Last week I got to spend four days in New York City on a ministry trip with Spread Truth, the organization I work for. You may have seen a few of my photos posted to social media, but those photos were captured mostly during the down times. To get a better understanding of what happened at nyc15, take a look at this recap video:
Pretty exciting, isn’t it?! As you saw, we hosted basketball camps, soccer camps, and a vacation Bible school for kids; and we met people on the streets and in the parks throughout the city. I spent my time on the streets and parks track, so I had to muster my extrovert and pray continually for God’s strength. As much as I love meeting people and learning about their lives, it drains me fast. But God was faithful—I only felt tired after the day was done.
My favorite day was spent at Washington Square Park, where our team talked to people and collected stories at our Story Walls. Our aim was to let people know their stories—their lives—matter and then to point them to the greatest story, the one of redemption and hope in Jesus being authored by God. That day I met people from Australia, Ireland, Canada, Holland, Saigon, Taiwan, Mexico, and the United States (Washington, New York, New Jersey). It was a great whirlwind of people and talking!
Another highlight was the time spent with my team on the streets of Brooklyn—at Fulton and Jay Streets—talking to and praying for people who stopped at our prayer station. Basically, I stood on a busy street, wearing a bright red smock with the words “prayer changes things” on the front and back, and asked passersby if I could pray for them. Yes, it was hard—at first. More people declined the offer or ignored me than stopped. But those who stopped? What an honor. I listened to their stories, prayed for their needs, and encouraged them with the hope of Jesus. And because empathy rules the day with me (I’m also a sympathetic crier), I gave them my tears. There were tears of sorrow for hardships and discouragement. And there were tears of joy for those who turned to Jesus. Being present with people in their pain and joy is greatest thing.
I could go on and on—and I’d love to tell you more, if you’d like to hear about the amazing people I met and the amazing God I serve! But I won’t do that here. Instead, I’ll share three things that were made clear to me after this trip.
- Everyone has a story. Every person’s life is full of both miraculous and unbelievable stories. I want my curiosity to be on at all times, ready to explore the stories of the people I meet day in, day out.
- Everyone is hurting. Everyone has some sort of heartache, disappointment, or struggle. No one gets a pass in this life, although some people have the means and skill to cover it up or push it aside.
- Everyone needs someone to care. Having a friend who will listen to your troubles is a rare treasure. Many people I spoke to had no one to talk to, no one to care. I want to be ready to notice, listen, and care for the hurting people around me.
In closing, I want to share how my trip ended. My flight out of NYC was delayed by almost three hours, so by the time I got to Denver, my body was thinking it was almost 1:00 a.m. I was weary, ready to see Mike and get some sleep. A gal on the tram started chatting with me, telling me her story. She was also tired and weary—her mom had died just two weeks before and she recently divorced her abusive husband, which included nasty court battles over their children. Such heartache.
Right then it occurred to me: This was just like the stories I heard in NYC, and even though I wasn’t wearing a red smock, I am always clothed in the hope of Jesus. So I did what I had been doing the past few days—I listened, I cried with her, I asked her name and told her I would be praying for her, and I pointed her to Jesus, the only hope I have known. We hugged and said our goodbyes, and she told me how much our conversation meant to her.
This is how I want my everyday life to unfold. Being at nyc15 enlarged the borders of my comfort zone and showed me that caring for others is worth the effort, the time, the emotional cost, and the risk of embarrassment. I want to live on mission like this, every day.
Who’s with me?!?!
Image: Spread Truth