When I told people I was going on a mission trip to New York, the responses I got were all similar in the fact that people were confused. “New York is a vacation, not a mission trip.” Little do they know how desperately that city is in need of my savior, Jesus. It is a place full of culture, color, diversity, and wonder. And I, along with eleven of my brothers and sisters, had the opportunity to go and serve and love.
Being in New York for a week was more difficult than it may seem. Sure, it’s not overseas, but the foreignness of the city made it feel that way. We encountered good people, loving and living the same way that we are. But we also experienced people that were difficult to love because they didn’t look like us, act like us and definitely didn’t believe like us. But the beauty of that is those are the people that we have been called to love. One of my favorite authors, Bob Goff said “I’ve spent my whole life avoiding the people Jesus spent his whole life engaging.” I believe a lot of those people live in New York City.
We partnered with Journey Church, which has two locations in Queens, one in Forest Hills and one in Astoria. We stood at subways and bus stops, handing out free granola bars and invitations to their church services. In doing this, we got a lot of different responses. My favorite one was when people asked why. People were confused and surprised when they found out what we were giving was FREE. Often times they would ask for more and we would end up giving one person 2 or 4 or 10 granola bars. They might have thrown the card away, but they were impacted by the love of Jesus through us. We might not have seen the results from handing out free granola bars, but I fully believe that those small actions planted seeds, and will eventually grow.
The interactions that we had at those stops were special, but my favorite day was the “Borough Blitz.” Every week, at Vespers, our college students have the opportunity to give our offering. That money is then given to one college student who is able to bless somebody with it however they choose. We thought for our last Vespers, it would be cool to use the offering in New York on the mission trip. We ended up receiving more than usual, which was around $280. We weren’t sure how we could use it but then we came up with the Borough Blitz. The money was divided among five student pairs. New York City has five boroughs – Queens, Bronx, Manhattan, Staten Island and Brooklyn. Each pair was assigned one borough, where we would then visit and have the chance to bless somebody with that money. That day was long, but the results were worth it and unforgettable. The people that received that money were shocked that somebody would randomly hand them money. They said “the Christians around here never do that kind of thing” and they thought they were being pranked. After the confusion, we were able to see smiles and tears of pure joy. Often, the people said “I needed that.” The money wasn’t much, but the gesture and the prayer and the love was something they desperately needed.
This trip was short. We didn’t see lives radically transformed or people coming to Jesus, but we saw how big our little gestures of love really are. We saw love bring pure joy to so many people in such a short period of time. There was a man in the park feeding birds one morning. He told us that he feeds the birds because most people turn their back on those who need our help the most, like the hungry and the homeless. He said it was unnatural of us to stop and talk with him, but helping and loving people should be more natural. I pray that God would move in the city of New York. I pray that our church and other believers of Jesus would continue to love and care for that city. Any place can be a “mission trip.” Every place should be a mission trip.
Want to learn more about the trip? Follow @vista_college on Instagram and visit our first spring Vespers on January 16, 2019. Photos by Daniel Martinez.