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12/23/04 Report on Work New York City area

Gardner Hall, P.O. Box 123, Port Murray, NJ 07865-0123, Web: , Tel. (908) 850-5389

Comparing two congregations

There are similarities between the two congregations that take most of my time, Upper Manhattan in New York City and Fair Lawn in New Jersey. Both have about 60 –75 in attendance on Sunday mornings and are composed of first generation Spanish speaking believers from Latin America. There are also significant differences.

* Ethnic Background. Every member that I can think of from the Upper Manhattan congregation except for Victor Grado (Mexico) is from the Dominican Republic. Perhaps two thirds of the brethren have been baptized in the Dominican Republic; the rest were converted here. That gives us some blessings and some challenges. The blessings come from the fact that most congregations in the Dominican Republic are very loving and enthusiastic. Brethren who come from them bring those needed qualities with them. However, they also bring some sectarian and Pentecostal concepts. Therefore, we strive to nurture the love and enthusiasm, while working to correct the misconceptions.

Fair Lawn is truly a "United Nations" congregation. No one national group predominates. We have several families from Peru, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. There are also individuals from Colombia, Ecuador and probably another country or two that don’t immediately come to mind. The mixture means that we have to deal with scattered misconceptions, rather than one or two prominent ones. Though the brethren in Fair Lawn are reasonably close in their relationships, especially those that live in the Paterson area, more of an effort has to be made to mix the cultures and promote closeness among those of different nationalities.

* Turnover. Upper Manhattan has a very high turnover rate. When I look at pictures of the congregation taken 10 years ago, I see very few individuals that are still with us. Most have moved on. Though we are blessed to baptize a good number of people and have some good people move in, the high turnover affects our stability. We have to constantly go back over basic principles and work to fill holes. Just a year ago, we had a large number of children and young people. All of a sudden, in the past few months, I’ve noticed a large drop off in our children’s and young people’s classes because of moves. We have gained numbers primarily among single individuals and have lost them with families.

Fair Lawn is more stable with more families who are here for the long term. I have known most of the teenagers in our young people’s class since they were little children and several have become quite advanced spiritually. They are less likely to be uprooted or to have the "street" influence of their peers in New York. The congregation at Fair Lawn is probably a bit more "doctrinally stable" than Upper Manhattan. Since we have brethren together for longer periods, we have more time to teach them.

* Building situation. Upper Manhattan is squeezed into a small converted bar. (Miguel Tejada assures me that there is reliable historical evidence that General Sherman slept in our basement in the 1880’s, though I wonder about that!) Our crowded situation makes for lively singing and noisy services. Services are more "third worldish" than at Fair Lawn. The strongly ethnic Dominican neighborhood around the building flavors what goes on inside. We have even had chickens in our back patio that some homesick Dominican must have let go!
Fair Lawn meets in a spacious, suburban building with ample parking, which is more comfortable and yet that comfort has its disadvantages. The fact that we are more spread out, seems to make for a little less lively singing and energetic atmosphere than Upper Manhattan, not necessarily a good thing. It appears that we will be meeting for the foreseeable future in this building, sharing it with the English speaking brethren.

Brief bits of news

* Carmen Gutierrez , on the left in the picture, was baptized into Christ. Carmen is a holy, consecrated woman who came to us several years ago. However, she was baptized in an evangelical church in Peru and felt her baptism was for remission of sins. However, she was recently convinced that her original baptism was not Christ’s baptism and that she needed to be baptism truly in His name. Carmen needs prayers because her husband has been arrested and she now has to raise her four children, including one who is retarded, alone.

* Argentina Tobal, pictured above right, became a Christian last Tuesday, the 14th. She is the mother of Isabel Tobal who used to be a member here, but moved several months ago with her sweet children to Florida.

* Trips. Beverly, Leah and I plan to go to Georgia on the 27th for a week’s visit. Leah will then travel to Florida to finish her year at college.

* I don’t usually mention the contacts from our paper, "Creced," correspondence courses and web page,, in this report, but they require constant attention. I thank the Embry Hills congregation in Atlanta and the Shores congregation in Giles County, Tennessee for helping with the bimonthly paper, Creced. Drew DeGrado from the English speaking work in Fair Lawn provides us space for the web page free of charge. I thank all of you for your prayers and support.