Its been hard trying to get some time since I walked through the Red Doors again for the Bowery Mission 2011; in terms of wind-down time, no Wi-Fi access and Bowery living. It makes me glad that I’ve got the opportunity today to sit down at the Central Library, just down from Central Station and rest my very aching bones and feet with some ‘modern conveniences.’ When we arrived at the Bowery after 14 hours of busing, walking, train-riding, walking, subway-ing and more walking, it was with delight that we found the volunteer rooms had undergone transformation. Installed were blinds (nice ones), and painted surfaces with some modern looking and feeling metal bunk beds with extra thick mattresses. Bill, the supervisor who was such a great friend last year, was on duty and couldn’t stop grinning from ear to ear. It was the beginning of the process for me, opening myself to the wonders anew that God would present here at the Bowery Street Mission.
Of course, our arrival in New York wouldn’t have been complete without Ray’s Pizza…….as a group we trouped back up Prince Street and sat down inside the tiny little ‘to go’ part of the business. 15 people quickly claimed that space as their own.
My heart has been broken anew even as my eyes are opened to the things I missed before, the very humanism of the Bowery and the dynamic flexible intense relationship it invites and demands of us all. The all too real agenda side of some of the members of the community here and how it is dealt with with the disciples of the community…..not in anger but with patience and understanding. It is not the perfect and ideal place, rather it is a place where God walks and is dynamic and fluid and attentive to those who would listen and that specialness is lost on those who refuse to see it.
I miss having Shannon Carey here because I could decompress and unwind with her, discussing those things I’ve seen and the experiences (yes, it has been ONE day) that I have been confronted with. The discussion of the preaching on Monday morning, the first time I’ve ever seen anyone preach with Ali, one of the supervisors of the program there, and just the connection of two men who shared only a cup of coffee had with bringing the Word to the Community. It was as if we had discussed the balance and synergy of the preaching to use---it was that blended and supportive of each other with the power to drive one of the disciples in the program up to surrender the rest of what he was holding back to the community. Sheldon, gentle warrior, got it all. Since that time, Ali has been walking around calling me “Pastor” even after I spend all day yesterday telling him no, I’m just Jim. But there is a boldness about my steps and a big grin on my face. I am indeed 'home.'
We went to Tromley Park for outreach yesterday with my dear friend Mantell who was a student last year when I was here and now is a supervisor of Outreach for the Bowery this year. It is the first time that a volunteer got to drive the Bowery Outreach truck and I must admit that I kept the experience as true to the original I had last year as I could. Hearing the exclamation “I’m airborne” after we headed back proves that I got it right. There is nothing like New York roads and New York Drivers……and giving the keys to a Michigan boy probably isn’t the best idea they had. :D
This morning I was introduced to Pastor John who was delivering the message at morning chapel since we were off for the day. When we went into chapel, Ali insisted I sit up on the stage with Pastor John and he ‘because you are one of the leaders in this house this morning….’ I was told. When I remarked that I wasn’t, that Joseph was, he laughed and pointed to the chair…..
Tomorrow morning and afternoon, we’re responsible for the Chapel and Thursday morning as well and that will conclude our chapel ‘responsibilities.’ Please keep Joan Bernard in prayer as she shapes and molds her sermon for Wed. Afternoon carefully with prayerful insight and questions. Keep Nellie in prayer as she expressed some need for some time on Thursday’s service to answer God’s call. Keep Jay, Casey and Sarah in prayer as God shapes and leads them this week….they were the first God called to be prayed over by the group at our meeting last night.
When I woke up yesterday morning, it hit me like a ton of bricks……”this is home.”
Oh, not the Bowery Street Mission or even the environs of New York City…..
But living in the intensity of God’s work, being a small part of the larger picture He calls us all to join in as His children, His redeemed and His saved.
This morning, after serving breakfast and helping the Bowery guys clean up, we headed out to a restaurant to have some breakfast before we departed as individual groups to our planned (or in my case unplanned) outings. It was a great time of fellowship.
But then I got the ‘hair-brained’ idea to go with one group down to the Statue of Liberty at Battery Park. After the group was ‘settled’ in, Drew and I spilt from them and headed out……..
From Battery Park to Central Library.
Can someone come help me get back to the Bowery???
I don’t think I can walk anymore………..