WINNING OVER THE BIG APPLE
When considering bringing Christ in the City to New York, many thoughts quickly fled to mind. We imagined the innumerous people we would pass by, the homeless who are considered “part of the furniture” on the sidewalks, and the great need to cultivate a “culture of encounter” in the city that never sleeps. After scouting the streets, we set out for a three-week mission.
To be honest, we were expecting more resistance from the homeless.
We were clearly not New Yorkers and were worried they wouldn’t believe we just wanted to get to know them. Sure enough, our new friends on the street understood fairly quickly. We actually got the most resistance from everyday New Yorkers.
Surviving a bit of rejection and harsh stares, we reluctantly won over the Big Apple.
All of our street teams made consistent friends on the street, while shaking up the hustle-and-bustle lives of resident New Yorkers. We built up friendships that were difficult to leave, but knew we made a difference in each others’ lives.
Special thanks to The Seton Fellows, who not only let us live in their apartment for three weeks, but also shared life with us at different moments. And to Emmanuel School of Mission for spending time with our community for a cultural dinner and classes.
We love you, New York!
Q&A with Team NYC!
What was one of the most impactful experiences you had in street ministry?
Michael. He was very shy and didn’t want to talk at all the first couple times we met him. I could see in his eyes that there was a deep sadness he was experiencing- I could also feel it. The second time we met, we all painfully sat in silence together for a few minutes until I tried cracking a few jokes. Michael said he wasn’t in a good mood today and we should just leave.
That’s when I knew we had to keep coming back to see him every day we were in NY.
I made it my goal to get him to smile each time we met, and that first smile he cracked was worth everything. In time, he slowly opened up more about how he enjoys drawing, but when I offered him paper and pencil to draw, he always refused,.. until our last day. We wanted to leave him with his very own sketch pad.
As he peeked into the bag, I saw a smile bigger than I thought possible. His eyes lit up as he said, “is this a sketch pad for my drawings?” I nodded as I watched this child of God look at it closer and thank us with his boyish smile.
Our friendship with Michael showed us that suffering can be transformed into joy. The softening of his heart reminded us that there is always hope in every situation.
What was a challenge you faced?
I don’t think I’ve ever been stared at as a spectacle as much as when I sat down with Jacob at Union Square Garden and heard his story. The coolest part about bringing CIC to a new city is being a sign of contradiction for a culture that needs the Gospel.
One of the confused onlookers actually interrupted our conversation asking, “What are you looking at?” I don’t know what she meant by it, but I do know that we don’t have to settle for just looking at poverty—we can actually love the poor.
What was the experience like for your team?
It was a time of realizing that God doesn’t love us because we’re useful or because He needs something from us. His love is a love “just because”, and that is the love that we were called to bring to the streets of NYC.