Our NYC team is on the ground serving in the Bronx. Daily updates are below.
Our week in the Bronx was full of eye-opening challenges and heartwarming opportunities. As our team served in schools, churches and on the streets of this community, we formed relationships with many genuine people and experienced things that changed our hearts. We learned to find beauty in the chaos and embrace the brokenness.
We spent the majority of our time volunteering in a local public elementary school only a couple of blocks down from the Graffiti 2 Church. Most of the kids are behind in their schoolwork and many teachers are struggling to help their classes of 25-30 students. The atmosphere of this school is very intense, chaotic and sometimes even violent. Therefore, we often spent our time sitting with kids individually and having precious moments helping them or simply talking with them. Personally, I was very encouraged by the teacher I helped this week. He was both patient and firm and ran his classroom well. On Thursday, I had the chance to briefly speak with him, and he explained that he came from teaching in a much more organized charter school to this school in the Bronx to "give back". It is people like him that continue to be a light in this community daily and ultimately, change it for the better.
The Lord's perfect timing for this trip allowed our team to have various opportunities to share the meaning of Good Friday and Easter with many kids. Without our prompting, these kids asked many questions about the these important days. We encountered a large amount of students who had never even heard of Good Friday or who did not know the true meaning behind Easter. These conversations were some of the most significant moments of our week.
In addition to serving, we were grateful to be able to do some sight-seeing and enjoy some relaxation on Sunday and Friday.
Before we left on Saturday, our team got to help the Graffiti 2 staff set up and operate their "Spring Fling" event in a park. We hosted many children and other church families in outdoor games and activities. It was an amazing time of final fellowship with these new friends before we headed back home.
-Please continue to pray for the hearts of the students, teachers and staff at the public school where we served. Pray for peace and efficiency in teaching the students and that these students would thrive both educationally and spiritually.
-Pray for students that are especially behind in school. I worked with a girl (both in her school class and after-school tutoring) who moved from West Africa 2 years ago. She is in 4th grade and cannot read Kindergarten-level books. Pray she receives the help she needs to be successful in her learning and that she feels loved and valued.
-Pray for the Graffiti 2 church and its ministries (Children's After School Tutoring Program, GSALT, etc.). Pray that they would continue to be a light in their community and grow in number.
-Pray that Clearview would continue to be a strong supporter and partner of Graffiti 2 church.
-Pray for the Bronx community as a whole. Praise God that he has made them so tight-knit and that this would be used for His glory.
-Pray for the Smiley family that ClearView sent out as missionaries to the Bronx about 2 years ago. Pray for blessings in abundance and comfort from the Lord as they live out the Gospel in a mighty way.
Written By: Katey Koon
Our final full day in the city started out as any other with breakfast in the hotel. At 10 am, we left and took the subway for our second trip to the always fascinating Chinatown in Manhattan. We spent a few hours shopping around and many, many purchases were made. These included things from off brand cologne all the way to off brand Beats headphones. Gabe really enjoyed the cheap prices.
For lunch, we went to a popular Chinese restaurant where I had my first Sweet and Sour Chicken. Once we were done, we took the train back to Times Square. We spent an hour shopping around stores that were a bit more high end than what we experienced earlier that day. At around 4:30 pm, we made our way back to the hotel and rested our exhausted selves. The few that were able to make it to dinner went to the Boston Market restaurant across the street from the hotel. Eventually, everyone else woke up and got ready for the Good Friday service.
We were invited to attend a local church called, The Harvest, along with a few members from Graffiti 2. It was definitely one of the most unique services I have ever attended. The members worshipped with many verbal rejoices that I loved. We ended the service by taking the Lord's Supper with the whole congregation. It really was a great way to end an amazing trip. Continue praying for us as we help Graffiti 2 with their Spring Fling tomorrow. Please also pray for us as we travel back home.
Written By: Joe Butler
Today was our last day working in the school. It was difficult to leave the kids. This place has a way of growing on you. Once you get to know a kid, you realize they're just like any other kid. They want to be loved, and they crave attention. Sometimes that last part gets them into trouble. They loved having our team in their classes and loved the one on one time they received. Today, we used that opportunity to have some Gospel conversations, mostly centered around Easter. Many of the kids had no idea what Good Friday or Easter were about. It was exciting to be able to share with them and invite them to a local church that has a long-standing relationship with ClearView. We know that Graffiti 2 is a church that will love them and feed them.
Our students had a great idea that involved purchasing gifts for the teachers we worked with this week. The teachers were very excited to receive flowers, candy, cookies and all sorts of treats. Please pray for these teachers as they are overworked, stressed out and underappreciated. They are good teachers who want to do a good job and love kids. But they don't have the resources or support system that we are accustomed to seeing in our public schools.
After school, we headed to Graffiti 2 for our last day working with their afterschool program. Graffiti 2 does an excellent job with this program! They reach dozens of kids who otherwise would not receive help. All the students in the program receive assistance at their level in their schoolwork. There are two different programs. The children's program has between 15 and 20 elementary age children. Another 15 - 20 middle school and high school students participate in the G-salt program. Our team split up with half working with the children and half working with the older students. After their studies were completed, we played basketball and 4-Square. Some of the older members of our team (not naming names) might be a little sore.
Graffiti 2 church has their mid-week Bible study, worship, and dinner on Thursdays. Our team served by cooking the meal, serving and cleaning up the meal, helping lead worship and Mark preached. It ended up being a 12-hour day. Our longest day yet. But our team felt energized, and we were happy to be utilized in different ways. Today was a good day.
After the Thursday night services were over, the team went for a night time visit to the Empire State Building. It was foggy but still very impressive.
I just want to take a moment and brag on our students. They have cooked, cleaned, taught, encouraged and really modeled what being a mature young adult and Christ follower looks like. They have done it all without complaint or selfishness. I'm encouraged by their leadership and flexibility.
Written By: Scott Koon
Today we served in a school in the Bronx and in the Graffiti 2 after school program. At the school, we got to know the kids better and helped in the classrooms. In the after school program, we tutored, played games and did Bible study with the kids. It was fun to play with them and help them with their homework. I really saw God at work in Bible study today. The kids were listening well and showed that they really cared about what they were learning. Tonight, we walked through different parts of the neighborhood and handed out Reese's and met many new people. Please pray for us to be safe and for God to work in the students' hearts.
Written By: Carson Koon
The last couple of days in the Bronx have been such a blessing to me, personally, and to our team as well.
Everyday life in the Bronx is hard. You can see it on the faces you pass on the street or in the subway. With that being said, there is a stronger sense of community in the Bronx than what I see back home, because survival depends on it.
Even though this is their home and community, Bronx people know there is more to life than what they're experiencing. So many are searching, and the thought of Jesus as the only way to true fulfillment is either too good to be true or hypocritical due to how others behave and claim Jesus.
Graffiti 2 leadership amazes me in their steadfastness to be servants in the community. They are respected and loved by their neighbors and those who participate in their programs. You can see the years of persistence to love, instruct and serve the Bronx people to open doors for Gospel conversations and discipleship.
The school we are serving in has opened my eyes to what hard life really looks like and meet the teachers who faithfully serve every day. Teachers are the heroes in this community, and they receive little to no rewards. The only way to describe this week in the schools to anyone with understanding and accuracy would be to ask them to watch the first half of the movie, "Lean On Me". I've never experienced a class room setting so intense and kids so desperate for love, instruction and discipline. If the classroom setting is this bad, I can't imagine what home life is like for them.
These kids need love. And these teachers deserve so much more. I have so much respect for these teachers and our teachers back home. I hurt for these kids. I want every single one of them to know that even though this life is hard, unfair, painful, and will beat you down... But there is a savior, a friend, and an advocate on your behalf who loves you and will prepare a place for you that is beyond your imagination if you will place your trust in Jesus.
This week has reminded me how thankful I am to be rescued by Jesus. It has also reminded me that every single person deserves the opportunity like me to be rescued by Jesus.
Written By: Mark Satterfield
We started working at the school helping out with general needs and assisting in classrooms. Sutton and I cleaned out closets and helped teachers maintain classes. It was a good first day and a great learning experience. Continue to pray for energy and patience with the kids and that we will learn how to interact better with them.
Written By: Cole Winton
This was more of a site seeing day for our mission team in New York City. First, we got to worship with Graffiti 2 church in the morning. It was very cool to see all the members of their church and meet them. Later, our team spent the rest of the day touring Times Square. It was my first time to see it and it was awesome, to say the least. Joe also got the chance to surprise Katey by asking her to prom with a Times Square themed sign. Later, we experienced a Knicks game at Madison Square Garden.
Written By: Gabe Robinett
On the plane ride to New York City, I sat next to a WWE Diva and didn't even know it. The guy who drove us to the hotel had so many iPhones and iPods. After we settled into our hotel, we went to a Mexican restaurant that was next door. After we got back from the restaurant, Andrew from Graffiti 2 came to our hotel and briefed us about the city. He shared about all the things we were going to do that week. After the briefing, we went to Chinatown and Little Italy for shopping and dinner.
Pray for safe travels and that we are able to connect with the kids at the school and the after school program.
Written By: Jeb Butler