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God’s work in New York City seen on NAMB trustee tour

NEW YORK CITY (BP)–Metro New York City was the destination of trustees of the North American Mission Board, but the usual tourist sites weren’t on the schedule. Instead, as their buses traveled through Manhattan and into the Bronx on April 29, they heard and saw evidences of God’s work and the investment of Southern Baptists in the city.

Throughout the day, the trustees, who met in the New York area for a regular business session, met NAMB missionaries, pastors and others who minister in the metro area, hearing firsthand the story of how God is changing lives in New York.

During a stop in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, they met NAMB missionary Taylor Field, pastor of East 7th Street Baptist Church and director of Graffiti Community Ministries. Field told the group that volunteers were working that Saturday on the building’s roof, finishing the last phase of construction on the first building built by Southern Baptists in the metro area. The church and ministry center have been operating out of the new location since 2003 after outgrowing the abandoned storefront they once occupied.

Field also introduced Gloria, a church member who shared her testimony of coming to Christ through Graffiti’s ministry.

“We know this is why you do what you do, so that people can experience the transforming power of Christ in their lives,” Field told the trustees.

The tour also offered an opportunity to hear from staff of the Baptist Convention of New York, Metro New York Baptist Association and New Hope New York, part of NAMB’s Strategic Focus Cities initiative. During the New Hope New York implementation period, 87 missionaries have ministered through various NAMB platforms in the city. One of the ministry initiatives, “Paint the Town,” seeks to meet needs in metro New York communities through such initiatives as painting projects, sports camps and block parties. Each ministry project is sponsored by a local church responsible for follow-up after the event.

In the afternoon, the trustees visited the Joseph H. Wade School in the Bronx, refurbished last summer by Paint the Town volunteers. The group toured freshly painted classrooms, viewed murals created by the volunteers and heard from teachers, students and school administrators about how schools have changed because of the volunteers who gave of their time and energy.

“It’s an inroad into the community, and there’s such an obvious response from local people,” observed Ron Wilson, a trustee from California. “If what we saw today is any indication, this should become a major approach, particularly when the focus is on connecting with the local church.”

While Paint the Town exemplified some of the newer ministry approaches, the tour also emphasized longstanding programs like Christian Ministries to the United Nations, the oldest evangelical ministry to the UN. NAMB missionary Ken Welborn, who directs the ministry, described the importance of building relationships with the UN’s delegates and interns, even if those relationships don’t see immediate fruit.

“Some days we plant, some days we water and some days, praise the Lord, we see the harvest,” Welborn said.

“The whole concept is not making people come to us, but ministering to them by going where they are,” Jim Sheets, a trustee from Colorado, said of the overarching metro outreach.

At a dinner on Saturday night, several more trustees shared their reflections from the day, echoing the importance of relational evangelism and intentional outreach in one of the world’s most dynamic urban centers. Stan Gillcash, a trustee from Watertown, N.Y., said the stops on the day’s tour had demonstrated that reaching New York with the Gospel is integral to reaching the rest of the world.

“Don’t just look at the city; look beyond it,” Gillcash said. “The impact doesn’t just stay here; it’s going to go far beyond what we’ve seen today.”

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  • Meredith Day