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Mission team ministers in New York City

Cary Ashby • Jan 13, 2019 at 6:00 PM

Sanchia Roderick was doing her best to keep up with the rest of the mission team in the bustling streets of New York City.

That was when she stumbled over a homeless man. The Norwalk woman apologized and as she did, she felt the pull between catching up with the other church members and spending a few minutes with the man.

Later that night Roderick said she spent time praying for the homeless man. She called the experience a “divine appointment.”

The Foundation Church in Norwalk brought 14 people, ranging in ages from 12 to 65, to the New York mission trip. Church members partnered with Street Life Ministries, which is based in Flushing, Queens.

From Dec. 28 through New Year’s Day, the Foundation group distributed hot chocolate, blankets, soup and hygiene products to the homeless at Tompkins Square Park in Manhattan. At Grace Plaza, the team sang, performed skits and handed out Bibles. They also went Christmas caroling at Rockefeller Plaza, attended a worship service at Times Square Church and visited the 9-11 memorial.

Pastor Jeff Watson, who has been to New York on 18 mission trips, enjoys the diversity in the city.

“It’s a glimpse of heaven … because it’s going to be people from all over the world,” he said.

Given the cultural diversity, many members of the mission team encountered language barriers.

When that happened to Roderick, she used sign language. She pointed to herself, put her hands together in the universal sign of prayer and then pointed to the people, who then nodded in agreement.

“So I did; I prayed in English,” said Roderick, who was on her fourth mission trip and enjoys evangelism. 

“It’s like a gift that God gave me. If someone didn’t share it with me, I’d be going to hell. … I love praying with people.”

This was the first mission trip for 14-year-old Avery Gibson, an eighth-grade student at Edison Middle School. Her father, Tobias, also attended. The elder Gibson said the trip was a “bonding experience” since he works a lot and his daughter does volunteer work and cares for four horses.

“It was fun. I got to spend a lot of time with him,” his daughter added.

The experience was the first time her father was in a large city.

“I don’t like the city,” said the Milan man, who was challenged with “getting the guts” to talk to people and pray with them.

On the other hand, Gibson said he was content handing out hot chocolate, telling people “Happy New Year” and letting them see his T-shirt that said “don’t forget about God.”

Tammy Sherer, of North Fairfield, went on the trip with her son. Tyler, 18, is a senior at South Central High School.

Sherer shared an experience with a man named Andre, who was sitting by himself. She said the man wondered why she had approached him, especially since she is white and he is black. As they talked, Sherer learned that Andre believed there is a hierarchy in society, with Caucasians being valued more than African-Americans, because of various instances of discrimination he faced.

“He did not want to pray with me; he said I could pray for him,” she said.

However, the two talked for about 30 minutes. Watson eventually told Sherer the group was about to leave. 

“Jeff came over and said, ‘We gotta go.’ (Andre) said, ‘I need a few more minutes with her,’” said Sherer, who ended up hugging Andre before she left.

Sherer was on the Kentucky mission trip with The Foundation Church. While the New York cultural experience was much different than the one in Warfield, Ky., she sees something in common.

“The commonality is people are people,” she said. “It’s about getting to know their story and not forgetting their story.” 

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