Their conversation moved from the street, to the front yard and out to the car; the woman did not seem to want their time together to end.
The woman told Brieanna Carlson that many people still needed help getting back on their feet after Hurricane Sandy, especially in the Rockaways area of Queens where she lives.
Carlson described the woman – like so many others she talked to that day – as broken and looking for something.
“I know what that feels like; to be looking for something,” said Carlson, who only 10 months ago prayed to receive Jesus Christ as her personal Lord and Savior.
Carlson works with the young adults ministry at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Gastonia, N.C. She was one of about 30 volunteers from the church who participated in Coats for Queens Saturday, Dec. 1.
Boto Joseph, left, talks with volunteers outside an Islamic center where the group was giving out coats. Volunteers from Bethlehem Baptist Church in Gastonia joined with members of Joseph’s church, House of Worship Church, to distribute the winter wear.
During Coats for Queens, volunteers spread out among seven different sites throughout Queens and Brooklyn and gave free coats to anyone in need. When they had opportunities, volunteers prayed with people and shared the gospel. Last year Coats for Queens was held in Jackson Heights, Queens, and all the donated coats (about 600) were distributed in less than three hours. This year about 7,000 coats were collected, most donated by Bethlehem church members.
This is the second year Bethlehem has partnered with House of Worship Church in Jackson Heights to host the event.
The event came together when Bethlehem began a partnership last year with House of Worship and pastor Boto Joseph.
Bethlehem pastor Dickie Spargo met Joseph during a vision tour with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s Office of Great Commission Partnerships.
Through the Office of Great Commission Partnerships, N.C. Baptist churches across the state are forming partnerships with churches and church planters in the metro New York area. Spargo wanted to find a way to help Joseph and House of Worship reach their community for Jesus Christ.
“Boto has such a call on his life to be in this area. We wanted to partner with someone who has a godly vision,” Spargo said. “Partnership is all about relationships and the brotherhood we now have. Our church has embraced pastor Boto.”
Their community of Jackson Heights is situated in one of the most diverse areas of the world.
More than 130 languages are spoken in Jackson Heights and Greek Orthodox, Sikh, Roman Catholic, Hinduism and Buddhism are all represented.
Coats for Queens is one way House of Worship lives out its mission to love God and to love people.
“Being in a setting with so many other beliefs and religious pluralism, I am so convinced that the only way we will win darkness is true love,” Joseph said. “We see that in the life of our Lord. We have to build bridges to cultures and other religions.”
Bethlehem volunteer Jaron Moss, 24, spent the day serving in the Rockaways. Like Carlson, Moss is a new believer in Jesus Christ and is excited about sharing his faith with others.
“I led a rough life,” Moss said. “God saved me from this life. He was all I needed. I never had excitement about life – now I do.”
Moss met people in the Rockaways who are depressed, anxious and even angry.
Yet, because of their brokenness, Moss said people were very willing to talk with him and to listen when volunteers shared the gospel or asked to pray with them.
Bethlehem and House of Worship volunteers also passed out coats in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, which is a predominantly Pakistani and Russian area with a high Muslim population. One Pakistani businessman in his 50s wanted to know why volunteers gave up a Saturday to help strangers.
He also expressed interest in learning more about the gospel.
Two Muslim young adults also had questions about the gospel. They asked the church members to meet with them another day so they could learn more.
“The way of relationships is very strong with conversations,” Joseph said. “After Coats for Queens, we have a lot of areas and people to follow up with.”
At Moore Homestead Park in Queens, in the heart of Elmhurst, it wasn’t long after the team set up that Joseph was sitting on a park bench and using an Evangecube to share the gospel with a man from Nepal.
Spargo met a woman from Bangladesh who worshipped the Dalai Lama.
He also prayed with a Jewish woman who shared that she was feeling depressed.
“I’m always looking for divine appointments,” Spargo said.
Joseph and members of House of Worship, along with volunteers from Fusion Church near Fayetteville, N.C., also distributed coats Saturday, Dec. 8, in Jackson Heights.
Joseph asked people to pray for Queens, especially Jackson Heights.
“Some of the most well-known temples in the United States are in Jackson Heights,” he said. “It is the stronghold of Sikhs, Buddhists, Muslims and Hindus. The church of Christ must have a single vision of serving the King and His Kingdom. I so desire to see that happen.”
Joseph also asked that churches pray about joining God at work in New York.
“I pray God will stir hearts to come and co-labor with us,” he said. “We need laborers. We need partners. We need churches like Bethlehem. I can’t tell you what a blessing that partnership has been to us.”