Free Bread and a Wad of Cash

During the summer, traditionally, Wednesdays are "Manna Day." Manna of Life, a ministry we partner with, does an outreach every Saturday: they make soup and sandwiches, gather juice and fruit, then visit three different sites to serve both day workers and people who are homeless. Since our summer teams aren't in the city on weekends, we do the same outreach ourselves on Wednesday mornings.

 The Spring BIC team, donning their hairnets after making sandwiches

The Spring BIC team, donning their hairnets after making sandwiches

The route we take is the same each time: first a gas station at Westchester Square; then the Living Room, a homeless shelter in Hunts Point; then another gas station not far away down Bruckner Boulevard. We know what time we need to start making sandwiches in the morning, what time we have to leave, and what are the best times to get to each site. We've done this many times before. That's not to say that it's always the same, but we know basically what to expect.

Today was different.

We had the youth group from The Spring BIC in Chambersburg, PA. At the first gas station I saw a man over at the corner of the building, slumped to the ground, unkempt and disheveled, drinking a can of beer, several bags next to him. He looked pretty obviously homeless, though you can't know that for sure unless you talk to him. I grabbed one of the guys from the team and went to ask the man if he would like a couple sandwiches, some juice, and a banana.

He cautiously accepted the food, and I asked him his name. Jimmy, he told me. As soon as I got near him I noticed the dog tags around his neck, and I mentioned them to him and thanked him for his service to our country. We talked for a little while, and we were able to give him a Bible and pray for him. I also told him that there are programs specifically for homeless veterans, but that he needed to take the initiative to seek them out; they won't know he's out here unless he tells them.

This was the first time I had met a homeless person at this gas station. Normally all we encounter is a group of day workers, men who wait around for someone to drive by and offer them work for the day. Sometimes there are fewer guys there, sometimes more. When we meet only a handful of them at a given site, we hope that they're gone because they found work.

I stepped away from Jimmy and walked over to where the rest of our group was. As I did, a couple of them were saying something to the driver of a white SUV that had pulled up right in front of us. They offered the man a banana -- the items we bring are for anyone who wants them -- and I heard him ask what we were doing. We told him, and he seemed impressed, saying he thought it was great that we were doing it. He said that he doesn't go to church as much as he should, but identified himself with a church not far from there. Then he grabbed something from inside his vehicle and handed it to me: a folded wad of cash more than an inch thick. He said he wanted to bless us because we were blessing other people. I thanked him earnestly and told him that the money would go right to this, to what we were doing here. He drove off, and I don't remember if we ever got his name.

He had handed us $346 in cash. I don't know what that money was or where it came from, but I know that it will be used to meet the needs of even more people now. I don’t know all what was in that man's heart, but I believe that the Holy Spirit had moved him to do what he did.

Later in the day, at the second gas station where we fed the day workers, a white delivery van pulled up to our group. He called through his window to some of the team members, who spoke to him and then waved to me to come over. Apparently the man had extra bread. He had an order of rolls canceled at the last minute, after he had already made them, so he was driving around to different restaurants and offering the bread. He saw us and offered two good-sized boxes if we wanted them. Since we were near the end of our time, I only took one box.

 Bread from heaven!

Bread from heaven!

We were able to hand out the entire box to the day workers at that gas station, offering basically as much as they wanted. It was a big blessing to be able to offer those guys more, because often we run out of things at the last gas station. Today, we had more than enough.

I told The Spring's youth group that people back home must be praying for them. We've had people donate to us before, people who have seen us around the city and applauded what we were doing (though we know and always say that the glory should go to God), but never have we gotten two out-of-the-blue contributions like these. God is good.

I could talk about the power of prayer, about how God blesses us even when we don't deserve it, about how we simply need to walk in obedience and see where God takes us, about how He will provide in remarkable ways. Instead I will simply praise God from whom all blessings flow.

"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change." -- James 1:17

"Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen." -- Ephesians 3:20-1

Summer Roundup 2015: Bathgate, Gouverneur, Echo, and Ciccarone

[This post originally appeared on July 27, 2015.]

From Amber Howell, Children’s Ministry Coordinator:

 

If not us then who?
If not me and you
Right now, it’s time for us to do something
If not now then when?
Will we see an end
To all this pain?
It’s not enough to do nothing
It’s time for us to do something.
— Matthew West, "Do Something"

On behalf of Priority 1 Ministries, I want to thank the interns and the teams that all came and served alongside us this summer to “do something” in NYC.

We had two interns come and serve with us for five weeks, Mandy Colpitts (from Omaha, Nebraska) and Kayla Pavlik (from Manheim, Pennsylvania). We had three full weeks of Urban Outreach with four teams: Illuminate from North Carolina, and Antrim BIC, Silverdale BIC, and the Point (Chambersburg First Church of God), all from Pennsylvania. We also had the honor of hosting Raven and Kamry from Antrim BIC who volunteered their time and helped our P1M staff run a fourth Bible Club.

In four weeks, we hosted fourteen days of Bible Club at four different parks throughout the Bronx. There was a total of 230 kids who signed up for Club, in addition to many kids who came halfway through the Club and didn’t get a chance to sign up! Many parents also stuck around, and some even took part. Club was filled with Bible lessons, memory verses, games, crafts, and worship. We were able to hand out numerous Bibles and kids’ devotionals to the children and parents.

Since our afternoons were devoted toBible Club, we spent the mornings volunteering and serving at World Vision, Manna of Life, the Relief Bus and doing prayer walks throughout NYC.

The four weeks filled with sharing God’s love, being the hands and feet of Jesus, building relationships with one another and people throughout the city and making memories that will last a lifetime.

~Amber

Thanks to everyone who helped make our t-shirt fundraiser a success!

[This blog was originally posted on July 27, 2015.]

Well, that was fun.

For a while, we at Priority 1 had toyed with the idea of holding a t-shirt fundraiser. We hear pretty often from teams who come to New York City — particularly the groups who come in the non-summer months — that they would be interested in buying a Priority 1 shirt. The problem is, for an organization that tries to keep our overhead as low as possible, we don’t have a lot of capital to purchase a large number of shirts to keep on hand. And, we don’t really have much space to keep 500 t-shirts in the ministry’s apartment in the Bronx.

Then we discovered the fundraiser site Booster.com, which allowed us to design and promote our shirt without spending a dime. We didn’t have to spend a single dollar up front. We only spent what our staff, individually, purchased in shirts for themselves. So all we had to do was promote the fundraiser and see how it went.

We praise God for a successful campaign! We did our best to keep the fundraiser in front of people’s eyes, we hope without being annoying. And wow, did you come through! I figured we’d make three or four hundred bucks from the thing, and we set what we thought was a reasonable goal of 50 shirts…

Total number of shirts sold: 89

Total money raised: $1758

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.  ~Ephesians 3:20-1 (ESV)

We were blown away by the support we received. So, to those who purchased shirts and/or simply donated money, THANK YOU!!! Your support was an incredible encouragement to us.

Some of the donations were designated for particular purposes, and we will honor those requests. For the rest of it, we will do two main things:

1. Buy more t-shirts. Wait, what? We will use some of the funds to purchase some shirts that we can keep for teams who come to the Bronx, something we have always wanted to do but never could justify the “investment.”

2. Zimbabwe. We’ll use some of the funds to go towards Priority 1’s trip to Zimbabwe in September. We’ll put it towards the cost of sending two staff members on the trip and towards building materials needed for a renovation project.

So wear that shirt proudly! And once again, we are extremely grateful for all of your support. Thank you.