“LOOK UP … I AM HERE!”
(Street Witnessing Five Days in New York City)
Last week I stepped out of my comfort zone—I mean way out—to go street witnessing in NYC with my missionary friend Joanie. The Lord was surely with us (Matt. 28:20), as our five-day trip was fruitful and beyond amazing. Many Christian friends prayed for us and some even funded our outreach (which was the fulfillment of a vision God gave to Joanie six years ago).
Before we left, we designed an evangelistic postcard (pictured here) to pass out to our “divine appointments.” The front side presents Jesus’ poignant call to the sleeping city, and the back features the gospel message and a salvation prayer. As the two of us traveled along, we engaged people in meaningful conversations while distributing postcards in airports, taxi cabs, subways, busses, coffee houses, and parks.
Our theme Scripture for the trip, which proved to be fitting, was Acts 1:8: “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall witness to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and….” In one sense, we even carried the gospel to the “uttermost part of the earth” because NYC is a melting pot of residents and tourists from all over the world!
Here are praise reports and highlights from our five full days.
Day 1 – Sunday, Oct. 1
After checking in at LAX bright and early, Joanie and I engaged several people in conversation and gave them our NYC postcards. Interestingly, the first four—Michael, Gabriel, Abraham, and Adam—all had biblical names. On our Jet Blue flight, the man who sat in our row as a captive audience was a charter school administrator. Although he was too consumed in his laptop work to talk much, he overheard us conversing all the way to New York about Jesus, the Bible, our mission trip, etc. After landing at JFK, we had more divine appointments including a Pakistani pastor.
Following the advice of our Airbnb hostess, Angela, we took a yellow cab to her brownstone (rowhome) in Queens. Along the way, we had an excellent exchange with our driver Nabeel, a polite young Muslim guy who believed in tolerance of all faiths and relativism. When we parted, I smiled and handed him a postcard and a tip. Then I said, “Just so you’ll know what the Christian Gospel is, be sure to read the back side.” We were meant to be in his cab.
Day 2 – Monday, Oct. 2
Prayed up and full of anticipation, we headed for Central Park. Upon exiting the underground subway, we walked upstairs to the street level and found ourselves standing by the Plaza Hotel entrance. Joanie spoke to Johnny, the official greeter. He took one of our postcards and pointed to his gold necklace, happily declaring “Jesus is with me wherever I go!”
When we reached the street corner, a Muslim university student about twenty-five years old, Azam, approached us selling Central Park tour tickets. After Joanie gave him one of our evangelistic postcards, he and I engaged in a friendly debate on Islam vs. Christianity. Our dialogue picked up again after Joanie and I went on a short ride with his partner on their Central Park Bicycle Cart.
Azam told us he had read some of the Bible and his main concern was this: Some Muslims become Christians and vice versa, yet both religions cannot be true. So which IS true? I gave him my apologetics tract titled “What Sets Christianity Apart?” We had an exhilarating discussion!
Since the Jesus of the Quran is a messenger and prophet of God, I pointed out that the Jesus of the Bible is far greater. He is almighty God, who came down to earth in human form to redeem us.
I also pointed out that according to the Bible, Jesus’ existence didn’t begin when He was born as a baby in Bethlehem. For He is eternal—the second Person of the Trinity. Christ even made preincarnate appearances in the Old Testament, e.g., as the Angel of the Lord who spoke to Moses from the burning bush.
Azam challenged me with notes on his cell phone written by an imam, as well as teachings from the Quran. I brought up evidence for Jesus’ miraculous resurrection, the amazing fulfillment of Bible prophecy, and the authorship of the Scriptures.
At one point on our Mars Hill corner, about six people gathered to listen in, and we all laughed at one of Joanie’s comments. Azam told us not to pay attention to one guy because he worshiped the sun and he’d confuse us. I said, “Do you mean he worships the Son, S-O-N?” Azam replied, “No, the Sun, S-U-N!” Then Joanie turned to a new guy walking toward us and said, “So, who do you worship, the MOON?”
When it started to get dark and Joanie and I decided to leave, Azam told us that Truth was important to him, and he had lost about $300 that day by choosing to talk to us instead of selling more tickets. Azam proposed that he and I continue our exchange via email. And sure enough, we are doing that. (Please pray for Azam’s salvation!)
Day 3 – Tuesday, Oct. 3
After witnessing to our coffee shop hostess and waiter, and giving them postcards and a book of John, we headed out for the 911 Memorial and World Trade Center in Midtown. We considered Uber or Lyft for the first leg of our transportation, but decided to take a yellow cab instead. When our driver, Romero, heard us speak words of life, he got choked up and placed the postcard on his dashboard to remind him of Jesus throughout his day.
Next, we walked to the ferry boat to cross the Long Island River. We missed one ferry and took one wrong ferry, yet those detours put us in the pathway of just the right people to talk to. As Proverbs 16:9 says, “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps” (and women’s steps too!).
Jessie, a snack-bar employee along the river who wore multiple diamond studs and a hoodie, listened to our witness of Christ. Nodding her head and pointing to a coworker, she said, “He’s just been telling me all about Jesus, and I’ve seen many God signs today!”
On the loading dock, we talked for about thirty minutes with a Hassidic Jewish man and his teenage son. The next night happened to be one of their high holy days, and the dad explained the significance of their Feast of Sukkot (Tabernacles). Although they could not shake hands with us due to their beliefs, they did take one of our postcards. After the two of us boarded our ferry boat, we noticed that the dad was reading the Gospel message on the back. We prayed that they would hear from the Holy Spirit. For the gospel of Christ is “the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first….” (Rom. 1:16).
Traffic was crazy as we walked along on the streets leading to the World Trade Center. We stopped intermittently and spoke to a few Muslims selling their wares. When I purchased an opaque print of NYC from one man, it opened the door for effective witnessing. Joanie and I didn’t go inside the Memorial building or the World Trade Center (the tallest building in the US with one hundred stories). But we had plenty of fruitful conversations outside, including one with a young Catholic man, Philip, who worked at the information booth. Since I have a similar church background, I shared with him my personal story and the liberating passage of Ephesians 2:8–9: By grace you have been saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works….”
Day 4 – Wednesday, Oct. 4
After praying for God’s leading, Joanie and I joined Dwayna Litz, who lives part time in NYC, to go witnessing at Columbus Circle. Like me, she heads up an evangelistic-apologetics ministry. (You can visit our websites at LightingTheWayWorldwide.org and TrueWayTracts.com.) It was a tremendous blessing for me to meet her in person.
We have numerous stories about God at work that afternoon. For example, Joanie spoke to a husband and wife from Romania, Ron and Renata, who were sitting on the cement steps at Columbus Circle. Ron said he believed in Jesus but never wanted to read the Bible. Joanie gave them a postcard and a book of John. When we saw them later, Ron was still reading John. He looked up and said, “It feels real good, lady!”
I befriended a tourist named Maria, who was born in the Phillipines and now lives in England. Her husband and one teenage son died, and she raised her other three children by herself, one confined to a wheelchair. I talked to her about Jesus, our Comforter, and pointed out that when she was ready, she could say a prayer such as the one on the postcard. I hope she prayed to receive Jesus as her Lord and Savior.
I approached one lovely couple to share the Gospel with them, and they turned out to be Baptist missionaries from Michigan! Linda and Lowell were doing a prayer walk across thirteen states. They prayed for the three of us and our ministries. I asked a fellow named Walter to take a group photo of us, and he was a definite divine appointment! Although he was on his way to a ping-pong game, he stopped to snap our picture and chat a few minutes. He gladly received our postcard and told us he appreciated the message on it.
For our next wave of witnessing, Dwayna escorted Joanie and me to a coffee house, where we had more fruitful conversations. The three of us met two sweet Korean girls, Nodi and Notti, who attend a Catholic college. One said she was a Buddhist. After Dwayna explained the Gospel to them, one remarked that she knew God had met her in the coffee shop that day. They both read their postcards intently. What a joy!
As we continued sipping our coffee drinks, we talked to three Russian Uber drivers. I also spoke to a young Chinese woman sitting next to me, a visitor from Shanghai. When I gave her a postcard and explained the message on it, she asked me thoughtful questions about the Bible.
Each day I recorded the names of the people we talked with so Joanie and I could continue praying for them and so we’d know how many postcards we passed out. The total was 105! (Note that these NYC postcards are freely available upon request.)
Day 5 – Thursday, Oct. 5
Although our flight out of JFK didn’t leave until 10:45 p.m., we had to be out of our room in Queens by late morning. So Joanie and I decided to check in early at the airport and witness to people at the food court. On our way to JFK, we witnessed to Hector our driver and two Polish exchange students, Kacper and Joanna, who shared our ride. We gave them postcards and a testimony tract titled “Being a Good Person Couldn’t Get Me into Heaven.”
Over several hours in the food court, the Lord placed various people at the table adjacent to ours. We had conversations with twenty or so people and gave out postcards and seeds of truth.
Toward the end of the day, two guys sat near us. One of our postcards was near the edge of their table. The men were very animated, and when one hit the table, the postcard fell off. The other guy stepped on it as he was getting up. When Joanie pointed to the postcard on the floor, he picked it up and said, “Oh no, not J.C.!” With a smile of conviction he added, “We’re going to a bachelor party tonight!”
For about two hours, we engaged with Lisa, an articulate assurance underwriter from Bermuda. She’d had some church background as a kid. At the end of our conversation she asked us to pray for her physical healing. We held hands and prayed, and the Lord gave Joanie a word of knowledge for Lisa—which she gladly received. Although she didn’t pray for salvation right then, we believe she is ready.
Joanie and I are humbled that the Lord of heaven used us as His instruments in so many ways over just a few days. Our trip was fast and fully packed, and now we’re praying that He will continue watering the seeds we planted. We are so grateful the Lord called us to NYC for such a time as this.
Right now I am singing, To God be the glory for the things He has done.
For some of the people in NYC looked up and realized the Lord is here!