On a March day, 16 college-age adults sang songs and told personal stories of critical spiritual decisions in their lives. The men preached from God’s Word.
But this was no ordinary church service. The setting was a sidewalk near Times Square, the audience thousands of passers-by who help make up “The City that Never Sleeps.”
Maranatha residence hall supervisor Emily Kutz said, “The people were actually nice. They took pictures and filmed us, and some people thought we were a professional group—which we definitely weren’t!”
Maranatha sent out 14 students and two staff members on a missions trip to New York City during spring break. One of the team’s goals was to help out Bill Jones, pastor at Bread of Life Ministries. The students would travel to stores in the Trader Joe’s grocery chain each day and bring a supply of food back to the ministry. After the food was delivered, sometimes after midnight, the team would sort it and prepare for the people coming for the next day’s services. Bread of Life Ministries conducts seven or more services each week where food and the gospel are distributed to the needy.
Bill and Jill Jones would normally be fully involved in the ministry. This spring, however, both had recently encountered physical setbacks. Bill Jones had a heart attack two weeks before the team’s arrival, and Jill Jones had suffered two broken wrists after being pulled down the stairs by her dogs.
Maranatha junior Amanda Call said the Jones’ testimony was still strong.
“Even though Mrs. Jones was injured, she still checked on us (the students),” Call said. “The Joneses have such a passion for the people in the city. Being with them was one of the greatest parts of the trip.”
The team also witnessed to people in various locations of the city, such as Central Park.
“One of the best parts of the trip was meeting people from different backgrounds,” Kutz said. “Everyone had their own unique story about how they ended up in NYC, whether they were natives or they moved to NYC to find better opportunities.”
Team members were allowed to sightsee around the city during free time. Some visited the Brooklyn Bridge or Chinatown, and some even saw Mary Poppins on Broadway.
One moment sticks out in Kutz’s mind.
“One night, there was a group of us who went out to buy some spring rolls. After we bought the rolls, we went outside and a homeless man came up to us. We tried to talk for a little bit; then we left. As we were walking, we teased each other that the man was stalking us. We were a couple blocks away when I turned around, and the same man was still there. Adam (Davis) stepped between us and, soon afterward, the man left. Now Aaron will never let me forget that he ‘saved my life.’ ”
Both hard work and sightseeing helped make an impact on the team members’ spiritual lives.
“The trip opened my eyes to the fact that there is so much sin and openness about it,” Call said. “The trip also gave me a passion for serving people. I’m trying to see people the way God sees them.”
–By Ariel Rosen