I must say, having come to New York City from the Bible Belt of Nashville, Tennessee, I expected to be thrust into the heart of Sin City. And while there have been ample moments of sinful behavior by those in the streets and on the subways of New York, I have also been pleasantly surprised by the presence of God's people. I wasn't exactly sure what to expect when I answered God's call to come here for a 6 week sabbatical. I just knew He had opened the door for me to sharpen my writing skills and for my sixteen year old daughter, Lea, to attend the Peridance Summer Intensive during the same time. That in itself was the first miracle. Not her making the cut, but the coordination of our trips.
The second obstacle was housing. What could I afford? Where could we stay? Where would we be willing to stay within our budget? That was the greater question. Well, I did my share of Googling and Craigsliting (are those even words?) before I came, and I even made a one day trip in December to check out the apartments that interested me. Good thing! It's amazing how large they can make these places look on the internet. You know what the television commercial says (no one can lie on the internet). Anyway, a local realtor helped me out, an apartment owner made concessions, and we were able to stay the first 10 days in a one bedroom and move to a two bedroom in the same building for the final month. Thank you God and thank you Anneclaire & Darin.
The third obstacle was gaining approval...not just from the church, but from my wife. She would stay behind with four of our other children and the dog. Needless to say, both the church and wife agreed and here we are. So...other than Lea dancing and me studying to write, what did God have planned for us? Glad you asked.
My neighbor made a connection with a friend of his named Glen Kleinknect who coordinates the Here's Life Innercity Ministries housed out of Long Island City, Queens (which by the way...according to Glen...is the geographic center of New York City). His ministry assists churches as a food pantry, among other things.
A college student from my church told me to visit The Graffiti Church in Manhattan while we were here. She had just assisted them in a missions ministry earlier this year. So, Lea and I visited the Graffiti Church. Wow! What a beautiful church. No, I'm not talking about their facilities...their people. After all, the church is a people. I met with their pastor, Taylor Fields (pictured below). He too is a pastor and a writer (affirmation for me). They had a church member use tap dancing as his testimony, telling how God could use his talents for God's Kingdom (affirmation for Lea - also pictured below). If you're ever in the East Village of New York, make time to visit/attend this church...you won't regret it. God-hearted people.
Since then, we sat next to a young couple praying over their meal and thanked them for their testimony. I also witnessed two men on the subway discussing the purpose of the Holy Spirit (one mentoring the other). In the middle of Grand Central Station a woman sang praise and worship songs. A youth dance/choir performed in Union Square, sharing creatively their faith in Jesus Christ. So, instead of spending all of our energy criticizing New Yorkers for their not-so-traditional lifestyles, let us lift in prayer and praise these bold witnesses to God's truth and God's love. As the man sitting next to me at The Coffee Shop said, "God is alive and well in New York...after all, He's everywhere, isn't He." Well said.
From the Soul of a Pastor...Amen.