It is the best of cities; it is the worst of cities. If I may borrow from Charles Dickens just a bit in order to describe New York City.
Recently I had a chance to visit New York City for the first time ever. I was there with some people from my church, and our reason for going was to do what is known as “open air evangelism” or “street evangelism.” It’s pretty much walking up to complete strangers and telling them about Jesus Christ, allowing them an opportunity to place their trust in Him. At least that’s the point of it. Somehow over the centuries, we’ve made it so difficult on ourselves to do something that should be so simple, but we were determined to do this.
Now that you know why we were there, let me back up several months to briefly explain how this came about. Ever since last year, the church I go to (Woodcreek in Richardson, Tx) has been doing something called “Everybody Matters.” Why? Because they do. Humans made in the image of God matter to Him, so they should matter to us. Because everyone matters, we should be reaching out to them. Not far removed this overarching theme/objective, our young adults community was exploring what that meant to us as, well, young adults in North Texas. Towards the end of last year and the beginning of this year, we were given lessons (for lack of a better word) on how to share the Gospel with various groups of people. This culminated with the idea to take what we were trying to do beyond our little bubble of life into somewhere else, and a missions trip was born; without going into a lot of details, NYC became the destination.
This idea was presented to us, and it was opened to anyone interested in taking the Gospel of Jesus Christ to NYC; it had started with young adults but soon grew to include anyone within the church. From the moment I heard this announcement, I was on board. It wasn’t because I had everything figured out or knew what to expect. Quite the contrary; frankly, I had no idea what to expect. Something you should know about me is I like trying new things and sometimes going to new places. I’d been on a couple missions trips prior, but those times the objective was different, though related; I’d also never been to New York (almost did in 2010). So this was perfect for me, and I was gung-ho to go.
As the months passed, my eagerness ebbed and flowed; life has a way of doing that to our excitement for future events. And then came the event. I don’t know that I was ever fully prepared for this trip, as I didn’t necessarily have any pre-conceived expectations, and when I got there, I was never fully taken in by the sights (as in “this is the most awesome place I’ve ever been”). Don’t get me wrong, there’s something about New York City that kind of draws you in, but at the same time, maybe there’s this sort of disconnect I can’t explain. Or maybe it was just me; after all, I was in a new place with people I’d somewhat gotten to know before this trip. We all were there for the same purpose, yet there were times when it was basically just me with my thoughts in a city I didn’t know.
We arrived on a Sunday afternoon at the church we would be staying during the week. The church we stayed at has multiple services in different languages on any given Sunday, which means the building was not ready for temporary habitation when we arrived, so what did we do in the meantime? Our leader Sam liked to say, “the best way to kill time is to work it to death.” So he had us go do what we came to do, but I’m pretty sure none of us were prepared for that just yet. I think we were expecting to get to work the following day after getting our bearings and such, but that first day we got right to work. And that is where this story really begins.