The following, and final, morning (Friday) was spent getting ready to part ways from our new friends and head back to the lives we had put on hold. Before Sunday, I didn’t know any of these people existed, but throughout the week, as we ministered, traveled, and lived together, I got to know something about each of them. Not only did I learn about them, I even had opportunities to get to know better some of the people I had arrived with in New York, to see them step out into the uncomfortable and unknown. It was a true bonding experience, and it made the end of our adventure bittersweet.
Since there’s not much to write about from that final day (goodbyes, bus, plane, home), I’d thought I’d share just a few of the things I learned from or experienced during this trip.
- While I was there, I got discouraged, and there were times I wanted to give up and just go home. People didn’t seem to care anyway, and feelings of isolation sometimes tried to creep in, but I was reminded that I wasn’t alone and I had a job to do, regardless of the outcome. Even though people I tried to share the Gospel with didn’t seem to listen, I was constantly encouraged by our overall group unity. I don’t remember much, if any, infighting that week; though we had some disagreements, I mostly remember the encouragement from each of the people who had come. In fact, I think I was more encouraged by simply getting to know the people I was with than by any other experience that week.
- Because rejection was constant, there were two areas of Scripture I had to keep going back to throughout the week. One is Isaiah 55:11, which says that God’s word will not return to Him empty, and the other is 1 Samuel 8, in which Israel had asked for a king. What God told Samuel was the people had not rejected Samuel, but they were rejecting God. I had to keep being reminded that these people who didn’t want to listen to what I had to say weren’t doing it to me personally. I was just God’s messenger.
- Speaking of being a messenger, I’m terrible at evangelism, even though Jeff kept reassuring me I was doing well and being faithful to my calling. I flubbed words, felt unprepared, talked in circles, and many times couldn’t get to the point. Admittedly, I think I wanted so badly to see somebody come to Christ during at least one of my conversations, but if someone had, would I have become prideful in the conversion? I don’t really know, but it’s possible. In some of those circular conversations, I was so determined to point to the truth (maybe to prove I was right) that I might not have given up had I not been prevented from going further.
- In some way it’s a good thing I’m not so great at it, because in the end it’s not about me anyway. I might not have been a great communicator and or had any direct converts, but it was important to keep going. Even Paul wasn’t necessarily always a great speaker (1 Corinthians 2:1-4, 2 Corinthians 10:10) and didn’t see everyone he witnessed to accept Christ. At one point toward the end of the week, someone had mentioned Noah as the greatest human evangelist; he was a man who was faithful to his calling for many years, but he had no conversions (Genesis 6). Not one person I talked to came to Christ as a direct result of my words. Maybe I planted or watered (1 Corinthians 3:6), but if any good results from what I said or did, it’s God who has to cause it to happen.
- I mentioned before how I noticed people are too busy for God. As I’ve continued to ponder this thought, it’s occurred to me that of course people who don’t know God don’t have time for Him, but what of those of us who do know him personally? It’s a convicting thing to realize how often God is not my focus because I’m too distracted with lesser things.
New York City is probably a one-of-a-kind place. I best describe it as a giant version of downtown Dallas because of all the buildings, but it’s also an entirely different world from anywhere else I’ve ever been. Because of such cultural diversity, it has the feel of some European country, maybe more than one rolled together. It has a mixture of hustle and bustle with a side of silent reflection.
This was the first time I’ve done this sort of thing and also my first visit to New York, but I don’t want what I did to stop in that one week or in that one place. On the contrary, I want it to have been just the beginning. It’s always been so easy to go on a trip, do what I came to do, and then return to whatever life I temporarily put aside, but now I can say I’ve been to New York, and it was worth going. I had some good and bad experiences while I was in NYC, but I am glad that this type of trip was the first one I made there, and maybe some day I’ll go back to do it again. While I may not be good at evangelism, this is too important and one of the primary objectives of the church as a whole. (Why have we made it so difficult?) I also hope to continue doing in other places what I did there, and I feel somewhat more confident to do just that.
As the saying goes, if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere.