A light shining in the dark: A testimony of Embracing NYC
Wednesday, March 28, 2018
Women from North Carolina come together to serve New York City.
The Big Apple. The concrete jungle. The city so nice they named it twice. New York City is known by many names, and a visit is at the top of almost every bucket list. Despite the bright lights of Times Square, New York is a dark city. It is a city in desperate need of Jesus and the good news of the gospel.
I first visited New York City in September 2016, and it lived up to my expectations. A city full of rich history, tall buildings and a melting pot of races, nationalities and cultures. We saw hustling business professionals, street artists, kids going to and from school, and tourists taking in all that the city has to offer.
There were also things that don’t make the cover of the magazines. The homeless population. Housing projects. And families struggling to make a life in the city of dreams. Stephen Trainer and the people of Graffiti Ministries of Coney Island are reaching out to those very people.
Coney Island is known worldwide for its boardwalk full of rollercoasters, beach access and Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs. People come in droves every summer to visit this tourist attraction that has been featured on television and in movies. But if those tourists would walk a few blocks inland, they would see the real Coney Island. A city that has murals in memory of those lost to gun violence, high rise housing projects and people who have never heard of the promises of hope found in Jesus.
A few blocks from the subway stop is Graffiti Ministries. Stephen and his church are working to reach the lost in Coney Island and introduce them to the gospel. When we served alongside Graffiti Ministries Coney Island two years ago, the church was in the process of launching an after-school program, GED program and small group Bible studies. Stephen had already begun getting to know his community by working with an anti-gun violence movement and volunteering with area schools.
We walked throughout the neighborhoods, praying as we went. We crossed many small businesses and family homes. Something particularly jarring were two giant murals that were painted in remembrance of the many victims of gun violence there in Coney Island. One mural contained names and likenesses of children who died, every one of them younger than 10. The other mural was a large book containing more than 30 names of gun violence victims. As we walked by I noticed there was a freshly painted name written on the page. Although news of gun violence is not uncommon, there was something startling about walking past a freshly made memorial. It was heartbreaking.
The next day we were able to work with Graffiti Ministries at an anti-gun violence block party. This event was a communitywide event. I was assigned to work the game table. We had fun games for all ages. One of the games was one that involved bolts and a pencil. The object was to build a tower of bolts using only the pencil. It was a fun morning watching children compete against each other, adults trying to do their best and even an officer tried his hand at the game. Because some people were determined to stack all the bolts, we were able to engage in longer conversations. One of the adults that we were able to talk to was a woman whose family has lived in Coney Island for generations. She had recently learned about Graffiti Ministries and was planning to enroll in their GED program. There were others who told us that they knew of Graffiti and what they were doing in the community. The block party allowed us to see what an impact Stephen and Graffiti Ministries had made in such a small amount of time.
It’s been two years since my visit, but I have continued to follow Graffiti Ministries on social media. The impact that this ministry is making for the kingdom is amazing. In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus gave his disciples their final and most important task to “go and make disciples of all nations…teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” This task is not restricted to the original disciples. We are to go out into our neighborhoods, workplaces, schools, states, country and world to spread the gospel.
No one is too lost to find hope and salvation in Jesus. It was an honor to serve with this ministry, as they go about their kingdom work. They have a heart for their community and are sold out for the gospel. I know that God is working mightily in Coney Island and can not wait to learn that more souls are being won for the kingdom.
“Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” – Matthew 9:37-38
EDITOR’S NOTE: Kaitlyn King is a graduate of UNC-Greensboro with a degree in history. She is a preschool teacher and summer camp coordinator for First Baptist Church Creedmoor's Academy, where she is a member of the church. She has joined Embrace on mission trips to Boston and New York City. Learn more and apply to join this year’s missions trip to New York by visiting the 2018 Embracing New York City event page. Application deadline is May 4.