Our Missions trip to New York City was in a word: AWESOME!
We saw the Statue of Liberty, Grand Central Station, Central Park, Times Square, The Empire State Building (yes, I stood where An Affair to Remember and Sleepless in Seattle, my favorite movie of all time was filmed!), Rockefeller Center, The NBC Studios, The Ed Sullivan Theater, Broadway, 5th Ave., Macy's, Tiffany's, FAO Swartz, The Trump Tower, The Plaza, The Waldorf-Astoria, Radio City Music Hall, Shay Stadium, Yankee Stadium (The original stadium, and the new one they are building to replace it), China Town (where I bought a really cool bag!), and Ground Zero (the only truly quite place in the city), We ate New York style pizza and hot dogs. We rode the Subway everyday. And we were able to see The New York Philharmonic play in the park, and to see The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway! And being the big city girl that I am, I loved every single minute of it! As did Kyle. Zach likes a little bit slower pace I think. But he still liked it.
I will fill many future posts with all that we saw and did, and since I am such a movie buff, I will include all the movie references. Every time you turn a corner, your somewhere you've seen in a movie or T.V. show. But, for now I want to get to our favorite part of the whole trip. What we loved most about the city. The true heart of the city. The real reason we went. The People.
We walked the streets and parks of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Harlem and The Bronx's. We did dramas, played music, and just talked and shared with people from all over the world. We served in a Soup Kitchen, We visited the terminally ill in a Hospital/Nursing Home. We went to homeless shelters, and we heard the stories of peoples lives. That is what changed us the most. Those are the things we will remember. We were able to go into a Hindu Temple, and a Muslim mosque and met with the head 'Pastor's', and were able to ask them any questions we wanted to about their religion. And then we went into little India and witnessed to Muslim's on the street.
My favorite moment was late at night, standing outside a Homeless shelter in Midtown Manhattan. We had handed out sandwiches, bottled water, and toiletry kits to the homeless who were waiting to see if they could get into the shelter for the night. Our students were in groups of three, talking and sharing with different people. I was standing at the head of the little alley way where I could see all of our groups. When a man came up to me. Unfortunately we had already given out all of our supplies, so I had nothing to give him. But, he just stood there and talked with me. First we talked about Arizona and New York. Then he told me he had spent 8 years in prison. And how he had gotten his life together and was living in Pittsburgh, had a job, a car, a house, all until he had the thought that he'd been sober for over three years now, so he thought he could handle taking a drink. He couldn't. It ended up costing him everything. He had to move back to midtown where he was from, and was now living on the streets. He shared with me that he'd been HIV Positive for over 20 years. And how he'd recently been badly beaten up and thrown unconscious on to the train tracks, when a stranger jumped down and saved his life. I could see scars over his eye and he was missing some teeth, from his jaw being broken. I would guess he was only in his late 40's. I looked him in the eye that night and said "you know, Jamie, you should be dead several times over. But, God loves you and has a plan for your life." Tears came into his eyes. Being in Prison (or the hole, as he called it) he had read the Bible through twice. We talked a little more then I asked him if I could pray for him. I stood there on the street that night with my hand on his shoulder and prayed with this man I will most likely never see again. And I've prayed for him everyday since I've met him.
And each one of us who went on this trip has similar stories to tell. Of people who opened up to us and shared their lives and their stories with us. I don't think any of us will look at homeless people the same way ever again. We've realized that even more than our money, what they want more than anything is to know that someone on the face of this planet cares about them. We will look them in the eye and smile and maybe say "how are you doing?" just like we would any other person we pass on the street. No more will we avoid eye contact with the down and out, afraid they will ask us for money. Or pretend they're not there, or worse yet that they are not human. Because we realized that just a few unforeseen circumstances and that could be any one of us.
Another great thing was that I had the opportunity to watch my sons minister. Talk about a proud mama! Zach played guitar and sang for the homeless in the soup kitchen. He gave them beautiful music to eat by. He played in the hospital as well. He wowed a group of kids in a homeless shelter for families by doing card tricks for them, giving them something to laugh at and forget their circumstances for awhile. Both the boys did dramas, lead worship, shared their testimonies and talked with people outside of their comfort zones. Kyle even preached at the family shelter, where we did an entire service for the kids. He gave an alter call, and led those kids in the sinners prayer. It was an unforgettable experience. Now when we wear our "I heart New York" T-shirts, you'll know, we really mean it!
I will share more at other times. I know this is a long post. I just want to share everything with you! Thank you so much for praying for us while we were there. And following our trip. It truly was Awesome!