Grace is a journey, not an event... So come walk with me...

Grace is a journey, not an event... So come walk with me through this story...

Thursday, January 24, 2013

A New Year...

Greetings Friends and Family!
Quite a bit of time has passed since I've updated you all!  It's been a rather busy few months between getting married, moving, the holidays, battling the flu, plus my regular work schedule.  Regardless there is much going on that I'm excited to share with you all!

New Bus:
After a long period of being built from the ground up, plus the customization, we have added a brand new bus to our fleet ready to hit the streets of NYC, Newark, and Paterson!  Unlike any other bus New York City Relief has used before, this bus is equipped to the max with the latest in "relief bus technology!"  Everything from ample lighting for night time outreaches, to an abundance of HVAC systems, to a reverse camera, to awesome graphics,  the bus is well equipped to carry our outreach to the next level!

New Bus

As most of you know I married the best woman in the world a little over a month ago!  Everyday that passes by I realize that this was the best decision I have EVER made!  God has truly brought us together and it is such a joy sharing life with my best friend.  I look forward to seeing what God has in store for our marriage.  Please pray for us as we move forward with our new lives and that God will continue to knit our heart's together.

April and I

New York City Relief:
After being short staffed on our outreach team for almost two years we've recently added three new gentlemen to join us!  Sean Ballentine, Paul  Ballesteros, and Jeff Cook.  Not only do these guys relieve a lot of the pressure on our team's busy work schedules, but these are men truly called by God to come stand with us as we continue to proclaim Christ's love to the poor in the NYC metro area.  I can only imagine how God will work through these new guys, as He has worked through us, in changing lives!




The Street:
It is cold. VERY COLD!  Please pray for all of those that we serve, especially for those who have no home to go to.  Specifically please pray for "Steve."  I've been working with Steve for quite a long time now.  It seems no matter what he does the cards are always stacked against him.  His entire life has been full of rejection from all sides.  That being said he sometimes resorts to substance abuse to battle loneliness and depression.  Despite his extreme trust issues he has learned to open up to me and I've been able to help him process some of his emotional history.  Unfortunately Steve recently lost his job and three weeks ago was evicted from his apartment.  I offered him a spot in a men's home, but due to his fear of being hurt yet again he turned it down.  Please pray that God would soften Steve's heart enough for him to accept our help.  Pray that he would discover God's love for him.  Pray that he would realize God has a plan for him.  And pray that we continue to sow the right seeds into Steve's heart.
Me Cleaning the Soup Cooker

Thank you all for your continued support of my mission.  Please pray that we will see lives changed in 2013 more than we ever have!  And if you haven't done so already come spend a day and serve alongside of me this year!
Grace and Peace to You All...

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Hurricane Sandy Relief

        As many of you know the missionaries here at the Relief Bus went down to Haiti.  I had every intention of writing about all that God had done on this trip, but mother nature had other plans.  While we were down in Haiti Hurricane Sandy was ripping my home state apart.  Due to the storm our stay down in Haiti had to be extended three days.  But as soon as we got back we at the Relief Bus immediately started doing what we do best: bring relief.
        Even before we landed back on U.S. soil there was a tremendous outpouring of donations to our organization.  Due to the massive backups at the airports we all had to go home in different flights out of Haiti.  Unfortunately I was in the last wave and didn't get home till midnight on Friday after the storm.  But others who came back earlier immediately went to do relief work in Staten Island on Saturday after the storm!  That next week our staff ran an additional 6 outreaches to those neighborhoods hit hardest in addition to our 11 outreaches we run weekly.  We were able to partner with organizations like FEMA and distribute hot food while they gave out dry goods and blankets.  I was on Coney Island one day and partnered up with a tenant association for a project building that had lost power for over a week.  Just a few days ago I was in the South Bronx visiting one of our partnering rehabs and they were desperate for blankets, as many as we could provide. All over the city there were literally thousands of seniors in buildings stuck on the upper floors with no heat or electricity for over ten days.  The overall need was beyond astounding.
        Although the "relief" work is starting to wind down the rebuilding has a long way to go.  As many of you know who live in the tri-state area the estimated cost is well into the billions.  And there are some urban neighborhoods that still have no power two weeks after the storm!  We are still doing our best to get into these areas where there is remains a tremendous amount of need.
        Please continue to pray for NYC and NJ as we continue to rebuild after Hurricane Sandy.  Please pray for our staff as we are stretched pretty thin between running our hurricane relief outreaches in addition to our regular outreaches.  Also pray for April and I! In the midst of all this craziness we are set to get married in a little over a month!
Grace and Peace to You All....

FEMA Mobile Distribution Center

Giving out hot food in the Brooklyn Cyclones parking lot with the Relief Van.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Unkown...

        Whether by print or internet, by the time many of you read this I will be in Haiti with the rest of the Relief Bus team.  As many of you already know from October 23rd through the 30th, our organization will shut down and we will be heading to Haiti to serve with missionaries down there.  Although we see poverty everyday this will be something totally different than anything I have ever experienced.  We here at the Relief Bus work within a well developed infrastructure that does a good job of documenting the problem so organizations like ours can work on fixing it.  This is not the case in Haiti.  The earthquake completely decimated most of Haiti's ability to do this, and from what I understand they are far from a full recovery.  Whether we will be working on a construction project or helping a youth group, the exact details have yet to be decided upon and will probably not be ironed out until our arrival.
        All that being said I have to admit that I am incredibly nervous.  This may come as a surprise to many of you, but I have never been on a missions trip.  I know many of you who support me and read this are quite the short-term missionary veterans, but I would be lying if I told you this full-time missionary isn't scared out of his whits.  I will be walking into an environment that I am completely unfamiliar with and will be serving a people who's language I don't speak.  The past few weeks thoughts of exotic insects, no running water, the potential of another earthquake, in a culture I don't understand has been plaguing my mind.  I've also been asking myself what kind of difference could I possibly make.  Working in missions I understand the amount of time we have to invest in individuals to gain their trust.  With all these concerns circulating in my head my nerves are not in the best of shape.
        Working with the Relief Bus however has taught me one very important lesson: just roll with it.  Every time I lead a team into NYC or Newark I always remind them that all we do is sow seeds.  I tell them that if they came to serve with an agenda, however noble that agenda may be, they should pack up and go home.  It's not our job to save anyone, only God through Christ can do that.  It's our job merely to sow seeds of hope, love, and grace.  I find it ironic that the same sermon I've preached to literally hundreds of volunteers over the past two years is the same one I need now more than ever.  Despite all my concerns I am trying to make an intentional effort to let go of my "agendas" and "doubts" and let God do something.  The disciples spoke multiple languages during Pentecost, perhaps we will see the same miracle!  But despite whatever happens I know God will show up if we merely keep sowing seeds, whatever that may look like.
        To be completely honest I feel as if I'm writing this more for myself than for those who are reading this.  But I wanted to share with all of you what is going on in my heart as we prepare for this trip.  Please pray for our team and myself specifically.  Pray that God will reveal Himself to me in a way that I've never experienced.  Pray that He teaches me something that I can bring back to my mission here.  Pray for my fiance as we will be unable to contact each other during this week.  And pray for our safety.  As I alluded to earlier the infrastructure is far from recovered and with that comes a host of other dangers.  And a special thank you for those of you who made this trip possible!  I can't wait to share next month what God is doing in Haiti!
Grace and Peace to You All... 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

God's Promises...

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
~ Jeremiah 29:11

        Aside from John 3:16, Jeremiah 29:11 is perhaps the most quoted verses in our churches today.  It is a verse that has given millions of Christians hope and encouragement in the midst of misfortune and disaster.  It reminds us that despite our external circumstances God is still God, and God is good.  But how are we to respond to this verse when the storm just doesn't seem to stop?  When one's life is a seemingly perpetual disaster?  This is a question that I asked myself about a month ago while working with a friend of mine named "Jay".
        Jay has had a long history with us here at the Relief Bus.  Jay is not an NYC local, but a Native American Indian from Minnesota.  Unlike many who come to NYC with the hopes of advancing themselves and their careers, Jay comes here to escape.  On a moment's notice, in the midst of a bout with depression, Jay will leave his home and his wife to come out east and wander the streets of New York drowning himself in alcohol.  Over the past two years a couple of the missionaries here, myself included, have done our best to show Jay that there is another way.  A little over a year and half ago Jay came to know the Lord.  But like all of us he is on a journey.  Not long after Jay received Christ some of us here at The Relief Bus pooled our personal resources together and bought him a bus ticket home to his wife.  I wish I could say this was the end of the story.
        Around ten months later I was at our mid-town outreach and there was my friend.  Again he had gone back to what was familiar.  I brought him into our office on the Bus and as he wept I knew that we had to do it again.  We needed to send him home to his wife.  So we did.  Again I wish I could say that this was the end of the story.
        Five months later as soon as I parked the Bus at our Wednesday outreach I walked off and saw Jay walking down the street.  My initial internal reaction was NOT one of compassion and grace.  For the next twenty minutes in anger I did my best to avoid him, but I knew at some point I had to say hello.  There was nothing that could have prepared me for what was about to happen next.  When I finally brought myself to say hello not surprisingly Jay had told me that for the past two weeks he had been sleeping at the Port Authority Bus Terminal and consuming exuberant amounts of alcohol.  He then told me that 6 weeks prior his wife had been diagnosed with cancer and two weeks later she died.  In that moment I realized that Jay officially had no home where we could send him back to, no family to take him back in, and in turn no hope.  As he sat there on the side walk weeping I was overcome with a complete sense of bewilderment.  I started asking myself how God could allow this to happen, especially after we had invested so much into him.  I wondered where the promises of Jeremiah 29:11 had gone in Jay's life.  I attempted to offer some hope, but it felt so empty coming from me.  I no longer had any answers for Jay.
        Later on that night I was sharing with a friend of mine what had happened.  I told him how ridiculous I felt trying to assure Jay that it was all going to be okay even though I had very little faith in the situation.  He then told me that the reason I felt ridiculous was because I was having trouble believing that God's promise's were true for myself.  So of course how could I proclaim hope to another if I wasn't holding onto its truth.  It hit me like a punch to the gut.  He was right. 
        Faith is not believing with your head that God's promises will become a reality, faith is knowing with your whole being that God's promises are already a reality.  Faith is proclaiming His truth in the midst of the world's false realities.  It is our job as His servants to live in that truth even when we don't have a tangible answer.  Although, even for myself, it is so much easier talking about this then living it, we must never stop fighting for it.  The past few times that I have seen Jay I have done my best to proclaim this reality to him.  Amazingly despite my initial lack of faith, Jay's faith has grown in the past three months more than it has in the past two years.  Every time I see him now I see a peace in his eyes I had never seen before.  Please pray for Jay as he continues to walk this journey of faith.  And please continue to pray for myself as I walk the same journey.  Grace and Peace to You All....

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Larger Story...

Then the eleven disciples left for Galilee, going to the mountain where Jesus hold told them to go.  When they saw him, they worshiped him - but some of them doubted!  Jesus came and told his disciples, 'I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth.  Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you.  And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
Matthew 28:16-20

        As an "urban missionary" I often find myself getting caught up in "serving the poor."  With the right spin, working with the homeless in NYC and Newark has the potential to be rather glamorous and seemingly heroic.  I find, however, that serving the homeless sometimes becomes an end unto itself.  That somehow this is the ultimate calling (to serve to poor) of God.  After all, does not God command us to feed the hungry?  Clothe the naked?  Provide the wanderer with shelter?  Now I know that no Christian would come and outright say this, but I do believe there is a subtle undertone of glamor in how the Church views our work with the poor.  This view however, whether spoken or unspoken, has the potential to be rather dangerous!
        Every time I lead a team of volunteers on the outreach I always read the Great Commission.  I boldly give my speech on how working with the poor is only a small part of God's larger story for His children.  Although proudly reading this every week I would all but forget about Christ's final word during my time on the outreach.  Furthermore I would also forget the dangerous implications for not taking this mandate seriously.  I would get caught up in simply "feeding the hungry."  About a month ago however, something happened and I was forced to re-evaluate my heart, my faith, and my mission.
        Mark faithfully came to our Newark outreach every week.  Most of the time he came for a free lemonade and a quick hello.  At one time he had expressed an interest in detox, but within a few weeks the desire had faded.  Mark was a former semi-pro basket ball player.  Unfortunately due to a knee injury his career had abruptly ended.  Mark had developed a heroin addiction.  From there he contracted HIV.  Recently cancer had also started to take over his body.  For the past few years Mark has lived in subsidized housing, paying women who prostitute themselves to keep him company.  A month ago Mark went into the emergency room with pneumonia and never came out.
        I've had quite a bit of time to wonder if I had done enough to show him the love of Christ.  Sure I had always welcomed him with a smile.  But the importance of the Christ's commission has now taken on a face.  We can read books, take pictures, and listen to music about feeding the hungry, but all this pales in comparison to the larger story that God is calling us into.  The story of taking God's love to the world through demonstration and proclamation.  The two are married, not to be separated.  This message of love and grace is not just for the poor.  Its value is not measured the feelings we get, but by the seeds we sow in life's storms and its draughts.  All who read this, I beg you, put down your books, stop taking your pictures, abandon your ipods... Go tell your neighbor that God loves them, very much...

Thursday, June 7, 2012


"Suddenly, a man in the synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit began shouting, 'Why are you interfering with us, Jesus of Nazareth?  Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are - the Holy One of God!"
Mark 1:23-24

        Every Tuesday morning the Relief Bus prays and worships together.  We pray for each other, for those we minister to, and anyone else God puts on our hearts.  This past Tuesday while worshiping I started to read the book of Mark and was struck by the word "interfering."
        Being a missionary I'm often told that I'm on the front lines against what Satan is doing on the streets.  However, doing this everyday I sometimes I lose sight of that.  After reading this passage I started to wonder if I am, in fact, "interfering" with the enemy or if I've become a slave to the routine.  It was a humbling question to ask.  I started to think about specific people that I've developed a relationship with over this past year and wonder if I've done my part in effectively showing them the love of Christ.  It was then I realized I needed to be recharged.
        Therefore I am humbly asking for your support.  Many of you have come by my side financially and kept my bank account stable and for that I thank you (and please don't stop as I am getting married in December)!  But if you can, please pray that God continues to spiritually sustain me in my ministry here at the Relief Bus.  God is working in the lives of some amazing people and I do not want to miss it because of fatigue!  Here are a few examples of people God has put in my life.  Please partner with me in praying that God continue to reveal his love to each of these individuals and neighborhoods! 

  • "S": A friend of mine who is currently looking for a job.  He also struggles with loneliness.
  •  "S2": An older gentleman who is very intellectual, but hates Christians.  Despite his disdain, every week we go back and forth on multiple issues.  Through this friendly banter we've developed a genuine friendship.  Pray that he sees Christ through our interactions.
  • "J": A homeless man who has completely given up on everything and embraced his identity as an outcast.
The South Bronx
  • John Owens:  Many of you that follow my posts will remember John. I pulled John out of the South Bronx and connected him with a discipleship program in Newark.  He is doing excellent, but please pray that God continue to open doors for the future-schooling, job, housing, ect. 
  • Alice:  Continued healing from back surgery.  Also peace and direction for her children.
  • "J": A retired FDNY fireman who struggles with alcoholism.

Newark's South Ward
  • The Seth Boyden Projects:  A month ago we received the official word that the city will be closing the projects in the fall.  Pray that we continue to see God moving in the hearts of the families we have had the pleasure of ministering to throughout the years.
  • "JR":  A very good friend of mine who despite being homeless continues to hold onto hope for the future. 
Newark's North Ward
  • Praise for a recent addition to our volunteer team.  Tara, a teacher in Newark, has agreed to develop a children's discipleship program at our site in north Newark.
  • Broadway Town Houses:  This is our first summer at this spot and we are already starting to see the "animation" that comes with the summer months!  Pray for peace and protection in this neighborhood where we minister.  Pray that God would continue bringing the homeless, the addicted, the prostitute, and the lonely to our newest site in Newark's North Ward.
Home (my most important ministry)
  • Please continue to pray for April and I are we plan our wedding!  I am beyond excited to see what God has in store for my future wife and I!
  • My brother Samuel is leaving this week on an extended missions trip to Africa.  Please pray for safety and guidance for him!
  • My brother-in-law Josiah recently graduated from law school.  As he prepares for the bar pray that God would open the right doors for him and my sister as they continue to move forward!  
Thank you for your continued support!  Grace and Peace to you all in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ...

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


      It has been quite a bit of time since my last post, and for that I apologize.  But let me assure you this past month has been anything but uneventful!  As most of you know, all of my posts have been about my happenings on the streets of NYC and Newark.  This time however I'm going to bring it home.  I'm happy to announce to all of you that as of two weeks ago I am engaged to be married!!
      For quite a bit of time I have been developing and pursuing a relationship with April Sobocinski, a regular volunteer with us here at the Relief Bus.  She is a person that has come by my side and supported me through my time as a missionary.  She has inspired me to be a better man.  She encourages me to continually take the next step in whatever I'm pursuing.  I can honestly say that I have found the woman that God has intended for me!  She has exceeded my expectations for a wife! And she truly has received the short end of the stick with me! 
      About two months ago while having coffee with her father, asking for his blessing, he started to reminisce about his marriage.  He told me that when you know, you know.  I know!  This is the woman I love and will do everything I need to do to have her by my side!
      Even as I write this it is difficult to convey my passion for the future with my fiance!  I am beyond excited to see what the Master has in store for us!  Please pray for April and I as we take the next step in starting our lives together!  Grace & peace to you all...