Subject: West Side Update - November 2
November 2, 2015
Last December, I wanted to find a service opportunity for my community group to do before Christmas. I went to the HFNY site with some pretty specific criteria for the type of opportunity I was looking for: something cushy and comfortable, maybe involving arts and crafts--nothing that forced me out of my comfort zone. At this point it was already two or three weeks before Christmas, and I soon discovered that all of the “cushy” volunteer slots were already filled.
There was only one opportunity that still had room: serving soup and offering resources and prayer to the homeless in Harlem with the Relief Bus. Since I had no other options, I signed up.
As it turned out, no one from my community group was available that Saturday, so I would have to serve without the safety net of familiar faces. And it was entirely outdoors, in December. This was definitely outside my comfort zone. But I felt a clear sense of God calling me to do this, and though I was afraid, I followed that call.
My biggest fear was that I wouldn’t know how to talk to the people who came to the bus. So I stood out on the street, freezing and uncomfortable and waited for God to “use me.” He led me to Justin.
Justin had recently been released from prison and was living in a shelter in Brooklyn. His wife and two children lived in Pennsylvania and he had not seen or spoken to them in two years. His daughter’s birthday was coming up. All he wanted was to see his kids.
I felt helpless: I couldn’t help Justin turn his life around and convince his wife to take him back. I couldn’t help him find the perfect birthday present for his daughter. I could only listen to his story. But that was all that God required of me. By simply listening, I was able to show Justin compassion and affirm his humanity. I didn’t have to say anything.
Outside my comfort zone was exactly where God was calling me to go. In doing so, He put me in a situation where I had no choice but to rely on him fully. There, I came to see that I do share one fundamental, common experience with Justin: our shared identity as children of God.
Though I may not experience the same daily physical and material struggles, I too have areas of poverty and hunger in my own life and am equally in need of God’s grace and mercy and abiding love every day.
Following that first frigid December Saturday, I made a commitment to serve with the Relief Bus once a month. In that time, I have gotten to know many of the people who come every week, learning names and faces and listening to their stories. They aren’t just coming for the delicious soup and a pair of clean socks. They come because they are welcomed, accepted and fed both physically and spiritually. This is their community, this is their church. And it has become a community for me, too.
Want to share your West Side Story? We'd love to hear from you! Submit your story at redeemer.com/wsstory.
As a church of Jesus Christ, Redeemer exists to help build a great city for all people through a movement of the gospel that brings personal conversion, community formation, social justice and cultural renewal to New York City and, through it, to the world.
In an essay called “On the Emotional Life of Our Lord,” the theologian B.B. Warfield argues that the most frequently cited emotion of Jesus in all the gospels is being “moved with compassion.” Warfield writes:
The emotion which we should naturally expect to find most frequently attributed to Jesus whose whole life was a mission of mercy... is no doubt “compassion.” In point of fact, this is the emotion which is most frequently attributed to him.
It follows, therefore, that for those who claim to follow Jesus, compassion and mercy to those in need would be part of our individual and collective mission. This is why one of Redeemer’s core values has always been applying the gospel in the area of “Mercy and Justice,” highlighted in November by our Diaconate’s “Inspire Mercy” month. So as the weather gets colder and our calendars get busier with holiday plans, find ways to nurture compassion and mercy in the rhythms of your life through volunteering with HFNY or by supporting the Diaconate by nominating members to become future deacons and deaconesses.
He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you
Rev. David Bisgrove
Last week was HFNY Sunday | We heard from HFNY volunteers, like Elizabeth, who shared about how God has worked through and in them through serving with HFNY. And we highlighted how you can join Hope for New York to love and serve our neighbors in need. Learn more about getting involved with HFNY this year at hfny.org/join.
Are you or someone you know exploring Christianity? | The West Side Café is an open space for seekers, skeptics and those considering Christianity to engage with and process the Christian faith. Each week involves a short presentation and a discussion addressing topics of interest and claims of the Christian faith. Recommend or bring a friend to the West Side Café tomorrow, Nov. 3, at 7 p.m. in room 406. (150 W 83 St.). More info at redeemer.com/wscafe.
Lead a Community Group: New Leader Basics
Cru Inner City // Prepare W83 for Boxes of Love Project
New York City Relief // Offer Soup, Prayer & Resources
His Toy Store // Serve Families at the UWS Store
WS Prayer and Praise Series: Changed Lives
Intro to Redeemer
Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. - Psalm 103:1
West Side Weekly Prayer for Sunday Services
Pray for our City with Hope for New York
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W83 Ministry Center | 150 W 83rd St. | New York, NY 10024