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...

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...