When people hear that we went to New York City for three weeks, they say, “Must be nice.” They picture us on a tourist bus sightseeing, watching a Broadway show, eating loads of pizza.
They’re only right about the pizza bit.
We went to NYC for the ninth International Arts and Sports Gathering, which Melo and I coordinate every year. It’s for Christian artists and athletes to come together and discuss how to use our arts/sports in different areas of society, for us to come against individualism and to pray for and help each other. We’ve held it in most of the capitals of Europe, so we knew that this year it had to travel to the little brother of those cities: a ferocious beast called New York.
I have been on two different planning trips to NYC over the past year and a half. One of the most stressful parts of planning the Gathering is always securing accommodation for the team. In our previous two trips to NYC, we met with several churches in order to find a place. We also prayed and decided to hold the Gathering across several different venues, which meant coordinating pastors and schedules and the Gathering events. Three weeks beforehand, we had a church that had been confirmed as a venue for a year back out. It was typical Gathering shenanigans. But in spite of that, we saw God’s faithfulness in an incredible way with another of the churches that we worked with this Gathering.
I’ve been learning a lot about the longevity of the promises of God. In the song “Way Maker,” it says, “Even when I don’t see it, You’re working. / Even when I don’t feel it, You’re working. You never stop, you never stop working.” Johanna, our base leader, walked past a church called 2nd Avenue Church in 2011 and thought, “I’d love to have an activity out of this church.” Fast forward to 2018, when contacting them from across the ocean hadn’t gone so well, so we had to hit 2nd Avenue and knock on the door. A homeless man saw us and helped us ring the doorbell, and we met one of the pastors. In our second meeting, he told us that God had told them to give us whatever we asked for. So we asked for accommodation (they have a shower and a flat in the top floor!) and to hold the Gathering there, and they said yes!
We not only held the Gathering in the church, we also held a Discipleship Training School outreach there after the Gathering was finished. During the outreach, we took our drums and stilts (which we’d dragged across the Atlantic) to Washington Square Park for evangelism. Each time we went to Washington Square Park, people approached us to talk about what we were doing. We got to pray for people and tell them about Jesus for ages; hours passed, and we didn’t even notice. We were too caught up in the new friends that we had made.
This is just a quick update on three weeks in which God moved in crazy ways. He moved in people’s hearts in the Gathering. He taught us about His faithfulness to put dreams in our hearts and then to bring them about when we’d forgotten about them. And when we go back to NYC to work with this church again, I know we’ll see how He has worked in the interim time. It wasn’t the Gathering we pictured, but I believe that it was the one that God wanted. And I’m learning about that, as well: how to have hopes in God, but how to learn to leave space for Him to move. And to follow Him when I see Him going in a direction. I love our God who links churches and hearts from across the Atlantic, how we go to prepare the ground and invite people to a church we’d been dreaming of for ages, and now that we’re back in London, they can continue the work of introducing the people we met in NYC to our Saviour.