Seeing God's Grace at Dream Center NYC
John Park is a member of Exilic Church in New York City, and helps lead the City Outreach Ministry, which is the Exilic ministry that partners with Hope for New York. John shared this personal reflection with the congregation on Exilic’s HFNY Sunday.
I moved to New York City about two years ago from Kansas City for a new job. I became involved with the City Outreach Ministry because I wanted to keep myself grounded and remind myself that the New York experience I get to enjoy is not everyone’s experience.
I want to share my reflection on a recent experience while volunteering with Dream Center NYC. About two months ago, a man in his 40s came up to our station where we were handing out children's books. He wanted to socialize with us, and he shared that he was back from serving time in prison. We chatted about how he was readjusting to civilian life with church and a new job. The whole time, he had one hand behind him, so I felt a bit uneasy. When he turned around to talk with folks at another station, I saw that it was a bottle of alcohol. Maybe he was afraid to present himself fully to the world, and I wish he could have realized that we weren’t there to pass judgment but to show a small glimpse of God’s goodness.
Through this small interaction I began to recognize that previous criminal history does not define how God sees his children. Despite the road that person has been on, God is still writing his story and trying to reconnect this man with his community through the church. Because God has been gracious to me, I should want to serve others like this man.
But, honestly, there are many times when I hesitate to give up a chunk of my weekend to volunteer, and there are days when I am frankly not excited to show up to the volunteer event. However, reflecting on these two years in NYC, I see how God is changing my heart of stone into a heart of flesh and how God has used me to serve others and share his goodness. I may not have started out with a heart that is joyful to serve, but he is getting me there over time.
I pray and hope we can serve our city through volunteering and financial support for Hope for New York and its affiliates, so that together we might spread God’s love to those in need.