Report on Work in the New York City area
Life is not easy for children of the inner city. Many have little or no contact with their biological fathers. By economic necessity their mothers must work outside the home. Therefore, they receive most of their care from grandmothers or day care centers. Bad language and behavior abound in the schools. Children are customarily cooped up in their crowded apartments, spending hours playing video games and watching television. The main alternative to indoor confinement is to play in the streets, which is not an acceptable option.
City kids need attention, hugs and praise as much as those that live in small towns or suburbia. Most importantly, they need to learn about Jesus and His love! They have become an integral part of the congregation at Upper Manhattan. On the positive side, they greet visitors, sing with enthusiasm and infuse love all around. On the not-so-good side, they can sometimes get antsy during the sermon, make too many trips to the bathroom and poke each other during the singing.
* Elisa (6 years old) and Damasito (3) are foster children that have been living with Antonio and Ada Pichardo for about a year. Their mother took crack cocaine while she was pregnant with them, leaving some permanent scars. When they first came to services they were almost uncontrollable, crying out and running up and down the aisles. However, after a few months of loving care there was a drastic change in their behavior. Now they sit in their seats (most of the time), love to read Bible stories, sing and give hugs to everyone. Damasitos ability to converse with an extensive vocabulary reveals an extremely high intelligence. However, even a light fever brings on seizures, a leftover from his mothers crack addiction. "Im sick sometimes because my mother took drugs when I was inside of her," he says matter-of-factly. Recently, Antonio and Ada took in three more foster children. They have become a part of our "church family" and are extremely affectionate.
* Nichelle (11), Damaris (9), and Titi (7) live in Newark. Their mother is an addict and has spent much of her adult life in jail. One of their great aunts asked me to teach them Bible stories on Saturday afternoons and Ive decided to accept the challenge. An 18-year-old uncle, Alberto, who has just been baptized helps with the classes, along with my helpers Billy and Beto. Sometimes other cousins sit in with us.
The sessions are a challenge. Often the girls, especially the two oldest, bicker and fight. Last Saturday one gave her sister a hard slap in front of us! And yet, in spite of all the signs of internal rage, you can still see some childhood sweetness in them, especially in Titi. Though sometimes they are disinterested, at other times they become very excited about answering questions and singing the books of the New Testament and other childrens songs. Is there any long-term hope for them? Perhaps. Gods love can break the cedars of Lebanon and give hope to emotionally battered children.
Two other children, Michelle (about 9) and Aroy (about 11) are a big help in a new Bible study we conduct every Tuesday in a beauty salon near Coop City in the Bronx. Their mother, Valentina, and the owner of the salon, Yovani, are sometimes distracted by phone calls and other business concerns but Michelle and Aroy love to read and their interest seems to motivate the adults in the Bible study. We are reading simple stories in the book of Luke to win confidence and will eventually do readings in the book of Acts.
Other items of interest
* The congregation at Fair Lawn has peacefully lost about half a dozen members to a new work that has started in Newark. About a dozen brethren are meeting in the building of a Portuguese-speaking congregation. I hope to get to know the Portuguese speaking brethren there one day and perhaps obtain some opportunities for teaching by some of the Portuguese speaking evangelists I know who have lived in Brazil. The congregation in Fair Lawn is doing well overall, though it is not nearly as animated as Upper Manhattan. That is both a blessing (more orderliness) and a curse (less visible and open affection).
* The congregation that meets at 56 2nd Avenue in Manhattan invited me to preach for them on April 15th. There are several very impressive families in that small congregation. I continue to preach the first Sunday of every month for the congregation that meets in Flushing, Queens, near Shea stadium.
* I enjoyed visiting the brethren in Tyngsboro, Massachusetts on March 18. That congregation has been a beacon of spiritual strength in New England for many years.
* I soon must spend most of my free time working on our yearly July camp (not associated with churches). This is always a big boost for our kids and teens. I always wonder how we can pull it off, but weve managed to keep our heads above water thanks to some generous people. If you know of any who like to help sponsor needy kids, or chip in on this type of project, please encourage them contact me.