“A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34
Reflecting on the last 40 years has been a memory walk for me. Forty years ago this Spring I met Sheila. Forty years ago, I began writing a monthly devotional newsletter. Each letter has told a story of life, joy and the sorrows I have encountered as I sought out those who needed our Lord. Woven through each reflection was the spiritual journey that the Lord was taking me on as well.
Quite frankly I could not have imagined what was ahead of me so many years ago. Here is a journey back to March 1979 that might set the context for you our friends and supporters, and we can rejoice in His love as we seek the “lost sheep.”
It was the aftermath of a nor’easter in early March which indeed came in like a lion. Cold and bitter snow piled everywhere but sure enough the “street people” were still out in force. Drug dealers, hustlers, prostitutes, and pimps, all out “working” the streets. One would think that a blizzard might give folks a night off. Never the less I joined the unseemly crowd, looking for God’s leading. Shortly thereafter two young girls approached me. “Looking for a date?” one inquired. I started to share Christ with them and asked if I could pray for them. They laughed and off they went. That moment a big hand caught me on my arm and spun me around. It was the girls pimp and he threatened me, “What’s wrong you with you, boy? “ Turning in anger, the rugby guy in me wanted to throw a punch, but the Holy Spirit arrested me. I looked into his broken eyes and said “I’m a preacher and I’ll bet you have a momma praying for you.” He retorted “how did you know?” “Well, I have a mom praying for me, too.” That night we walked and talked for an hour. At the end, I prayed with him, gave him my card and thought I would never see him again. His street name was Success.
A couple hours later I climbed in to my bed. Early that morning, I got an urgent knock on my door from our street mission security guard saying “Pastor B.J. there is a guy downstairs that says he knows you and wants to talk.” Standing in the hall stood the “pimp” Success. He reached out, shook my hand and said “My name is Alfonso. I have paid off my girls and got rid of my drugs.” Tears came to his eyes as he said “I am wondering do you think Jesus Christ can forgive me?” At which point he started to cry. Alfonso was the first person I had the privilege of seeing come to faith in Jesus... it was my beginning of New York City ministry.
So much more has happened since those first months here—joys, ministries developed, babies saved, changed lives, and 40 years of purpose and hope. Our prayer is that as my health remains strong, I will continue to serve, love, and share the love of Christ in NYC until the Lord takes me home.
Thank you for your love and support. It means the world to me.