Urban Hope – Taking it Home

In closing—
The Urban Hope team arrived home safely yesterday (except Amy who is remaining there for another two weeks) from a wonderful and impactful week. A huge “Thank You!” to all of you who have supported us through this journey, both financially and through prayer.

God taught me so much from Streetwise. The conference gave us the opportunity to learn about reaching various groups of people for Christ, and then actually going out and putting what we learned into practice each day. Going into Streetwise, I was not quite sure what to expect.  Mostly, I was hopeful that it would make me better at, and more comfortable with, sharing my faith. It did, but in a way that I did not anticipate.

Mark 16:15 tells us to, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” We as believers have been commanded to spread the Gospel- to share our faith with the world. Christ is able to work through us to bring others to Him, and that is an amazing thing. But it also something that used to cause me guilt. I felt guilty about the fact that evangelism is not one of my strengths.  I felt guilty that I was not serving Christ the way I thought I was supposed to. Streetwise changed that; it changed how I see myself, and how I share my faith.

Personally, I enjoy talking to people- but when it comes to bringing God into a conversation and sharing my faith, I have never been comfortable with it. I am not one who has ever been good at evangelism, or put it into practice often. But on this trip I realized that that was part of the problem. I thought that I had to be good at it to do it. I thought that what I said to a person could actually change their heart and life. This is so utterly far from the truth. The salvation of the world is not dependent on us- the salvation of the world is God’s work and God’s work alone. Nothing we say to an unbeliever will ever save them. Yes, it is our responsibility as believers to point people to Christ, and to show God’s love to, and passionately share the gospel with, the world. But it is not about having the perfect spiel of evangelism rehearsed and ready to go, or presenting the most touching and convicting speech that has the power to change lives. Because God is the only one who changes hearts and lives.  And what I learned was that I when I make it about my own comfort and insecurities- or my effectiveness, I am taking away from the power of Christ, and I am making it about me.

One of the things they taught us at Urban Hope was to greet everyone we passed by on the street. That way, we did not have to think about how intimidating a person might be to us, or what response we might receive from them. We were not to pause and decide if in being kind to others would cause ourselves some sort of harm or discomfort. Stop stereotyping and just say hi.

This really hit me hard. I do a good job of blending into society and living among a culture that so desperately needs Jesus, without even caring about, or considering, the work God is able to do in them. Sure, I know God can do amazing things and work in miraculous ways, but I am I actually living like I truly believe that?

I am so guilty of judging and deciding things about people without even talking or interacting with them. Everyone needs God! It is not up to me who God saves and who He does not. And yet I pass by and overlook people every day without showing them any sort of kindness or love. Who are we to decide who deserves God’s love? When we put people into boxes based on race, wealth, poverty, sexual-identity, age, religion, and appearance, we are also putting God into His own box. If we overlook people of any kind, if we decide that we do not want to show God’s love to them, or that we should not share our faith with them- it’s like we are saying that God is not powerful enough to save that person. If God is powerful and loving enough to save me, He is powerful and loving enough to save ANYONE!

Evangelism is not about saying the right thing to the right person. It is about showing God’s love to everyone because God truly does love everyone. It is about listening to people’s stories and learning about their lives, and being willing to share how God has changed your own. It is about sharing the Gospel through love, in love. Dwight L Moody said, “The world does not understand theology or dogma, but it understands love and sympathy.”

This is what I learned this past week, thank you for letting me share it with you!

Thank You to Urban Hope and Streetwise for having us, teaching us, and allowing us to serve God alongside you.

//Abby G

P.S. A few photos from our last day there! Urban Hope hosted church in the street on Sunday in order to help encourage neighbors to come and join. The photo of the board was for our entire Streetwise team, and anyone met someone they wanted to continue praying for, their name went on the board. Hundreds of names by the end of the week!

 

 

 

 

 

Urban Hope Day 5

Hi, this is Joe.  Today was a restful and fun day with goodbyes and reflection.   I’ll start with my favorite lesson from the week. Urban hope encourages evangelism through being FISHers of men. FISH means using FRIENDLY interaction to INITIATE conversations, listening to people’s STORY and finally sharing the HOPE of the Gospel. I now love forcing myself to be friendly to everyone on the street and all the new friends from Urban Hope and Operation Barnabas.  At the end of the day we said goodbye to the 25 Operation Barnabas friends that I had gotten close to by doing ministry with.

The goal of today was to host a SplashFest block party for kids and to teach the gospel from songs and games.  We learned that it is important to not assume that kids following the rules and memorizing verses have saving faith.  After lunch at an authentic Dominican restaurant, we took a bus to the neighborhood to gather kids and their families to come to the water party. God provided by letting us dodge two thunderstorms and everything was set for the party to begin. Over 200 people from the neighborhood attended! The water party had great OB skits, games, and a Gospel presentation followed by small group discussion with kids.  In my group all three kids claimed to believe in Jesus so I tried to talk with them about what they believed and reinforce assurance in their salvation. After a final soaking the party was over.

There were no problems from the nearby protest that was in the news except for noisy police cars and helicopters.

Thank you for your prayers so far and please pray for safe travels tomorrow.

– Joe

 

P.S. Due to the lack of WATER at the SplashFest, most of us did not have our phones on us and we don’t have any pictures yet, but will be posting some soon hopefully!

Urban Hope Day 4

Hello, from the city of brotherly love! We started off today worshiping the Lord, then sat through a pretty detailed lesson on eastern religions. We covered various sects of Buddhism, Taoism, Animism, Hinduism and Confucius. As the days prior we went over various ideological differences and the best ways to tackle them to share the gospel. There were some neat things we learned to be careful of, for instance, saying born again to someone of eastern belief might mean the same thing to them as saying reincarnation. So it’s important to emphasize the meaning behind what you say.

Armed with our new knowledge we set out for Little Saigon. I had the chance to speak with the waitress and store owner of a Vietnamese restaurant. The owner was Buddhist. Afterwards, we met up with Operation Barnabas in Mifflin park.

They put together a fantastic performance with songs, dancing and puppets for the local kids. I was able to help share the gospel with a couple of 5th and 6th grade boys named Mike and Mark. We met a man cleaning the sidewalk in-front of his home and he was incredibly grateful that someone noticed his efforts. He had been cleaning that sidewalk every day for many years. He said he wanted to get together and buy us coffee next time we we’re in the neighborhood. James Holt took his information and is going to follow up with him. What a great lead!

We ended the day setting up for a block party for all of the local kids and their families. There were raffles and games and a rap concert! Awesome testimonies (Urban Hope has THE BEST testimonies) we’re shared and the people we’re called to love and give their lives to Jesus.

Join us in praying for our brothers and sisters of eastern beliefs in coming to know the love and hope found only in Jesus!

 

-Sam

Urban Hope Day 3

Jonathan here! I’m writing to you on July 8th.  It seems as though an eternity has past, but also no time at all.  Every day we talk to just about everyone we see.  For those of us that consider ourselves introverts this presents both an interesting challenge and an opportunity to trust in God.

The first day we were split into two groups for outreach.  Today we switched places with the other team, doing what they did yesterday, and had the opportunity to be educated on the basics of the Muslim religion and how to talk with them.  After the morning session we travelled to South Street, which is a hub of food, partying, and shopping.  This is not a particularly Muslim area so we went without the expectation of applying the mornings training, but I guess God thought we should.

We entered an apparel store full of snap-backs, graphic tees, and fancy kicks.  We sought out an attendant to ask for help because one of our team members was looking for a certain kind of hat that was dear to her heart, and that is how God brought us Mohammed.   Probably took me about half an hour to actually learn his name.  He was a young man likely around my age and a semi-committed Muslim.  He told us that visiting the mosque was infrequent, but as we spoke to him his knowledge of Islam became evident.  It was a neat conversation that went on a while but I’ll just give you a low and then a high.  The low was when he spoke of four Christian friends he had in high school.  By the time that they graduated all four of them had converted to Islam.  It is a sobering reminder to us that Islam is not passive in evangelism and how devoted we must be to pursuing those in the church and grounding them in truth.  The high was at the end of the conversation, Mohammed said that because we talked with him and asked him to, he would take some time to read the Bible.

Please pray for Mohammed and his friends who walked away from the faith.  And please pray that God will give us energy to love and serve those around us.

Blessings,

Jonathan

Urban Hope Day 2

Hello from Abby Ayulo in Philadelphia! Yesterday we read the passage Acts 8:16-40 which describes the interactions between the Holy Spirit, Philip, and the Ethiopian eunuch. We were given the challenge to, like Philip, listen to the commands of the Holy Spirit and to willingly go and proclaim the Gospel of Christ, even to people who intimidate us. In the morning our team learned about how to interact and show God’s love to the LGBTQ community and applied what we had learned in inner city Philadelphia by meeting and praying with people in the community. A team of about 30 of us ventured out to go share and pray with anyone we encountered.13603309_10154324402289579_8752394359838162348_oOn the train, I had the opportunity to pray for a woman named Lola. Although our time was short, my prayer is that I was able to share the hope of Jesus with her. She seemed encouraged by our talk and I will continue to pray for her to experience the love and hope Jesus provides to a community that experience such hardship. I thank God for the things I am learning and the ways in which I have been able to reach out to people in an urban setting that I would normally not approach. Absolutely God is teaching me and growing my faith and making me look more like Jesus.

Blessings,
Abby Ayulo

Urban Hope Day 1

Hello everyone! The team here at Urban Hope is so grateful and excited to be able to share with you all what God is doing. Just a little intro, the team consists of Amy Lucas, Holly Murillo, Abby Gnewuch, Abby Ayulo, Sam Johnson, Joe Hamann, and Jonathan Reissmueller, and we are attending a weeklong mission conference in Philadelphia called Streetwise. Urban Hope is a powerful ministry located in north Philadelphia, in a neighborhood called Kensington, intentionally placed to reach out to the needs in the very community that it is surrounded by. The purpose of this conference is really to get us out there with some practical training in how to better reach people with the hope of Jesus. Each team member will share a little bit of what happens on each day as a personal perspective on what God is doing in their life and in the city. We can’t wait to share all that we are learning with our friends, family and church! Here’s a little post about Day 1 of the conference, July 5th, by Holly Murillo.

 

It’s another beautifully sticky day at Urban Hope. After our morning session we were able to travel by the city train to an area called the City Center. This had a lot of the hustle and bustle and shops similar to LA. We broke into little groups of two or three, mixed with the Operation Barnabas team and set out to find lunch and people to talk with. Reading Terminal was my group’s destination. It can be best described as an old train station turned into an indoor hipster-feeling marketplace. As we got our food (Mac and cheese in a grilled cheese hehe) we searched for a place to sit in the crowded area. We (myself, Abby G, and Sam) ended up snagging a spot next to a young Italian man and made good conversation over lunch. I had the blessing of being able to share my testimony with him since we had similar life experiences. It was so joyful to be able to share Christ’s work in me with this man. My group later grabbed a dozen famous Beiler’s donuts and walked through Chinatown speaking with people and passing these out.
In the evening, all of us with Streetwise piled into busses and drove out to a neighborhood in the Kensington area that is considered the place of the highest amount of drug activity in all of Philly. This is no doubt a dangerous neighborhood where drugs and deaths are a norm. We went out in small groups again armed with the strength of God and boxes of pizza to talk with the people. As we spoke with people, their common reaction was shock that we would be coming to such a place as this. This opened a great door to share our hope and trust in Christ. This night revealed to us not only the brokenness of this particular neighborhood but also the brokenness that we all share as humans. This was such a humbling and necessary realization that had to be made if we were going to accurately share Christ. As we were in the bus and driving back to Urban Hope I took a while to sit and watch the streets, people, and homes that were flying by. My heart was breaking for the people who have no hope and still rejoicing over the victories in Jesus Christ.
Thank you for all your prayers!
Holly