Tuesday, April 26, 2016

City Highlight: New York City

Walking through NYC on any given day, I’ll see people wearing their mess on the outside. Image bearers of God who are panhandling, mentally unstable, lying on sidewalks or subway trains, and at times, drinking their pain away. I am consistently reminded of the brokenness we live in and the ultimate sacrifice God made to restore us to Himself in Jesus.

I am also reminded of the dignity that He bestows on each of us. Though we are made from the dust of the earth (Gen. 2:7), He has made us in His image and His Word reveals that we are caretakers of the earth. However, when we treat each other as less than image bearers with dignity and worth bestowed by the Lord Himself, we are at the very least insulting our Creator.

As God continues to sanctify us, let us be mindful of our words and actions. Words can be powerful just as powerful as actual and they can easily separate us from those we are called to love. As we speak, are we lifting up or tearing down at the cost of others? Are we a bold testament to the love of Christ or are we denying Him with our actions? Jesus teaches His followers parable after parable about humility, about the last being first and the lowest being brought to the head of the table, which is a powerful reminder of where our sinful hearts tend to run to.

CSM NYC has had the privilege of serving alongside organizations such as NYC Relief, NYC Rescue Mission, St. Paul’s House and others, who understand this and desire to see people realizing their full humanity in Christ. Through holistic ministry, they are helping to restore the dignity that was never lost, but misplaced for some time. As followers of Christ, we are called to toil for the Gospel, the true restoration of man to God, however, we cannot separate the Gospel from justice, mercy and love, we cannot expect to see lives change in the Gospel without acknowledging one another's full humanity and working for the good of others as Jesus did.

- Liz Koenig, NYC Associate Director

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Friday, April 08, 2016

Can We Tawk?

It's very rare that I encounter a person who models so many of the attributes that I value in a leader, but recently I met one such individual while visiting Tijuana to prepare for our Mexico pilot launch. During my time there, I met with Naomi, the leader of a very tiny church in the "the Dumps", the former landfill area of the city. Naomi is a 26 year old Pentecostal pastor who has lived in this community for only five months. Her congregation is small and it meets in a tiny, broken down building that they call a "Templo".

Naomi told me about how she arrived at the Dumps. With literally the biggest smile I had seen since entering Tijuana, she explained to me that she had been learning with another pastor for the past three years, while serving as an evangelist in another city. She was then assigned by her association of churches to the Templo. After hearing part of her story, she took me to see her church and her home. When I stepped inside the Templo, I was shocked at how run down and neglected the building was. There simply were not enough people to take care of the place. She then showed me her “house.” It sits behind the church on a concrete slab. What I saw was a shack that has holes in the walls, an outhouse as a restroom, and a lone shower sitting on top, trying to keep the rain from coming through the roof. She briefly told of how the first rain destroyed all of her personal belongings.

Naomi, Pastor of
Templo Evangelico Pentecostal Filadelphia
She only spoke briefly about her home and the physical state of her church building, though; Naomi was more intent on sharing about her ministry. She spoke of focusing her ministry on the drug addicts that lived in the community of shacks and broken down shanties. She talked about how she had tried to reach out to the children in the Dumps and engage them with a long-term view of development, not just handouts; but the children have come to expect a handout and are not interested otherwise. She talked about how she holds regular prayer meetings with the 10 parishioners that make up the core of her congregation, pleading to God to give her favor in this forgotten corner of Tijuana.

Let's summarize: Naomi is a single, young woman, living alone in a dangerous shack, serving a completely forgotten community. She spends time trying to help people who are addicted to drugs, with no partner, no support to speak of, and a goal to transform that community, all by herself. And you know what? She believes that with the Holy Spirit, she will! She is one of my new “sheroes”. I always try to look for needs AND assets in a community, but the truth is that Naomi is actually the only asset I could find in the abandoned garbage dump of Tijuana.

She reminded me that I have not always been willing to step out and take risks to follow my calling. She role-modeled for me what it’s like to be cleansed of cynicism so that we can share our life, wholly, with the often forgotten where God has sent us. When she initially told me what she did, I never would have imagined the living conditions she was in, or how impossible her mission was, because in the three hours before our visit to her church and her home she never once complained. Naomi only spoke of her calling and her plan and her excitement. I, on the other hand, have spent quite a bit of my day “whining” about my noisy neighbors, the rude kids that hang in my alley, how often I feel tired from my work (which is, incidentally, so easy comparatively speaking) and how badly I needed my last vacation because, after all, it had been over a year since I got a break.

Now, I’m not really feeling guilty by Naomi’s example. I’m not even feeling sorry for her situation - though I am a little angry that someone assigned her to this mission without a whole lot of backing. What I am experiencing is a refreshed reminder of what is important to me - what I value.

There are two things I want you to consider: First, reflect on what is really important to you and then ask, what am I doing about it? How am I living my life to work out those values? Second, is there anyone who wants to go fix that shack? It needs a new, simple roof, work on the exterior sheeting and the interior walls. It’s not a complicated job, but would you please ask yourself if you could give a few days to come to the garbage dump and empower one of the few assets that is making a genuine difference to the often forgotten in the community? If you’re interested reply back to me and we’ll work it out. Come as a small team and we’ll house, feed and support you. Together, let’s help Naomi. Thanks for Tawkin’!

- Dan Reeve, CSM President

If you or someone you know would be interested in helping to repair Naomi's home, please email dan@csm.org.