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NY-area churches get ready for help from Baptists nationwide

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. (BP)–The “crossroads of the world,” as pastor Ray Parascando describes New York City, is “a great place to do cross-cultural evangelism.”

Parascando is pastor of Crossroads Church, one of only three Southern Baptist churches on Staten Island, which accounts for half a million people amid a metro region of more than 21 million.

To extend its reach, Crossroads Church, with about 40 regular attendees, is partnering with other more established churches to help them spread the Gospel and grow.

A seven-member team from Pleasant Valley Baptist Church in Liberty, Mo., and a group from First Baptist Church in Oviedo, Fla., worked with Crossroads in October, for example, as part of the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board’s unfolding “New Hope New York” Strategic Focus Cities initiative.

While the Pleasant Valley team’s trip largely focused on establishing relationships with the Staten Island church, they also assisted the New Hope New York staff with a block party in Rutherford, N.J.

“I really felt a sense of community with Crossroads Church,” Pleasant Valley team leader Melanie Griffith said. “I felt like I was going to a dark city where there was no light [of the Gospel], and early on, I met pastor Ray [Parascando] and another church member, Robert Casaceli, and I felt the Spirit and love of Jesus. This trip helped me to see there are brothers and sisters in Christ anywhere.”

The block party, billed as a community fall festival in the New Jersey town of about 20,000, drew about 400 people to a park for children’s games, music and lunch. The festival was designed to strengthen Rutherford’s Living Gospel Baptist Church, which, under new pastor Dennis O’Neill, is restarting after several years of decline.

“We want to let the community know we are a church that cares for people and their needs,” O’Neill, a native Jersey resident, said. “This festival gives us an opportunity to break the ice with people and develop contacts to follow up on afterwards.”

Held during the New York Metro Baptist Association’s annual meeting in Rutherford, the festival also was a model for other area pastors and church planters.

“We wanted pastors to see what a block party is all about so they can reach out in their own communities,” said Shane Critser, volunteer mobilization team leader for New Hope New York.

O’Neill said it is vital to have people come to the New York area to help boost the fledgling churches. Along with the Baptists from Missouri and volunteers from the New York/New Jersey area, a number of North Carolinians assisted with the block party as part of that state convention’s ongoing partnership with New York Baptists.

“There are Christians from all over America who have the same care and concern we have for people,” Critser said. “They want to share Jesus, and that’s the whole point of this — to share that there is hope. What makes an impact is people coming from other communities.”

Pleasant Valley team member and Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary student Jason Schoff said he participated in the missions trip to New York because of how unreached the area is for the Gospel.

“There are lots of obstacles to sharing the Gospel; for instance, there are generations of people inundated with beliefs that don’t draw them closer to Christ, but draw them closer to religion,” Schoff said.

New Hope New York’s mission is to demonstrate God’s love for the metro area through effective evangelism, discipleship and ministry. One strategy to accomplish that is to plant new churches in the five boroughs that make up the New York area while strengthening the ones that already exist, such as Crossroads Church. NHNY also focuses on collegiate ministries, prayer support and pastor leadership development.

There are three main ways churches can partner with New York churches, Parascando said: through prayer, people and provision.

“We need everyday Christians to lead small groups, teach our people how to do Bible studies and fill needs in the church,” he said, noting that 90 percent of Crossroads Church members are new believers. “We need accountants and lawyers and people just to come and help us with servant evangelism projects and to spread the word about the church.”
A list of prayer requests and a virtual prayerwalk of New York is available at www.praynewyork.com. More information about being involved in NAMB’s strategic focus cities effort is at www.newhopenewyork.com.

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  • Stacey Hamby