Have you ever tried to truly give away something for free? Whether it’s simply passing along your cart at Aldi’s without wanting a quarter back or doing a car wash “just because”, people aren’t used to others just simply doing good without some ulterior motives. Our teams discovered this in even greater ways today as they set out with the task of serving others, meetings needs, and simply BEING the church wherever they ended up. The three groups we divided into today gathered back together tonight and shared their day over some good ol’ NY pizza. The countless stories of the day made me think about what it must be like when God tries to give us His beautiful grace and love for free and instead we try to earn it, work for it, pay for it, or ignore it. As you read the stories of God at work through our teams today, remember God loves you… it’s free… you need it… and He gives generously.
Team A – Nate, Alexa, and Anna – “There’s no permit for that!”
When we split up in Grand Central Station, Team A headed out to worship with the body of Christ at Forefront Church on Lexington Avenue. They appreciated the interactive nature of the service and the sermon. At times the Pastor would stop talking and have them talk to the people around them answering questions based on the theme. One example they are still pondering was: “If all jobs paid the same, what would you do?”
On their way out of church and over to Central park, they decided to hand out food to whoever would take it. Each time the train stopped they would run to the next car and see who they could SHARE with. This continued all day, giving what they could to whoever was there whether there was an obvious need or not.
As they walked through Central Park they spent some time talking with 5-year old Mya and her mom who had come to the park because Mya was SO excited about painting and decided to do hand paintings for 25 cents each. Throughout their time in the park they plastered places with post-it notes with encouraging messages reminding people they were loved or to pay attention to the beauty around them.
Their next grand plan was to make people smile in Grand Central Terminal while people waited for their trains. Through an interactive activity with words and pictures, they were finding success until they were told they needed a permit. If they were selling something, video taping something, or handing out literature they would have been able to obtain a permit. However, the lady, smiling the entire time, basically told them, “There’s really no permit for just doing good.” and they literally got kicked out of the main concourse Grand Central Terminal. (The fear was that if a large crowd formed, it could obstruct traffic flow.) Feeling slightly discouraged they put a few more notes around, but then remembered that “being the Church” is also about growing closer with other Christians and spent a good amount of time just sharing their faith with each other while they waited for the other teams to return.
Team B – Jeremiah, Jon, John, and Megan – “Here, There, and Everywhere”
Team B headed over to Advent Lutheran Church on Broadway and were blow away by the welcoming nature of the church. By the time they got to the passing of the peace their names had spread and every single person in the area they were in greeted them BY NAME! Being Holy Trinity Sunday, the pastor preached on the Isaiah text which ends with Isaiah saying, “Here I am, Send me!” This message and the welcome they received put them in the right mindset to head out and see what God had in store for them.
As they said, “Here we are,” they did so ” ALL OVER MANHATTAN. Sidewalk chalk in hand, they plastered the sidewalks of the city with encouraging messages. At one point, a little while in to their adventures, one of the group members said to another, “This isn’t working!” But before he could even finish his sentence, a woman walked up and exclaimed, “That’s a beautiful message!” Being encouraged, they continued their journey all over Manhattan posting things like “You are beautiful.” or “God is love!” by the dock for the Staten Island Ferry or on the paths of Central Park. They shared challenges too, like “Call someone you love.” in places like Times Square and on random street corners.
The simplicity of it stood out, especially in Times Square. Despite all the flashy lights and giant screens, the simplicity of some chalk on the sidewalk truly did catch people’s eyes, and prayerfully their hearts.
Team C – Bekah, Ben, Kristina – “No, really, what’s the catch?!?”
Team C worshiped with the people of God at Church of All Nations Lutheran Church. While the three of them made up one sixth of the congregation, including the pastor and the worship band (that’s 18 people total in attendance for the math-challenged), each of them walked away energized by their worship experience and ready to serve. We even got invited to basically attend one of the worship band member’s birthday party at the back of the church as they talked to us about what we were doing in the city. We wrapped up our time there by giving them a piece of the sending cloth and praying for their ministry which mainly reaches out to community members involved in music and theater during the week and on Saturday nights.
Heading out the doors of the church building and onto the street, Team C made a quick stop at Walgreens to pick up as much bottled water as we could carry the half mile to Central Park. They “set up shop” along one of the bike, running, walking paths and began handing out water to the people passing by. As people stopped to ask why we were giving away watter (if they didn’t just ignore us or refuse to believe that there wasn’t a catch) we had opportunities to share what we were doing and why. Then we asked them if they had anything we could pray about for them. Once the 4 dozen bottles of water were gone, we transitioned and just asked people to leave their prayer requests in a bag we had there. While we were saddened at times by the responses of people who “already covered their prayer for the day this morning” or tried to pay us to pray for them, it was a great joy it was to bring the back to the whole group and pray over them tonight! (Blog post coming Tuesday with Central Park Prayers).
On our way to find the subway back to Grand Central, we came upon two boys who simply needed some help finding the zoo in Central Park. While we easily could have ignored them or just pointed them in the general direction, all three of us just “knew” that God wanted us to walk them all the way there, down the block and on the complete OPPOSITE side of Central Park (which is HUGE by the way!). They were appreciative and we were changed by the interactions we got to have with them along our journey.
Over all, a theme arose between the groups that it was surprisingly difficult to do good around the city mainly because people were so skeptical. NOTHING is free in New York and we were definitely breaking the mold. However, that just goes to show we were right in the midst of God’s will for us today. Check out these verses we looked at a couple of days ago to see what I mean:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of Gods mercy, to offer you bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God- this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-His good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1-2)
We DEFINITELY were not conforming to the pattern of the world today and in doing so, we realized tonight that God really is transforming us as He renews our minds. None of what we did today was difficult, expensive, or time-consuming to plan. We just simply set out with open eyes asking God to show us people we could love. As we receive God’s love, unexpected and undeserved, may we simply accept the beautiful free-ness of it and pass it on to those around us. Really, there is no catch, and there never will be!