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!