This Spring Break I had the honor of helping lead a university sponsored immersion service trip to New York City. What's an immersion trip, you ask? Just what it sounds like. It's a trip that immerses you in the culture in which you are visiting.
My group had the opportunity to stay at Metro Baptist in Hell's Kitchen where we worked with the staff there and had the opportunity to serve in several areas around town.
On the one hand, we got to do all of the fun touristy stuff:
|Nanci and me--happy to finally arrive!|
|Busy Manhattan Streets|
|Apparently Crystal and I ate the pizza wrong, but we enjoyed it just the same!|
|St. Paul's Church -- right across the street from where the South tower collapsed|
|Federal Hall where George Washington was Inaugurated|
|Trinity Church where the movie National Treasure has the Mason's treasure buried.|
|New York Stock Exchange|
|End of Manhattan facing Brooklyn|
|Beautiful chandeliers in Grand Central Station|
|Me wearing about eight layers of clothes in Grand Central Station|
|30 Rock ice skating rink|
|Breath-taking view from the Top of the Rock|
|Look at the Empire State Building from the Top of the Rock|
|The crew (minus David) on the Staten Island Ferry|
|And back to Manhattan|
If you've never been to New York City, the city is just as, if not more, hectic than you would think. Everyone is in a hurry and everyone seems to be out for themselves, but New Yorkers aren't as tough and heartless as their reputation would make you think. I may have been passed by, pushed by, or practically run over by about a million people in New York, but I met many people there who made me believe that although they have the rough exterior, people in Nashville, Tennessee, Denver, Colorado, and New York, New York are all the same--we all are looking for purpose and we're all looking to love and be loved.
As an immersion trip is somewhat of a mission trip with an emphasis on service, we spent the greater part of our trip serving around the city at places like Yorkville Common Pantry and Grand Central Soup Kitchen, where we served food to the homeless, Operation Exodus, where we helped out at an after school program in an area where children not very likely to graduate due to gangs, and World Vision, where we helped sort through items in their warehouse.
Throughout the week we did devotionals (read and talked about a passage of the Bible) each morning and kept asking ourselves, "Where do you see God in the city?"
While I never "saw" God, I did see his love and certainly saw places for his love. Whether on Wall Street, in the children at the after school program, or in the soup kitchens, I witnessed both the (worldly) weak and the strong, but in small interactions and moments of kindness, I found God in a city that, in general, seems to be too busy for him.
I am unashamed to say that I am a follower of Christ and that it is through the lens of his teachings I say this, but to me this trip was a reminder that God's love conquers all. Whether someone looks different, whether or not homosexuality is a sin, whether the homeless man across the counter smiles and thanks me or cusses me for giving him the wrong cupcake, this week reminded me my place is not to judge, but rather to love those who need it--and that's everyone.
|Scaffolding on Freedom Tower--the tallest building being erected in memory of 9/11|