeting people in the community. So even though I’m not gay we can still hang out – no romance required!”

To make a long story short, Henry and I have had dinner together a few times since, and have been able to talk extensively about God, the gospel, and the biblical standards for human sexuality. As of now, he wants nothing to do with Christianity, but I have a place in his life and he is hearing the gospel.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

"What do I have to do to get saved?"

A few weeks ago, as I was giving out care packs at the side of the truck, Jeremy* came running up to me, and with tears in his eyes, began to ask, "Ryan, what do I have to do to get saved?!" He went on, "I know the Jehovah Witnesses don't love me and their message hasn't helped me. I'm still in my sin and I don't have the Holy Spirit. What do I have to do to get saved?!"

The people of Tompkins Square Park
Even though Jeremy isn't homeless, he lives on a low income and benefits from the donations we give out at Tompkins Square Park each week. We see him almost every week, but until this point it seemed like all of my attempts to steer Jeremy away from the errors of the Jehovah Witnesses were  in vain. He routinely attends the  local Kingdom Hall and and invites the members of their congregation over to his house for Bible Studies. He's been deeply entrenched in Jehovah Witness theology for years, and adamantly opposed any attempts I would make to challenge those beliefs or direct him to the true gospel of grace. It seemed like we'd never get through to him, but God must have been working on his heart!

I was stunned and speechless. This man, who had always shut me down when I tried to explain the gospel, was now earnestly asking me how to get right with God. Not knowing exactly what to say, I grabbed a New Testament and sat down with him. I first led him to 1 Timothy 1:15 where it says "Christ came into the world to save sinners" and told him, "Jeremy, it's obvious you see your sin - that's a good thing - now you need to look to Jesus." But knowing that the Jesus of the Jehovah Witnesses is NOT the Jesus of the Bible or the Jesus of history, I took him to Philippians 2:5-11, the great hymn of the early church that extols the deity, humanity, suffering, and Lordship of Jesus Christ. We spent a good while discussing the person and work of Christ, and Jeremy has never been so willing to listen.

I haven't seen him around much since that day, but in our brief interactions he has told me that he's still considering the things I shared with him. The Lord granted me an open door that day, and I trust those seeds will produce life in him.

               * Name changed for privacy

Friday, February 16, 2018

The Beautiful Bride of Christ

 The "Ladies Luncheon" has consistently been a highlight of our Brazil trip every year. We rent out the dining commons at a mall and put on a very special lunch for all the ladies that work in the brothels. It is a very powerful and effective ministry in which the women are treated with dignity and honor, and are introduced to perfect love of Jesus Christ.

Prior to the lunch, Tio Pedro always shares a short message and update about all the Lord is doing through their ministry to the brothels. This year he showed us pictures of some of the women who have given their lives to the Lord, come out of the brothels, and have since gotten married. Their wedding pictures were beautiful, and each of them wore a wonderful white wedding dress. Some people might think that a former prostitute has no business wearing a white wedding dress on her wedding day. After all, white is supposed to symbolize the purity of virginity, something that we know is not true of these women. But their white wedding dress was a picture of a greater spiritual reality - that these women have been washed clean of their past sins and they now stand before God without blemish, free from accusation. As God said through his prophet Isaiah long ago, "Thought your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow."

Those women had every right to wear a white wedding dress.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

God's Heart for the One

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.