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Reflections on Joys and Tears

I was looking for an outlet for my interviewing skills and joined the A Journey team over a year ago. The interviews have often been deeply meaningful and thought-provoking, and I want to share some of the richness of those experiences with you. Most of our work results in objective reports, but my reflection will […]

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Quilt by Gertrude Morgan

I was looking for an outlet for my interviewing skills and joined the A Journey team over a year ago. The interviews have often been deeply meaningful and thought-provoking, and I want to share some of the richness of those experiences with you. Most of our work results in objective reports, but my reflection will give a better glimpse into the personal aspects of this project.

Year 2010  brought me tears of joy and sadness.  A Journey through NYC religions brought me great joy through my interviews with religious leaders.  Many of you encouraged me with your commitment and work in caring for people.  I was deeply touched by how you described your histories and ministries.

Some of you overcame tremendous obstacles while transforming lives. I remember two churches in the Cypress Hills/East New York area of Brooklyn.

Pastor Jose Luis Bianchi arrived at Segunda Iglesia Cristiana Primitiva (339 Linwood Street, 718-647-9737) after many people had left the church.  This is a small church, and the pastor says that it has been hard rebuilding. It is also a dangerous area. Even now, some programs are just starting up again. Pastor Bianchi has a persevering spirit to minister to his people. He is not going to let the split crush the spirit of the folks that remain. What inspires me is that the pastor and his wife are trying to start up programs again. As a result, the church has built back up to 42 attenders.

Pastors Elba Iris & Luis Bianchi

I can relate to Pastor Bianchi because I experienced the same thing at another small church. Before I arrived, there was a split in the church. I know that feeling when there is a struggle to keep programs going as the number of people are decreasing. This challenged me personally. From Pastor Bianchi, I learned again that when something negative happens, one may initially feel down.  But then you should get up, dust yourself off, and get motivated to serve people.

Four years ago, Iglesia Pentecostal Cristo te Ama moved from Fulton Street to further out in Brooklyn at 2356 Pitkin Avenue (718-235-8627). Their kids have grown up, and there are hardly any kids now.  Pastor Jose Rojas says, “I do what the occasion calls for.” This is also a small church, so he has to be flexible to shift gears to address the needs of the congregation. His members do likewise. One is studying to get his license to do counseling.

I am inspired by Pastor Rojas because he is not afraid to extend himself to minister to his church.  Many pastors focus on a particular area of expertise. For example, some pastors are known for rhetoric that rings like music, others for a hip ability to connect to youth, some are widely sought as wise counselors on life’s problems, and others give intellectually satisfying sermons. From talking with Pastor Rojas I can tell he has a flexibility that communicates his attentiveness to his parishioners.  I am also inspired by the member who is studying counseling. He also saw a need in his church and is doing something to help.

I remember when a friend saw that his church’s music ministry was lacking, so he learned how to play the piano!  It's also like my niece.  She also learned how to play piano to fill in at her church when the music minister is not around.  I learned to adopt a similar approach at home. When something needs to be fixed, I learn how to do it myself.  If some service is not in place at my church, I research it and try to and organize something.  Someone's willingness to serve is an encouragement that can spark all kinds of ideas and inspiration to do likewise.

The skills and wisdom I learned during our interviews also helped me through a very difficult time in my life.  Thanks to all the church leaders for wise counsel, exemplifying love, and reminding me that my life has purpose too. I thought I was calling to interview you, which I did, but I gained something “extra” in the process!  Probably, you didn’t realize how you were helping me at the time.

What most of you did not know was I was going through spiritual conflict and spiritual restoration myself during the year. From my point of view, I felt spiritually battered.  One lesson I learned was it is okay to leave a toxic situation and seek a healthier environment. Of course, it is important to use wisdom and have a graceful spirit while addressing serious matters.

Facing struggles and conflicts often results in eye-opening personal growth and maturity.  I was weepy and fearful before. Thank you for giving me counsel, care and wisdom! I am no longer afraid.

Along with my work for A Journey, I decided it would be interesting to do a survey of the 10 or so churches around my home. I dragged my family to visit them. On the way home, we had interesting discussions about the churches’ theology and doctrines, pastoral personalities and styles, programs, member interactions, and ministry mission.  There were two churches that we visited that seemed to have all the bells and whistles. The pastors were gifted speakers, and the churches had dozens of programs. There were a lot of good things about these churches. Unfortunately, not a single person greeted us or offered information about their churches. Not very good “customer service” skills!

Not that I approach religious organizations as businesses, but isn’t there a saying that you will know them by their love? Personally, I would think that greeting someone is at least the beginning of showing that you care. What do you think?

We did run into some really loving churches. At one church there were a number of greeters waiting to meet you and direct you to the room you need to get to.  The pastors were interested in talking to you.

At one church you could tell that they respected and loved people who came through the door. It didn’t try to manipulate attendance or commitment. They provided an atmosphere of commitment and healing.

I love hearing about churches like this. Write me when you come across one!

Let me tell you, growing up in faith is not always easy but definitely worthwhile. I have learned something from you and from my personal experiences this last year. I am encouraged that you live your faith “out loud.”  I sure benefitted from your sharing during our interviews!  Best of all, I learned how God replaces our tears of sadness with tears of joy! Thanks!

Cypress Hills/East New York is landscape of hope and danger.

  • lovely

  • Blessings to you, Susan. We would love to hear what the Lord is doing in your area. Wouldn't it be exciting to see if the data we are gathering in NYC is indicative of what is going on in other parts of the country?

  • Always encouraging to see what the Lord is doing in other parts of the country. Thanks for sharing, Debbie. Grace and peace to our brothers and sisters in NYC!

  • I appreciate your analogy of Pastor Bianchi as a tender, persevering shepherd of the sheep. His loving and attentive care to his flock is commendable. Thank you Cheryl for your kind remarks.

  • Thanks Debbie for your heartfelt reflections. I especially appreciated the story of Pastor Bianchi. What a tender, persevering shepherd of the sheep.

  • Thank you Alethea for communicating your support! I am also grateful for the pastors and ministry leaders who shared information about their local ministries. Each of them have been uniquely designed and strategically placed by God to carry out His work. The data gathered has generated much discussion about spiritual growth and development as well as given us a peek at various faith journeys.

  • Wow. You've become quite the communicator. The research and interviews have been a blessing to all involved. Glad to hear of the comfort and care given out on both sides. May our Lord be glorified as result of all the hard work put in and information gathered. I am always moved by how much people really honor and work for the Kingdom. Keep up the good work. PS - It's funny when it comes to churches the focus must be on our "1st LOVE", and the command to love Him and our neighbors.

  • Jacki, your observation is correct...Jesus is healing my heart! Thank you sister for your comment and encouragement to focus on Jesus.

  • Thank you Jacob for your kind words!

  • Sarah, the video of your recipe on looks absolutely scrumptious! There's nothing like the aroma of Granny Smith Apple baking in your own kitchen. I can picture my family savoring every bite! I am definitely going to try your Apple Taffy Tarlets recipe. Thanks for inspiring the baker in me!

  • Great idea Michele! You highlighted such an important point about the much needed training in churches which involves not only having the head knowledge/theology of God's love but the expression/action of His love to others.

    Imagine the kind of impact those churches would have on a family who walks through their doors if greeters warmly and respectfully welcomed them, introduced themselves, offered them a cup of coffee or informed them of the various Bible studies and classes available, escorted them to the Sunday School or to the Worship Service, and offered well staffed/well equipped child care. Think about how that family would respond to a loving Pastor who introduced him or herself and express genuine interest in them. Imagine consistent spiritual and emotional nurturing that promotes healing and spiritual growth and development. Thank you Michele for the encouragement and challenge to love our neighbors in concrete ways.

  • Debbie - your heart speaks of the healing touch of Jesus, sister!

  • Really enjoy the site. I were pleased with this article. Thanks a lot for the marvelous post.

  • Thank you Debbie! It's good to be reminded that we all have something of value to learn from each other and we're never to small to encourage and edify! It would be wonderful if some of the larger churches would welcome a reminder course from some of the smaller ones on what you called "customer service" -- how to re-ignite that spirit of love that Jesus Christ told us we would know a true church by, especially in these present times where love is appreciated and so needed to encourage, heal and remind us that we serve a loving risen Savior!

  • Sarah, your blog and website are amazing! As a mom raising a large family, I appreciate your parenting experiences and home saving tips. Thank you for sharing your sites! You are like a Christian version of Martha Stewart! While our ministry reports on religions along with the challenges, your ministry reports on family life along with the challenges that folks can relate to.

  • In response to your question, Facebook, of course, is an easy and quick way to share thoughts or link to posts like this.

    My blog is more of a "mom" blog where I share personal experiences and my writing journey and my other one is where I post home saving tips! On this site, this is great to see a ministry sharing all the wonderful things God is doing through local churches and pastors, along with the struggles that everyone can relate to.

  • Thank you Sarah for your comments! What are some of your outlets for sharing what you have seen and learned?

  • Great job, Debbie! You've seen and learned a lot. It's great to have an outlet like this to share with others.

  • Thanks Rob. We will do our best.

  • Thank you Leo! If you have stories of great small churches, we love to hear about them.

  • Hi Journey, you and Mark Noll and George Marsden and Nathan Hatch and David Barton and John Woodbridge should keep us posted on New York. Is there a layman's revival brewing (II Chronicles 7:14) as Jeremiah Lamphiar saw in 1857? God will help you write. "Write it down!" Numbers 33:2 (sign in Waxhaw NC on the door of Cameron Townsend's secretary (founder of Wycliffe Bible Translators). Thanks for all your writings.

  • Thanks to Debbie Yeung for writing this heart felt article. The author does well by highlighting churches in New York that may not be great in numbers but clearly are led by people willing to serve and care for others.

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