Every spring, BJA sends a high school mission team to NYC to minister to pastors, missionaries and local residents for one week. Updates and pictures from each team will be posted daily.
After a restful overnight and a hearty breakfast, the Bay Ridge team set out for Upper Manhattan and a visit to the historic Cathedral of St. John the Divine. This massive architectural wonder is home to some of the finest stained-glass art in New York City, fine tapestries, and iconic Baroque paintings. Moving down Fifth Avenue to Central Park South, the group spent some time perusing the famous Fifth Avenue retail establishments and historic churches. Because of the long subway rides and long walks, the students and sponsors had dozens of opportunities for gospel witnessing and tract distribution. Please pray for Bill, a homeless man, who listened intently to the Gospel and needs to receive Christ. Shortly after arriving back at the church, the team walked to Elegante’s, a traditional New York style pizzeria, to enjoy a delectable supper. Music rehearsal, prayer and greetings preceded the evening service highlighted by stirring singing, wonderful testimonies and a challenging message from Evangelist Boyle. A rare treat for some of the students and sponsors was to accompany Mrs. Ovaline Streckfus in singing the spiritual “Give Me Jesus.” Great food and fellowship followed the evening service, and the night concluded with Pastor Walker and Evangelist Boyle challenging the men and Mrs. Walker and Mrs. Boyle speaking to the women before lights out.
In the morning the Memorial team had a service at a nursing home across the street from the church. The girls sang “Come, Thou Fount” and a number of students played special music, including a flute special by Olivia. Pastor Christopher preached a gospel message and the students spoke with the residents afterwards. After lunch the team again divided into groups, one group giving out invitations to the children’s rally and the other preparing for it. Julianne used chalk to draw a beautiful invitation to the rally on the sidewalk just outside the church. The rally began as a brisk breeze blew through the churchyard, but a number of children attended. Chris, Christine and Micah led the children’s games; and Thomas gave a gospel message. In the evening before the service, Larry greeted those passing on the sidewalk and welcomed those who came in. Once again, the students performed special music and led the song service. Several students helped out with children’s church throughout the week, with Hannah, Thomas and Melissa teaching the children this evening. After fellowshipping with church members and visitors, the team had its last devotional time together. Many students shared testimonies of what the Lord had taught them through their experiences this week. Caroline shared how Lord has used Psalm 40 to teach her to be bolder and more willing to talk to people she meets. Bethany expressed a similar lesson and added that giving tracts isn’t too hard—and that even if you only can give the Gospel to a few people it can make a difference.
A cool, crisp, sunny Wednesday greeted the Bay Ridge team as they headed out for another day of touring, tract distribution, and evangelistic meetings in the afternoon and evening. The morning hours were devoted to a visit to the 9/11 Memorial and the Freedom Tower. Pastor Walker led the group and talked about the bravery and sacrifice of so many heroes on that day. A short distance from the Memorial, students and sponsors entered St. Paul’s Chapel, one of the main staging areas for first responders, fire fighters, and police during the months following 9/11. After lunch at City Hall Park, the team boarded the subway and headed back to the church and conducted the “Party in the Yard,” the outdoor children’s meeting. Games, songs, puppets, and the gospel message greeted about twenty children who enthusiastically participated. In the evening the team not only ministered at Bay Ridge but also at Bethel Baptist Church in Brooklyn, founded by Pastor Jim Bickel. Before settling in for the night, Tyler, Gracie, Daniel, and Tim testified in group devotions how God was doing His work in their lives through the Word and witnessing each day.
At Memorial Baptist, Monday began with a subway trip to lower Manhattan. Students toured by historical sites including the New York Stock Exchange, Federal Hall, St. Paul’s Chapel near Ground Zero and the 9/11 Memorial. The team then had a ferry crossing to Staten Island to see a view of the Statue of Liberty as well as the Manhattan skyline from the water. After lunch, the team headed to the Brooklyn Bridge to walk from Manhattan to Brooklyn and view the islands better. Once they were back at the church, the students again split into groups to pass out fliers for the children’s rally on Thursday. One group went to Prospect Park and the other went to a local school and playground. That evening the team sang as a choir, several students played instrumental numbers and Evangelist Ken Prayne brought a third message.
For the students and sponsors at Bay Ridge, Tuesday had a double emphasis on Jewish and children’s evangelism. Dr. Craig Hartman, director of Shalom Ministries, came to challenge the team about reaching out to Jews with the Gospel. The team then had a unique opportunity to visit an orthodox Jewish section of Brooklyn with Dr. and Mrs. Hartman, including visiting a large Jewish bookstore and eating lunch at Mendelssohn’s, a Jewish deli. At the afternoon children’s day event, about 20 children played army-themed games, sang Bible songs, learned a verse, and heard a Bible lesson by Evangelist Boyle—with the lesson incorporating student puppeteers. After children’s day, Pastor Walker spoke with a six-year-old girl who made a profession of faith. During evening testimonies which followed the service, Isabelle recalled an opportunity to share a tract with a gentleman who started crying when he read it. She shared her testimony and explained the Gospel, and he responded, “I’ve never heard it that way before. I understood that.”
The Memorial team spent the day in Brooklyn and participated in various activities. In the morning Will S., Thomas, Jenna, Amanda, Christine and Dr. Ericson helped a sister church distribute posters to various shops to advertise an upcoming Easter service. The remaining students and faculty joined Pastor Christopher and Pastor Klaus for a time of street preaching and tract distribution near the Barclays Center. Hundreds of tracts were given out and many conversations were begun. After lunch, students passed out more flyers for the children’s rally, helped with laundry and prepared for the children’s rally Thursday. Cara, Amanda and Jenna were able to visit Miss Jenny, a senior member at Memorial, and wish her a happy birthday by playing their instruments for her. During testimony time, Melissa and Brandon expressed again how the Todd and Jona tracts gave them multiple opportunities to share the Gospel. Will C. also shared how he was encouraged by the faithfulness of Pastor Christopher.
In the morning the Memorial team made their way into the city for some sightseeing. However, ministry continued as the team sang hymns while waiting for the subway, passed out tracts and struck up conversations with the locals. After navigating the NYC subway system, the team emerged at 5th Avenue. After a picnic lunch in Central Park, the team made their way to Temple Emanu-El (the world’s largest Reformed Jewish Synagogue) for a tour. After returning to Brooklyn, the team split into two groups to hand out flyers for the Children’s Rally and invite people to the evangelistic services. A slight rain started and provided the team with some extra time for prayer.
The Bay Ridge group stayed in Brooklyn on Tuesday, focusing on a service in a local nursing home as well as on Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s children’s outreaches. Preparation highlights included extensive music rehearsals, making a puppet stage, and learning puppeteering techniques from Evangelist Boyle. The young men also went out during rush hour to distribute evangelistic service and children’s outreach invitations on the streets and subways. The Bay Ridge students and sponsors also enjoyed an opportunity to go to the Norwegian Christian Home, a nursing home where Pastor Walker and his family have ministered through the years. There the team presented a program of vocal and instrumental sacred music for the residents. On the subway to and from the nursing home, team members distributed invitations to services and talked to other riders about the Lord. During evening testimonies, Garrett told of how he was impacted by his opportunity to pray for the service throughout the service itself. A man initially rejected a tract that Tim offered, a gospel tract based on the life and homegoing of fellow-student Todd Lurtey; however, a few minutes later the man asked Tim for the tract and proceeded to have a lengthy conversation about spiritual things.
By the second day at Bay Ridge Baptist Church, Bob Jones Academy high school students had contributed to the church’s ministry with manual labor, musical and children’s ministries, and outreach. With opportunities for evangelism along the way, the group learned more about the city and its people through a sunset walk across Brooklyn Bridge and a view from the Top of the Rock Observation Deck. Pastor Jason Walker, Richard Boyle (the week’s evangelist) and some of his children accompanied the team. On the Lord’s Day, the students multiplied their ministry in children’s church and in vocal and instrumental music. The small group that traveled to Bethel Baptist Fellowship near Sheepshead Bay (pastored by Jim Bickel) also participated in a Seder demonstration by Craig Hartman, director of Shalom Ministries. Leilani McGowan especially “appreciated” the horseradish that was part of the demonstration! Back at Bay Ridge, Hannah Green’s nursery ministry was a deep ministry to her as she and one of the mothers in the church, Ovaline, shared special ways that the Lord has provided for them.
The students at Memorial Baptist Church had a similar schedule, assisting in the ministry of Pastor Stephen Christopher. Saturday afternoon they walked to Prospect Park to pass out invitations to the evening evangelistic services with Evangelist Kent Prain and a children’s rally to be held on Thursday. The evening ended with a trip to the Promenade with its spectacular view of the Manhattan skyline across the East River and a challenge from Mr. Tompkins to walk by faith and see the souls around them. On Sunday the team divided into two groups with Claire Overly, Christian Walker, Rebecca Teruel and Dr. Geof Ericson assisting the ministry at Bensonhurst Baptist Church where Jason Mead is pastor. The opening services of the evangelistic meetings were held at Memorial, and the students ministered through special music. The day concluded with a trip to Times Square, St. Patrick’s Cathedral and the “Top of the Rock.” While traveling on the subway, a number of students had excellent opportunities to share the Gospel. Brandon Lurtey had some very special opportunities to share the story about Todd and his confident hope in Jesus Christ. Todd’s tract, The Final Wish, has given students a number of opportunities to start conversations and direct others to Christ.