new york, new york!

well, this is gonna be really long, so just be prepared.  i plan on adding some pictures once my teammates upload them to facebook, so be looking for those in the top right corner.  if you want to skip the day-to-day, just scroll down to the bottom for the big themes…i won’t be mad  :)

Saturday
well, saturday wasn’t incredibly interesting.  we flew from dfw to laguardia in two groups and checked in to the harlem ymca pretty late at night.  a couple of rooms on a different floor had some interesting experiences involving a drunk frenchman, but everything was calm on my floor.

Sunday
sunday started with us splitting into four groups to prayer walk in different parts of the city.  my group was at madison square park, where i was struck (as i would be many times) by the huge differences between the financial/tourist parts of manhattan and the rest of the city.  we went to church at redeemer presbyterian, where pastor tim keller spoke on john 19:38-42 and 3:1-8, demonstrating how “born again” meant something very different to nicodemus than it has come to mean for many people today.  after church we went to dinner at john’s pizza (which was awesome) and wandered around times square doing touristy things and taking lots of silly pictures.

Monday
monday was our first day of official ministry.  we went to the south bronx to work with youth ministries for peace and justice, an organization that was started by a south bronx native with the goal of redeeming not only the people of the community, but also the economy and natural resources.  we helped them by going around to local businesses distributing and collecting surveys that ympj will use to determine how best they can help the businesses in the area stay and grow and continue providing jobs.  one of the coolest things about ympj was the mural they had in their building showing what Jesus’ life may have been like in the south bronx – born in an alley in the projects, baptized in the bronx river, “sermon on the fire escape,” the last supper as a barbecue, being arrested by the nypd, etc.  it put Jesus in a context the kids in the neighborhood could understand, while also opening up for discussion controversial issues such as the relationship with the police.  when you keep in mind this ministry is four blocks from where amadou diallo was shot 41 times by the police while reaching for his id, you see the importance of dealing with those kinds of issues.
monday night a group of us ate in little italy, which was absolutely fantastic.  if you ever go to new york, eat at amici II on mulberry st. and say hi to paulo for us.

Tuesday
tuesday we split into groups again to work with a bunch of groups from city uprisingto pass out flyers for free HIV testing.  the goal was to raise awareness about the importance of getting tested for HIV and provide care and counseling for those who need it.  my group was at bellevue hospital and the best part of the day for me was the team we were working with.  while the majority of those participating in the conference were high school or college students, our group was mostly adults in their 40s and 50s.  it was really encouraging to see people with spouses and kids and homes and jobs give up a week to come to a city they have no ties with in order to serve God and be a part of what is going on there.  i tend to get discouraged when i see so many Christians that are “settled down” and seem to have lost the passion i see in people my age, so it was really a great day (oh, and by the way, i tested negative :))
that night we got to walk across the brooklyn bridge and wander around in brooklyn for a bit, which was way fun.  i don’t think i’ve walked that much in a single day in my entire life.

Wednesday
wednesday we split into two groups.  my group went to new song community church in harlem and helped them clean and organize.  afterwards, we got an opportunity to talk to one of the pastors about what the church is doing in the city.  i was really impressed by their commitment to living in the area and being an active part of the community.  there has been a lot of gentrification in the area and the church is doing what they can to encourage and enable people to stay even with rising costs, as well as to bridge the racial divides in an increasingly diverse area that has been historically black.
wednesday night we went to revo, a fundraiser at gallery church (the church putting on city uprising) to benefit the mocha club and other ministries in or focused on africa.  they had music, art, and a fashion show, which was all really fun.

Thursday
on thursday we partnered with campus crusade for Christ and were sent out to colleges around new york to try and share the gospel with students.  finding campuses proved difficult, considering most of them are just normal-looking buildings with a banner on the side that says the name of the college.  my group found baruch college and had a number of good conversations with a bunch of different students.  i think among the five of us were able to share the gospel about 4 times, which was pretty awesome.
that night i got to go out to dinner with joe karlya, my parents’ friend from college.  my friend and fellow team member, adam, went with us and we had a really awesome time.  we got to hear a lot of stories about my parents’ college days and apparently they were pretty cool people…who would have thought?  :)  after dinner, adam and i walked down part of 5th ave and wandered around central park, which was absolutely gorgeous, although it was a little disconcerting to be surrounded by so much intense materialism.

Friday
our leaders left it up to us to decide what we would do on friday, which was really cool of them.  we didn’t have a lot of time, but we wanted to talk to people and do more evangelism, so we ended up going one subway stop south and walking around harlem.  we went around in pairs and from what i heard a lot of people had really good conversations.  i was with our leader, kim, and we had a lot of fun, especially talking to moussa.  moussa is a street vendor from burkina faso, a country in west africa.  we talked to him and his friend, who are both muslims, for a long time about africa and life in new york and what makes a good muslim.  oh yeah, and moussa asked me to marry him multiple times.
after lunch, we got into a super shuttle van and drove to laguardia, which was really sad.  one group was flying direct to dfw, but my group was changing planes in chicago, where it was snowing.  we got on the plane a little before 5 pm new york time and got off in chicago a little before 8 (9pm new york time).  of those 4 hours, only 2 were spent in the air.  praise the Lord, our flight from o’hare to dfw wasn’t cancelled, just a little delayed, so we made it back to dallas around midnight and then i finally got to my apartment around 2am and immediately went to bed.

big themes of the week:
-the amazingness of my team – it is beautiful when a group of 15 incredibly different people extend the grace God has given them to each other
-the existence of MEN in collegelife – our guys men were absolutely wonderful.  they were true leaders and took care of us girls in the most caring, gentle ways, while being hilariously funny.
-spiritual issues and physical/economic/political issues must be addressed concurrently – God does not exist in a vacuum, but we cannot wait for all the problems of the world to be solved to start preaching the gospel.  economic development and racial healing have to happen AT THE SAME TIME as soul redemption.
-the importance of menial tasks in supporting the work of the global Church – we did small things, but everyone we worked with told us how thankful they were to have people there to help with the small things so they could focus on the larger picture.
-the importance of seeing the larger picture in my community – when i go somewhere else, it is my job to help build and support the existing ministries.  when i am home, it is my job to be the existing ministry.
-the larger picture is God’s glory – my greatest responsibility is to point out, highlight, proclaim the glory of God, as evidenced in the cross of Christ, wherever i am (this theme may have a lot to do with the fact that i was reading john piper’s don’t waste your life throughout the trip).

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1 Comment

  1. Wow Rachel! It was fun to run across your blog through facebook today. What amazing experiences God has been bringing your way! I’m so excited to hear how He’s working in your life right now. :o)
    Can’t wait to hear more about your trip to India.

    Reply

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  • A collection of ramblings and musings on Jesus, life, education, family, and anything else that pops into my head.

    Twitter: @rachel_heather
    Email: raltsman@gmail.com
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