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'Something kept telling me I should go'

Cary Ashby • Jan 17, 2017 at 10:00 PM

Teresa Hartley was overwhelmed at first about the prospect of going on a mission trip to New York City.

“Something kept telling me I should go on this,” she said. “Something told me before we went ‘you will be challenged and strengthened and transformed.’”

The Bellevue woman said the six weeks of pre-trip training at The Foundation Church in Norwalk helped alleviate some of her fear and insecurity.

“But it all went out the window as soon as the van door closed,” Hartley added. “I felt like I wasn’t qualified.”

She found the multiple-day experience fulfilling.

From Dec. 28 through Jan. 1, the 11-person church group worked with Street Life Ministries in Flushing, Queens to distribute food, hot drinks, juice, donated clothing, hygiene care packets and Bibles to the homeless in Tompkins Square Park, Rockefeller Plaza and Times Square. The church members also prayed with people and listened to their life stories.

“I was more than glad (I went),” Hartley said. 

And now she’s ready to go on another mission trip.

“Absolutely. I’m ready,” she said.

The Norwalk group ministered with people from Ohio, Texas, Kentucky and even Brazil.

At Rockefeller Center, the local residents sang Christmas carols and did a prayer walk. Pastor Jeff Watson said the group prayed for the nearly 2 million people who would be in New York for New Year’s Eve.

Shelli Marcum-Ward, of Berlin Heights, went on the trip with her 13-year-old daughter, Nicqui Ward, who attends Edison Middle School. 

“Mission trips are important because I love to help people. I have a missionary’s heart, so I like to get out and make sure people get help,” said Marcum-Ward, who was on her third mission trip.

The Berlin Heights woman said going New York City was important because it’s a “very homeless city.”

“I wanted to reach out to people who were behind the scenes,” she said. “There are people out there who are less fortunate.”

Marcum-Ward spoke to many homeless veterans in Manhattan, which she said was tough to see. Her father was a green beret in the U.S. Army in Vietnam.

“It hits home. … It broke my heart,” Marcum-Ward said. “It seems the government is not helping those veterans. We should help our own.”

Loretta Powonder, 72, of Norwalk, said she went on the trip “because I’ve always liked the idea of helping the homeless.” Although before she went she didn’t know how to approach someone on the street, she said it was fulfilling to pray with people and read the Bible with them.

Watson has been to New York City about 15 times on various mission trips since 1994.

“I love going to New York City because it’s the city of nations. I love the diversity of New York. I love how you can meet every type of person,” the pastor said.

During the recent trip, the Foundation Church group encountered a woman whom Watson met many years earlier. He said he believes such experiences reveal the long-term impact someone can have during a mission trip — but they may never realize it.

“She goes, ‘I remember you guys. I got a Gospel tract in 1996 and I still have it,’” Watson said.

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