When Lynette Lawrence got a
text message from her husband during a vision trip in New York City she thought
his excitement would translate into leading mission teams to the city. She
wasn’t expecting her family to be that team.
In March Barry Lawrence
joined a group of North Carolina pastors and Baptist State Convention (BSC)
staff on a two-day visit to New York City to further develop the BSC
partnership with Metropolitan New York Baptist Association (MNYBA).
Barry had not been to New
York before, although after a trip to Philadelphia last year he felt the
lostness of cities and wanted to lead a mission team from Antioch Baptist
Church in Goldston back to the northeast.
“Missions has always been a
thread in our life,” Barry said.
After 15 years in textiles
Barry quit his job in Sanford and moved the family to Wake Forest to attend
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, then became pastor of Antioch.
But during those two days in
New York “God stirred that fire within me even more to reach out to the
nations,” Barry said.
When he learned the couple
managing the David Dean House in Brooklyn would soon be leaving, “Something in
my heart just lept,” Barry said. “The Holy Spirit was just pounding on me.”
The David Dean House houses
up to 50 short-term volunteers who come to serve in New York City.
Throughout the vision trip
God was at work in Barry’s heart. A “defining moment” came when Barry and the
group met a pastor from Ghana serving in the Bronx. The pastor recently
purchased a three-story building, a former casket factory built in 1926, to use
as a means to reach out to immigrants from Africa.
Can’t you see it?
“Can’t you see it?” the pastor kept asking the group.
Standing there on the first floor, with water seeping in from all the rain that
day, all Barry saw was a building in desperate need of repair.
The pastor described where
the congregation would sit and how a choir would look standing up there and
“Through his faithfulness
and passion, I could then see it,” Barry said.
In the pouring rain, the
team joined the pastor on the roof and prayed for the congregation and the
city. As Barry looked out over the city and saw all the apartments “just a
shout” from where he stood, he thought about all the nonbelievers represented
in those homes.
God was working in the
hearts of his family and in just two weeks he returned with Lynette and their
two daughters, ages 9 and 14. Lynette saw there would be challenges in New
York, such as learning the subway system and how to make routine errands. She
worried about failure and not being able to guide her children through the
transition. Unlike Barry, who grew up in a military family and moved often, Lynette
was not used to the city life.
Yet, even in New York, “the
Lord spoke to me about not settling,” Lynette said. Staying in North Carolina
would be the easy thing. But she knew the Lord was calling them to New York and
she was ready.
Barry began working in New
York May 27, just two months after the vision trip.
His family joined him June
17, all except Micah, who is living this summer with family in North Carolina
before starting at Barton College in August.
Their house is still on the
market, but they have sold most of their furniture and car and are now working
to make their new 900-square-foot apartment feel like home.
Barry and Lynette are
M.O.S.T. (missions on short-term) missionaries with the North American Mission
Board (NAMB). They receive some funding from NAMB but will also be responsible
for raising missions support.
The Lawrences have already
hosted five mission teams at the David Dean House.
They build relationships
with the teams and work alongside them.
They are also working to
build relationships with New York business owners and to take advantage of
opportunities God gives to share the gospel.
Their passion is to grow the
kingdom of God, and their excitement for seeing the Lord’s work accomplished is
the driving force behind their new journey in New York City.
For more information
about missions in New York City and the David Dean House, e-mail
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Lilley is a
researcher and writer for the Baptist State Convention.)