Friday, September 12, 2008

Ministry Spotlight: New York City Relief Bus

My favorite ministry site of the summer was the New York City Relief Bus. The reason I love this site is because it does a good job of allowing the students to both serve and to build relationships. Many times sites can focus on one in particular but it's pretty rare to find a place that is able to do both. I've only been to the Relief Bus maybe four times, but all four of those were amazing times. This week our experience there was particularly amazing and I believe that God arranged divine appointments that day.

The first story is about a man named Jason. Literally 2 minutes after we got out on the street, before I was even assigned my job, Jason had already come up to our information booth. Jason lost his job awhile ago and had been doing drugs for the last 6 months of his life. Sometime that morning he had received a flier for the Relief Bus and when he saw it offered information on drug rehabilitation he decided it was time. He came to us and said he needed help. The Relief Bus staff begin calling up drug rehab centers but can't get a hold of any. Finally one answers but says that he would need to get there that day. Unfortunately there's no way to get Jason there so we were stuck. The Relief Bus staff was saying that unless we can physically bring Jason to the center he probably won't go, that people always say they want help or intend to change, but that things usually tend to happen that prevent them from making it all the way. Then one of our leaders, Chris, takes some of our girls over to a local church to use their bathroom. While there, Chris is talking to the pastor of the church, tells him about the Jason situation, and the pastor tells him that his son can drive Jason over. Jason then leaves the Relief Bus to go pick up the rest of his belongings. So Chris is now waiting around for Jason to return so that we can send him off to the rehab center. An hour and a half pass and Jason has yet to return. At this point Chris has given up and begins to do other things. He begins to wonder how Jason could pass up this opportunity to turn around his life. And then Jason finally returns. And now he's in a rehab center. Furthermore, at some point while they were trying to figure things out, Jason accepted Christ.

The second story is about a man named Martin. Martin was just passing by when he saw the white bus and something simply led him to the bus. Martin is an illegal immigrant and for some reason, I couldn't quite figure out exactly what had happened, he has been separated from his children. But because his children were born in the US and he wasn't he has no legal way of getting his children back. In addition, he has diabetes which has caused damage to his eyes, back and legs and is hereby unable to work. He had a court date to fight for his kids but missed it because his eyes were hurting. Our leader who was talking to him was Laura and afterwards Laura was commenting about how she's used to people telling her their problems but then that she always has some sort of advice to give them. But that when she encountered Martin, there was nothing she could say. The Relief Bus staff was calling all over and eventually said there was nothing they could do for him. Nothing short of a miracle would help this man. So they prayed for him. A couple minutes after they finish praying Martin gets a phone call from his case worker. Laura said she could hear the lady yelling at him for not calling her back. Martin explained that it was because his eyes were so bad he couldn't read her number in order to call. Finally at the end of the conversation, the case worker tells Martin that he can see his kids next week. Martin became ecstatic. He even began saying how his eyes were feeling better, how he had felt the hand of the Lord on his back, and how his back and feet were better as well. He said after this experience he was going to follow the Lord. The Relief Bus staff also put a bible in Martin's bag and when Martin found out about it he pulled it out and kissed it, saying it was the best gift he had ever received.

These two stories were crazy. When you think about it they really had nothing to do with us. We were simply fortunate enough to be at the right place and to have been able to be used by God in order for God to minister to two of his children. For Jason it was pretty crazy for him to receive a simple flier and to decide that he now wanted to turn his life around. And for Martin to have been drawn to the bus was interesting as well. The story with Martin is even crazier because he couldn't speak English. Laura had to translate for him the entire time. This is what really makes me believe these were divine appointments. Had we not had Spanish speakers, or individuals who could speak as well as the ones we had could, there was no way we would have had this experience. So not only did God drop two opportunities right in our laps, but he also ensured we had the tools necessary in order to help them. This was one truly amazing experience.

For more information on the bus visit their website.

-Josh, CSM New York City Host Summer 2008

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