Report on Work in the New York City area
The resurgence in spiritual interest among young Christians in New York and New Jersey that I mentioned in the last report continues. Our challenge is to keep the level of interest high now that five of the young people who the Lord used to propel it have left for Florida (Emily Ferenzce, Roger Polanco, Marcos Grado, Marcos Alcántara and Caleb Churchill). However, several other young leaders that God have given us like Esther Rodriguez, Tim Bunting, Ernesto Orellana and Brigham Eubanks remain and are working hard to call and email younger teens, pray with them, study with them and give them counsel. Tim Bunting has successfully raised support so he can spend a good portion of his time in studying with the lost and with young Christians. Those who have left for Florida continue to contact their younger brothers and sisters here even though they are in Florida! Dan Bunting, who now works with the congregation in Washington, New Jersey has a weekly study going with several impressive teenage boys in this area, and Jon Focht has a monthly study that always draws several dozen youth from a wide radius.
A highlight for disciples in their teens and early twenties is our yearly camp. Though not a work of the church, this type of gathering provides an opportunity for young Christians and their friends to spend hours of concentrated time together in Bible study, prayer and recreation. Many become extremely close to each other during that week. This year we had 183 spend the night at camp. Most are pictured above right. Only six of us were over 25 years old! Three young people were baptized into Christ at camp and several more obeyed the gospel afterwards. Several confessed their sins and requested prayers. Hearing the confessions of sin and pleas for help in battling temptations many of us could scarcely understand, reminded me once again of the strength and evil designs of the enemy. He wants nothing but misery for these sweet kids and for all of us. However, the determination and strength that God gives though the study of the word and association with godly peers is very heartening. This major project is possible only because an increasing number of individuals help sponsor the increasing number of campers from the city who simply cant pay the entire costs of camp. Those supporters dont know how much I appreciate their help.
The congregation that meets at 56 2nd Avenue in lower Manhattan is one of the oldest Hispanic congregations in the city of New York. Since I have been visiting the congregation since 1982, it has been through periods of relative numerical strength in the 1980s and then doctrinal instability in the 1990s. After a shakeout a few years ago, the congregation is now left with a small remnant of about 25 very sincere and dedicated people. The family of Luis Segovia, who Ive known since moving to New Jersey provides stability in the congregation. The brethren at 2nd Avenue have invited me to preach there the third Sunday of every month.
Ive known for several years of a Portuguese-speaking congregation in Newark, New Jersey. Since "our territories" overlap, it has been inevitable that we would have more contact. Several months ago, some members from Fair Lawn who live in Bayonne have decided to begin meeting with the primarily Brazilian church since it is much closer to them. Brigham Eubanks, Beto Guerrero and a few others have also become quite close to these brethren. Spanish and Portuguese are quite similar and we can usually make ourselves understood, if not in those languages, in English. Though some would classify the church as "mainstream," the members simply want to serve Christ and will probably be open to teaching about spiritual dangers that are leading many known brethren away from the simplicity found in the scriptures.
* I usually have a number of personal Bible studies on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Most are with the lost and a few are with brethren. One is with one of our most sincere and dedicated young adults who feels that he has prayed in tongues and asked me to study the issue in detail with him. We hope that he wont let his subjective experience cloud his view of the objective scriptures.
* I spent another encouraging week at my fathers "leadership camp" at the Rustic Youth Camp in Russellville, Alabama. We spent another week with 84 young men in intensive study of the scriptures, singing and prayer.
* David Raif (pictured above, right with Beto Guerrero Sr.) visited us this past weekend. He, his wife Amy and three adorable little daughters are planning to move to Guatemala in October. He already speaks excellent Spanish. It is encouraging to see a number of young Christians learning Spanish, which is such a useful tool in the Lords service.