i want to be a part of it...

It looked just like it does in the movies, and I don't know if I ever want to go back to this city unless its during that magical time of year. Everywhere you glanced there were Christmas trees covered in lights and garland draped on anything that would stand still. I felt like I walked those streets with my head back and my jaw down. Being able to bundle up in scarves and gloves because it was actually below 60 degrees in December added to the picturesque experience. When I finally lowered my gaze to street-level, the splendor of Christmas in New York City was starkly contrasted with men and women slumped in the corners, hiding from the cold and sideway glances of those passing by. Suddenly, the low temperature and bright lights lost their charm because they stood in the way of a warm and peaceful night's sleep for those who inhabit the streets of the city. I would soon learn that these people are far from their cliche title of a "bum." Those a part of the homeless community who I was priviledge to get to meet loved deeper and spoke wiser than myself and many people a part of our cushioned community.

The Bowery made this encounter possible. The Bowery Mission has been a place of hope for homeless men since 1879. Its currently home to eighty men who have enlisted themselves in a program in order to "get off the streets," and it quickly became our home as well. Yes, its where we slept and ate most of our meals, but I believe that people are what makes a home, and the love these men showed us made the Bowery just that. Site-seeing is great and the city is beautiful, but the times that remain the most vivid in my mind are those spent in the mission.
There is always a job that needs doing at the Bowery. The best part is that you get to work along side of these men and hear their stories.  We led chapel services (which they allowed us to continue even after we bombed "O Holy Night"), organized the never-ending clothing closet and pantry, and proudly sported the red Bowery aprons and hair nets as we served meals. Oh, and several of the guys completely ripped out a walk in freezer and assisted in installing a new one. No big deal.

When you go on a mission trip, you want for leave feeling like your time was well used, right? A stomach bug (which we eventually refered to as "The Plague") soon hindered some of our abilities to effectively use our time at the Bowery. It was one of those moments where I didn't understand why God would allow this. Why during this short time we had to serve? As always, I was reminded why He is God and why I am not. His strength and role as our Rock was highlighted in our weakness and inability to serve (or keep solid food down). It's clear that He doesn't need us to do His work but lovingly allows us the priviledge to be a part of His perfect plan - even if for a shorter time than we planned. Yes, being sick away from home is difficult, but atleast we had places to sleep and medicine to suppress the symptoms. For that I should be more thankful.

Our last night in New York was also the Bowery residents' Christmas party. Even during our craziness of dealing with a spreading sickness, the residents expressed how they felt loved and served. The night was full of unexpected appreciation. Some boldly shared their heart-wrenching life stories with us. One man told us that he turned to another friend early that day as they were discussing our groups departure and said, "can we keep them?" Whatever was said that night made me feel more loved than I had in a long time. These men could be resentful and look at us as privileged kids coming to put some good marks on our slate. But they didn't. They expressed true appreciation. One resident said he couldn't imagine how we could love total strangers enough to want to work along side of them like we did. Funny - I wondered the exact the same thing about them.

For we are God's fellow workers. You are God's field, God's building. 1 Corinthians 3:9

For your viewing pleasure...
The Bowery's chapel
Home sweet home
Friends outside Wollman's ice rink in Central Park
Times Square
Kevin from Top Chef Las Vegas. I am his biggest fan!
The skyline from the Brooklyn Bridge
From the Empire State Building
Macy's on 34th. So charming!
Feeding the firemen of Ladder 20
THE Rockefeller tree

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