LAKE VALLEY, Calif. (BP)–It had been a long day of sharing their faith on the streets of New York City and neither Donna Jamison nor Katie Brazelton had eaten. The two women, both members of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., hurried down a busy Manhattan street to track down the rest of their group for lunch.
While they were walking, Jamison spied a parking lot attendant sitting in a small, glass booth. In a city with almost as many cars as parking lots, this in itself was not unusual. However, she had been praying all day for God to point someone out to her who needed to hear about Jesus. Quietly, but with certainty, Jamison said, the Holy Spirit directed her to the man in the little glass booth.
After a few pleasantries, Jamison and Brazelton discovered that the single father was deeply worried about what would happen to his son if he unexpectedly died. As Brazelton prayed fervently, Jamison began to share with him how to have a relationship with Christ. She shared that, as a member of God’s family; he would eventually see his son again in heaven. Minutes later, the man made a personal commitment to Christ.
“I’ve always heard people say that you can lead someone to Christ in 30 minutes, but I’ve never seen it happen before,” Jamison said. “I assumed it only happened with pastors.”
Jamison and Brazelton were two of eight Saddleback members who traveled to New York City earlier this month at the invitation of Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse organization to minister to the city’s shaken inhabitants. For eight days the team shared Christ’s love throughout the city and met the practical needs of emergency workers during two, all-night shifts helping to feed those working near Ground Zero.
Bob Baker, Saddleback’s Pastor of Pastoral Care, said the trip allowed Saddleback members to display their love for New Yorkers face to face.
“We don’t just talk about 50 Days of Love; we don’t just study about it — we do it,” Baker said. Since October, Saddleback has been studying what the Bible says about love in a series of weekend messages, a small curriculum and daily devotional, which they collectively called the 50 Days of Love campaign.
Costa Mesa police officer and Saddleback member Jim Wilke had been praying for months for ways that God could use his law enforcement experience to share Christ’s love. When he heard that Saddleback was sending a team to New York City to minister to New Yorkers, including public servants, Wilke felt sure God wanted him to make the trip.
Wilke’s time working with The Journey, a New York City church started by former Saddleback staff member Nelson Searcy, became one of the highlights of his trip. The team worshiped at The Journey during their Sunday in the city.
“It’s hard to describe the feeling you get when you realize how many people live in this part of New York City compared with how few are connected to a local church or are even connecting daily with God,” Wilke said.
While there, the team was able to briefly cross the police barricades that surround Ground Zero and see the devastation at the World Trade Center firsthand.
“I had never had a feeling like this before,” Jamison said. “It knocked the wind out of me. The first view of it stops you in your tracks. It’s one thing to see it from outside the barricades. I grieved then, but when you are actually standing on that ground, it feels like holy ground. It left me feeling so empty of self, so completely humbled. The devastation is so vast, yet you can feel the arms of love that are encircling that perimeter.”
Jamison knew five people — all former co-workers — who died during the terrorist attacks. Those deaths and her experiences in New York City have inspired her to continue sharing her faith once she returned home.
“I don’t want to see another person die without hearing that God loves them and wants them to know Him,” Jamison said. “I don’t ever want to miss another opportunity. I’ve been haunted by those people I knew who died. I had talked to them since I came to Christ five years ago, but I talked to them on a business level. In business, we often feel cautious about crossing that barrier. I won’t be cautious anymore.”