I am still grappling for the words to describe what I saw, smelt, and experienced in New York City last week. It is a world all of its own, a city like no other. A bustle of activity, horns blowing, people talking, pizza drifting out into the street, buildings and lights so bright you are unsure of the time of day-it is a sense overload. While in the city we rode the subway...A LOT-and looking at these people I was both awed into silence and broken down to tears by what I saw. Every person in the city is so unique, different heights, eye colors, nationalities, styles, hopes, and dreams and yet they are all a bright and perfect reflection of the amazing, mighty God I serve. Genesis 1:27 "So God created man in His own image; HE CREATED THEM IN THE IMAGE OF GOD, male and female he created them" [emphasis added]. They are all made in His image, they are all the reason He suffered and died, they are all loved more than they could ever comprehend. But, I also saw a city full of lonely people. People crammed on the subway that did not even seem to notice other human beings on board with them-they jumped on and jumped off, stared into space or at their cell phone and rarely smiled. This city needs God, needs love, more than they could ever know or comprehend. New York City is home to over 22 million people and yet it has one of the highest suicide rates for lonely people-to be alone among 22 million must be the worst feeling in the world. And yet, they aren't alone! God is watching them and God cares-He just needs His hands and feet reaching out to the world around them.
NYC is home to 22 million people, of these people 4 million come from what the International Mission Board considers "unreached people groups" meaning they come from a place where less than 1% of the population are believers. If you reach these people, if you reach New York, you literally reach the world. On Saturday, in the freezing snow, we stood on a corner and passed out free coats to people in the city. As I handed a coat and a Jesus DVD to one woman tears rolled down her cheeks literally freezing as they hit the pavement. She told me how she had been laid off three years earlier, how she was hopeless, and how today was the day she was planning on leaving this Earth, but for the first time in a long time, through a simple coat (something I have a closet full of), she finally saw that someone cared. SHE WASN'T ALONE! I wish I could tell you of a miraculous salvation however she did not accept Christ, but for the first time she had a tiny taste of this love. It is time for us to stop living inside of our comfortable little lives, reaching out to those who look nice and fit our image of a "good christian" and start reaching to the outcast, reaching to the untouchable, reaching the lonely, reaching the lost, reaching those 7 billion we share this planet with that are all made in the image of God.
I am very guilty of looking around at the people around me and thinking "he looks like he will make fun of me if I tell him about God, but she looks very nice" and walking over to the person in my comfort zone, the one I think I can relate with. But, the fact is I cannot see their hearts and in my own selfish ways I could be walking straight past a heart that is completely ready for the message of a loving Savior. I am done picking who looks ready to receive Christ and I am ready to proclaim from the rooftops what my God has done for EVERYONE. Who am I to judge the heart? I am no one, a dirty sinner that was bound for hell until someone took the time to share with me, it is time for me to stop hoarding that gift, to shout it, to LIVE it, to be that light.
The last, and most valuable lesson I learned in NY was that I cannot always just stand there and preach to someone-that can be a major turnoff to people, but I can always live my life the way God has called me to live. My life might be the only glimpse of Heaven people have ever seen and it is time for me to live the way I am called, not with words but with actions, deeds and sincere love. I will return to the city someday, I will ride the subway again, and I will love the lonely without my own personal prejudice-I will love the city through the eyes of the Cross.