Update on NYC Missions Trip

Missions trip updates are always so hard. How do you fit seven days of ministry into a few short paragraphs? One of the benefits of going on a domestic mission trip is there is no "re-entry culture shock". Granted, I saw a lot of things that were different than what I am used to, but nothing like shacks with tin roofs and starving children. And there was always this sense that even though the culture around me was very different at times, I was still in America. It felt American in NYC. Maybe that is the beauty of our nation, you can be a minority in one part of town and yet still know that this is America. The nations have been brought to us.

We spent the bulk of our time in Brooklyn working with Abundant Life Church, a predominantly African-American church plant. One of the most shocking things was when we got off the subway in Brooklyn and were surrounded by Hasidic Jews. It was really interesting, considering we don't see traditional Jewish dress every day. Most of our time was spent doing servant evangelism and inviting people to the church. We were able to pay for laundry services for some people and also share the Gospel with them as they waited for their laundry to finish. Some interesting conversations were had, and we even were serenaded by an aspiring Reggae artist! Oh, and I also ate ox tail at lunch one day. If you know me, I am not adventurous when it comes to food so this was a big feat!

On Wednesday, we spent some time with a church's after-school program in the Bronx. We had been told that the Bronx was the least safe and most crime-ridden of all of the Burroughs, so we were prepared for that. We also were prepared to have our hearts won by some sweet kids who came to the church for leadership training, Bible lessons, and help with their homework. It is a safe alternative for them and a place for them to learn about Jesus. It was a blessing to be involved with, even if it was for a short time. I also tried to eat a non-adventurous Philly Cheese Steak sandwich, but I didn't really like it. But I think that's because I convinced myself it was bad after I saw the "C" food sanitation rating on the door.

Of course, we were able to see the various attractions that NYC affords and were even able to go to the Today Show on our free day. But the thing that struck me most is how much God uses normal things, like sickness and unexpected circumstances, to sanctify us. And even more than that, these normal occurrences are actually a demonstration of his great love for us. When he is working to sanctify me, it is evidence of his unending care and love for me. He doesn't want me to stay the same. He wants the sin to be purged from my life, even on a missions trip. Missions trips are hard. We are bringing Christ to people, and there is always opposition to that. But even when they are hard, we can know that this is evidence of God's care. He is keeping us near him by turning the heat up, exposing our sin, and drawing us near himself.

I learned a lot on this trip. I learned about the need for healthy churches in the New York City area, lots of them. I learned about the darkness that permeates so much of the culture in NYC, and I learned about work that God is already doing there. But more importantly, I learned that God is not finished with me yet. I am a sinner in need of a great Savior every day. I don't always like the tools he uses to draw me closer to his bleeding side, but through much chastening I eventually come around. And when I do, I am able to see all that he wants me to see here in Louisville, and even in NYC.