Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Bringing Flesh to Vision
On Tuesday, 20 students arrived from Cali to Maryland, from Nebraska to Kentucky. Each with their own set of emotions, perspectives, and expectations—me too! This week was a mixture of missing home and really thrilled to meet new people. We had two days of orientation: covering topics of “Mastering the Subways: learning the metro card swiping speed”, “Evangelism”, and “The Forever-Changing Schedule”. During these days we joined the 4 other tracks ministry to NYC this summer (all five are-Inner City, Arts, Bridges, Epic, and Campus).
Thursday is where Flesh met Vision.
Alphabet City-located in lower East side of the village. Named appropriately because of the streets: block A, block B, C, and ending in D. I learned that this part of town is known for its punk nature, high drug use, and never-ending graffiti. Blocks A, B, C and D are the last on the subway line and they are referred to as “Attention”, “Beware”, “Caution”, and “Danger”. Block D, being the worst. In the past 20 years, much has changed in Alphabet City. The parks were cleaned up of all the used, dirty needles. Graffiti was removed and replaced with fresh paint. Petty crimes were gone after-from the philosophy that if we go after the smaller crimes the larger ones will take care of them self. Now it’s a tale of two cities. The West side of Alphabet City has been gentrified and the East still remains with many of the same needs-violence, hunger, housing.
We walked from A to B, stopping just before C at Graffiti/ E 7th Street Baptist Church. (www.graffitichurch.org) Here we met Kareeme Gubran. Kareeme shared how this little church started in a 10 x 10ft. store front. They moved into the neighborhood in 1974 to begin offering childcare, food, and clothing for those in need. The church now has grown, increasing its capacity to give through GED classes and much more. But as the neighborhood has changed so has the vision of Graffiti. Trying to find ways to bridge these two cities. Kareeme expresses:
“We are committed to living out the New Testament Scriptures through personal relationships with the risen Christ. We do this "living out" through serving others, and helping others find ways to serve.
We value worship, diversity, devotion and enthusiasm.”
Kareem introduced us to another friend, a renowned drummer from Eastern Europe. He came to America, first seeking to live out his passion for music in the secular world. God quickly showed him that it’s of greater value in heaven to use his passions to give ultimate Glory to the Risen Christ. He now plays drums at a homeless shelter.
Flesh to vision.
We walked on. Found our way to the house church and ministry home for Abounding Grace Ministries (www.aboudinggraceministries.org) We met Pastor Rick Del Rio, the founder. He shared with us that God had given him this compelling sense that he needed to seek the face of the Lord. So he drove off to Kentucky. There he prayed for vision-God gave him the picture of a truck filled with food and his boys handing out sacks of food to those in need. He drove back to New York, told his wife and 3 young boys, packed up their belongings and moved to alphabet city. The picture of the truck below is the vision realized. Rick would stand in his truck and preach the message of Christ, people from the streets would come out of the dark and pray to receive Christ. At first they didn’t come, no one did. Rick would give an alter call and the street would be empty. One evening after they were packing everything up, this elderly woman approached them. She said she heard Rick preach and ask anyone to come forward that wanted Christ. She was 13 floors above, listening from her window.
Flesh to vision.
We ended our adventure at the Bowery Mission: a men’s homeless shelter, food program since 1879. Here we joined the lines for a meal and met some of the residents. The Bowery serves 3 meals a day, first to the residents and then to the public, averaging 300 meals a day. The residents are in transition programs. Two programs are offered, each lasting 6 months. They use tools such as Holistic Hardware and WorkNet, teaching life-skills and job-skills in a biblical format. Many of the staff we met were men that had graduated from the programs.