We are still trying to catch up on sleep from our busy, exhausting, eye-opening weekend in NYC.
I’ve been to NYC one other time, and loved it! A little over a year ago, we went for an anniversary trip. (Hubby wanted to fly somewhere, I wanted to go to NYC because I’d never been there, I started looking for plane tickets and discovered they were cheap, the rest is history)
Our church has been wanting to go to NYC for a weekend witnessing trip, and thrown around different dates. The original plan was for anyone from church to go, from age 14 and up. We wanted to go, were excited to go, thought we had a place lined up for our younger daughters to stay, and had our names on the list.
Then our babysitter fell through, so we took our names back off the list. And felt very disappointed. But we were praying that things would work out for us to be able to go. If you have young kids, you will know what I mean when I say that I always feel kinda bad to ask someone if my kids can stay there. It’s a huge favor, and I know it! And, for this weekend in particular, I didn’t want someone to stay home from the trip because they had to do childcare. And yet, when your church family is your “family”, it’s hard to find another place for your kids to stay.
As time went on, a few more people were backing out of the trip, and it turned out that the bus was going to have too many seats. Hmmm….our brains were rolling…and then I finally took the plunge and asked my sis-in-law if our youngest two girls could stay there. As it turned out, we only left the youngest at home, and took both of the “middles” along (their friends were also going, and boy such excitement!! 🙂 )
We left our church house about 5:15 Friday morning. Google maps was telling me that we should be there in about 9 hours. Not bad. Considering the fact that we were on a bus, and then add in an hour for stopping time, maybe we’d get there around 4 pm.
All went well till we reached the outskirts of the city. Traffic (Memorial Day weekend didn’t help any!!) We spent about 3 hours navigating city traffic until we finally reached our first destination-Followers of Jesus Church in Brooklyn (or Queens).
One thing I really find intriguing about NYC is how they utilize their old buildings so well (here in Ohio, once a building is old, or might become old, it usually gets torn down, and a new one built in it’s place). Not so there!
The Followers of Jesus Church (and School) is a unique 3 (or more) story building. We climbed numerous flights of stairs until we discovered a room with a meal prepared for us. Our hosts there served us a feast of rice & beans, chicken (I think it might have been Jamaican style), and more! It was delicious! We were privileged to hear from Daniel Pollard, a bit about their life there, some dos & don’ts of witnessing in the city, a rough itinerary, and more.
Then we walked to the nearest subway station and rode to the Broadway Junction stop. Our group of 47 was divided into 6 groups, and while the majority of the group was standing in the one corner singing hymns & gospel songs, each group would take a turn at walking around, handing out CDs, tracts, & striking up conversations with passers-by.
We were there in the subway for about 2 hours. We sang until our voices were hoarse! In that amount of time, about 1700 CDs were distributed—it is unreal how many people pass through there in a short time! Some people kept rushing by, in a hurry to get their next train, others stopped and listened, some even videoed us!
We had one man that demanded us to stop singing. He said “Are you racist?” “How do you feel about slavery?” One of the men took him to the side to have a conversation so we could go back to our singing. Sadly, he did not want to have discussion, he wanted to argue and yell about the injustice of slavery, and how he can never forgive anyone for it. So very sad. (I don’t know his name, but let’s pray for Him–God can work in amazing ways!)
We rode the subway back to the church, where we had parked our bus, and then rode our bus for about an hour to get to our motel. We arrived there after 12:00, where we all unloaded our luggage and quickly found our rooms. Sleep came quickly for most of us!
Because the next day was Saturday, we didn’t have to leave too early, so were able to sleep in until 8:00. We ate a light breakfast at the motel, and then had to leave on the bus at 10:00. We headed back towards the church, until we met up with our guide. We headed towards Jamaica, NY, where we divided into our groups and went down a few blocks and handed out more CDs and tracts to people. We talked with a lot of people, but not as many as in the subway.
My one daughter & I stayed together on the sidewalks during this time, and we enjoyed that time together. One thing we noticed was that it was very obvious which people had hope in their eyes, and which ones didn’t. It was so encouraging to meet up with others that also love Jesus. One lady gave us such great encouragement. She said how she’s lived in the city for awhile, and does what she can to tell others about Jesus’ love. One thing in particular she told us, “I know there are many other places you could be today, and many other things you could be doing. But what you are doing here, telling others about God, that is the best thing you could be doing.” She was so right. Our efforts felt so small. It would have been easy to be discouraged, because what am I really doing, it doesn’t feel like I am reaching anyone, really….but seeds were planted, and God is the only who will know. And that’s ok.
Before getting back on the bus, we went to a small pizza place and enjoyed some delicious NY style pizza. (If you’ve never had the pleasure of experiencing this, think thin, crispy, and yet soft, crust, cheesy, hot, and just plain delicious!:) )
Then we took the bus back over close to the church and got on the subway again. We went back to Broadway Junction subway station and sang there again for a few hours. We were able to pass our the remainder of our 4500 CDs, and many more tracts. My prayer is that someone, somewhere, will have a new life because of our efforts.
After this, we got back on the subway train and rode all the way south to the beach, where we got a peek at the Atlantic Ocean. It was a beautiful day! Cool, breezy, sunny & cloudy in turns, and just altogether lovely. (Our entire time in NYC was blessed with beautiful weather–we drove through rain on our way home, but did not get rained on one time while we were there!)
Then we rode on to Manhattan, where we did a bit of walking, experienced BBQ for supper, and then went on over and walked around the Times Square area for a short time.
Times Square was an experience. I’d seen it before, so wasn’t completely shocked. For a first-time visitor, it was overwhelming! The crowds were unending. Pushing, hurrying, back and forth, on and on. Sometimes you could hardly see anything except people! We were trying to keep our group of almost 50 together without losing anyone. So we’d walk a block or two, and then have to stop and make sure everyone was still along. (almost lost our one daughter…made my heart thump wildly for a bit…I thought she was walking beside her friend, and then when I saw she wasn’t…Oh No! One of the men was bringing up the rear, so I was fairly sure she’d be somewhere in there…and yet, it was so easy to get bumped aside and away from the others….I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I finally saw her again! After that, we hung on to each other, literally! 😉 )
Sunday morning was to be an early morning, so we had to get back to the motel earlier than Friday night, so we headed back. Our schedule was for us to be at the Bowery Street Mission at 7:00, sing for the homeless people there, have the morning service, and then be done around 8:00. We enjoyed hearing a bit of the life story of the director, Mr. Mackin. His heart for the homeless people is because of someone reaching out to him when he was homeless himself, and now he’s been at that mission for around 40 years, helping others, showing them Jesus’ love.
We also thought we’d probably be eating breakfast there. There must have been a communication breakdown. After standing on the sidewalk visiting for awhile, we realized that this was not to be. And like good travelers, we climbed back on to our bus and pulled down our snacks. And nobody went hungry! 🙂
We didn’t have much time before we needed to head for home, but we did have about an hour, and since we were so close, we drove over to the former site of the Twin Towers, the new site of the 9/11 Memorial Museum. We walked around the grounds, looked at the falls, watched members of the military do a marching & gun synchronized demonstration, and then a bit of their band playing. I assume this was due to Memorial Day weekend.
Then we got back in to our bus and headed home. All of us more thankful for the many things we take for granted too much of the time. Spacious, quiet, peaceful homes, fresh air & green grass of the country, and a community of church family, all blessings from God.
Thankfully our drive home was shorter, we did not encounter any traffic jams, and we were grateful to pull into our church parking lot around 9:00 Sunday evening.
Our travel time was also a blessing. Time to visit with friends, share experiences of the weekend, connect in new ways, and more. I am blessed and thankful to be part of such a caring church!
Yes, it was an exhausting weekend. In many ways. I am still catching up on that tired feeling….Thank you God, for giving us the opportunity to share your love with others less fortunate.