In 2004, I went to New York City on a missions trip to NYSUM: New York School of Urban Ministries. This is my story:
The first thing you learn on a NYSUM trip, is that nothing happens the way you think it will. It changes the meaning of the word “fun.” It shows (and you may be surprised at this) that you do have a heart. And you learn that New York is quite a city and people are wonderful everywhere, whether in the city or country.
I was used to the eating style of retreats and expected three square meals a day, right in order. I soon adjusted and learned the meaning of flexibility. How good soup tastes when you are really hungry. Sometimes we worked into the afternoon and got our meal on the road. The soup kitchens we ministered in were delightful places. Tables were covered with crisp white paper. One place had flower centerpieces and decorations hanging from the ceilings. Kitchens were staffed with cheerful volunteers who came every day, not just once a year.
It was such a joy to serve the people and they enjoyed our skits and listened to the messages.
At one ministry, we made a human chain and hauled groceries in bags from the basement to the main floor. I had the turn in the stairs, so I reached down and lifted up over my head in passing off the bags. Only a little soreness resulted in the morning. In fact, I had more energy at the end of the trip than I did at the beginning.
The hospitals were wonderful. Sometimes it was hard to communicate because the person was unable to speak or didn’t speak English. The universal language of love took care of those small problems. Working with children at a cerebral palsy facility showed how much a song, a little touch or smile meant.
Working with the homeless was a completely new experience. At night, we searched the parks, streets and corners. Going out in teams of two with a watcher, we were able to get down and minister. We gave gifts, and prayed and I sang s little song to one man about the Father’s love. Such a moment!
We dressed up as clowns for a ministry in a park and went on a bus, a bus full of clowns. We got lost and spent the time waving to passers by. I didn’t want to be a clown, but God said I was already a “fool for Christ,” so I might as well. You get lots of stares, waves, and the occasional “too cool for clowns” look. We walked about eight blocks as clowns. By this time my face was itchy, but I was more comfortable in my gear, as long as I was with the other “little fools.” At the park, I was privileged to paint little faces, pray, and leave a blessing.
The ministries themselves were so varied and enjoyable. We also had plenty of fellowship. Some of the guys were so funny I nearly burst a seam. The girls and I had a nice “sleepover” one evening, as we laughed so hard about a certain toy that would keep going off.
We had a glorious day off doing touristy things – seeing the Statue of Liberty, Times Square, Rockefeller Center and Central Park, and my two favorite, Ground Zero, and Ellis Island.
We saw Times Square lit up at night on one of our little runs to a ministry. We heard a saxophone wail in Greenwich Village late at night. We “surfed the subways,” holding on to a pole for balance when there were no seats, or just for fun. It’s just something you will never forget.
As we went through the week, I had a bit of stress. We were very busy, usually doing two ministries a day. Emotions of every sort bombarded me, but I loved this trip. My fellow travelers were wonderful. Maybe I was open. Maybe my heart was ready, or maybe this happens every year at NYSUM. All I know is, I lift my heart in a little soup kitchen in New York City among the people God loves.
On June 19 of this year, my church put on a free meal for the city of Romeo. We were so excited about the ability to greet our neighbors and meet some needs Not very many people showed up. Those who did were fed and ministered to. We are not going to give up because we are certain there are still many needs to be met. That's where our heart is and it is worth the extra effort.