Grace goes to New York Cityby Mike Creswell, BSCNC
Shoppers and joggers looked curiously as two dozen people walked in a group through downtown Yonkers, New York.
Evidently, this was some kind of tour group, they likely decided.
But no, it was a missions team of teens and adults from Grace Baptist Church in China Grove, North Carolina.
They stopped on a dock over the Hudson River, and Todd Brandt told them about the city’s major renovation project that was underway to refresh the riverside area. Brandt is pastor of Christian Bible Church, a downtown Baptist church committed to reaching the city for Christ.
“I praise God that you have come with a desire not to be silent,” Brandt told them. “Paul said to reach the city, (and) we must be bold and communicate the gospel. Silence won’t reach the city.”
Then they prayed for Christ to impact that part of the city. They walked and prayed multiple times: on a downtown street, in front of city hall, inside the train station.
Citing Acts 18, Brandt said in an orientation session that the Bible affirms sending outside help for city churches in efforts to share the gospel. Within a mile of where they stood, 90,000 people are living, most of them with little knowledge of the gospel, Brandt told them. Many local residents are Hispanic and from other ethnic groups.
Within five miles of the church, there are 600,000 people with few believers among them. Yonkers, which is about 12 miles north of Manhattan, is counted as a separate city, but actually is part of greater New York, part of the 22 million people who live within a 75-mile radius.
After the prayer walk, some of the Grace team invited passersby into a church for cold drinks, bracelet making and face painting.
“Some people wouldn’t go inside, but they were willing to stand on the sidewalk and talk,” said Grace team leader Greg Stienbarger. Some team members headed to local parks to witness.
While Grace’s team was focused on helping the local church reach out, Stienbarger said he was more focused on helping his young people learn how to share the gospel with all kinds of people.
“Our kids are not used to those environments, but you can talk about the gospel, no matter how scared you are,” he said.
Later, some of the team also went out into Central Park, in Manhattan, to witness.
New York and the training are part of Grace’s ongoing discipleship, Stienbarger said. It was their second year to minister in New York.
The team stayed at Metropolitan New York Baptist Association’s (MNYBA) building in Manhattan, which hosts hundreds of volunteers each year. The association partners with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSCNC) on volunteer teams, church planting and other ministries.
North Carolina Baptists have sent thousands of coats to New York City over the past several years through the annual Coats for the City project, coordinated by the BSCNC in cooperation with the MNYBA.
The coats are distributed at points across the city by newly planted churches, both to help keep people warm and also to introduce the church to local neighborhoods.