During Spring Break 2020, a group of Blue Mountain College BSU students traveled to New York City. From Saturday to Friday, we were united under a common banner of ministering to the people of NYC. Partnering with MSU, The W, EMCC, and SMCC, we gathered for training on Saturday, March 7th. Each BSU contributed students to various teams; each team worked with a local church for a week of added ministry manpower.
Blue Mountain Students Edison Holliday, Katelyn Ford, Benjamin Myers, Abby Keathley, Brie Schmidt, Adam Borcicky, Austin Mathis, Zack Ainsworth, Hailey Holcomb, Cameron Kohl, Cody Enis, Tyler Hunt, Kobe Christian, and this reporter each were assigned to various tracks within the city. Some were assigned to working in the public schools of various burrows doing community outreach while some were stationed in international communities, browsing along store fronts, or trying to strike up intentional conversations.
Sunday we met up with our assigned church plant and missionaries, gaining a feel for the context in which we were serving. Each team took time to orient themselves within the city and become familiar with the public transport before a busy week ensued.
Monday our teams jumped feet first into ministry, clambering onto the subway in the early hours of the morning as we navigated to our respective burrows. As in most cases of mission work, we were soon confronted with the reality that our expectations regarding our trip did not match the reality.
As an individual on the trip, I witnessed the frustration among peers and experienced it myself firsthand regarding the seeming lack of ministry we were doing within our context. Within the schools, we weren’t allowed to share the gospel due to their strict policy regarding religion. The lines between ministry and community service seemed to blur. It seemed as though we were simply there to help organize closets and file paperwork; however, we soon learned that ministry comes in all shapes and sizes.
Redhook, the community in which we served, is the second largest low-income housing facility in New York City. With poverty comes crime as well as drugs. The brokenness was palpable as we traveled the sidewalks to school. After two days of organizing, filing, assisting and coloring, we took Wednesday to prayer walk the perimeter of Redhook. It was then that our ministry partner and pastor of Redemption Church, Edwin Pacheco, informed us of the importance of our work.
“The community is broken. There’s distrust between neighbors as well as races. Taking the time to come and be in the community, to mingle with the kids, and show them they’re loved plants seeds.” He continued, “They remember you guys, and your actions speak louder than any words. You guys being here helps bridge that trust with community and the church. People see you guys walk these streets and know why you’re here.”
I recalled the previous frustrations of the week and was humbled. At the close of the week, teams had the opportunity to share with one another their triumphs and struggles, and soon recognized a common theme surfacing. Oftentimes we see ministry and missions as something that we attempt for God in our own strength. We look on the gospel conversations had, and revel in the accomplishment and progress. However, our week in New York brought the realization that sometimes we’re asked simply to step out in faith and work as unto the Lord, even if we’re unable to see the product.