With more than eight million people from over 700 different language/culture groups, New York City is one of America’s most diverse cities. And it is estimated that only about 3% of New Yorkers have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Coats for the City, an outreach event in New York City, was started to provide coats to citizens in need while giving new churches the opportunity to meet local residents and share the gospel with them.
2021 marked the 10th annual Coats for the City, organized by the Great Commission Partnerships (GCP) in conjunction with the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association (MNYBA). North Carolina Baptist joined church planters in the MNYBA to distribute new and gently used coats to impact lostness throughout New York City.
Last year, after much prayer, Coats for the City organizers felt it was best to cancel the 2020 event due to travel restrictions and quarantine requirements set at the time, along with the possibility of Covid-19 cases rising. The money that would have been used for the event was donated to churches and missionaries in New York City.
The need in New York City is great, especially with how hard N.Y. was hit by the pandemic, and North Carolina Baptists have the unique opportunity of reaching New Yorkers each winter.
Danny Torres, founder and lead pastor of Swerve Church in Bushwick, Brooklyn, has participated in Coats for the City since 2016.
“There are a lot of people who don’t trust the church. They don’t perceive it in a positive light,” Torres said. “Coats for the City gives us the opportunity to show the love of God. It’s not just handing out a coat. It is helping people see themselves with dignity, as people bearing the Imago Dei.”
This year teams handed out an estimated 4,000 coats at 18 distribution sites in all five boroughs of New York City.
There were 97 volunteers from 10 N.C. Baptist churches who traveled to New York, along with 43 volunteers from a new partnership with the South Carolina Baptist Convention. Churches from New York City and Connecticut also participated.
But what about you?
If you are a small-town North Carolinian like me, the idea of traveling to such a large city to serve may sound as overwhelming as it does exciting. And if you lack confidence about sharing the gospel, take heart – there are numerous ways to serve.
“Coats for the City is the perfect introduction to missions for someone who has never been on a mission trip,” said Dr. Bartley Wooten, pastor of Beulaville Baptist Church. “The fact that the world came to New York makes this mission opportunity unique. And the mission work is benevolent. You just use your gifts to reach New York residents.”
This outreach event is a collaborative effort that reveals the unity of the Church and shows Christians being the hands and feet of Jesus.
“All these churches coming together to have an impact on all five boroughs at one time is incredible. I don’t know of any mission effort that is quite like this,” Danny Torres said. “It provides a tangible need that people have, and they see Christians meeting that need!”
3 ways you can be involved
Your prayers are essential for Coats for the City to have a Kingdom-sized impact.
Pray for North Carolina churches to partner with MNYBA churches.
Pray for volunteers to serve each year.
Pray for New Yorkers to repent and believe in Jesus Christ.
You may not have the ability to donate coats or travel to New York, but you can commit to petitioning on behalf of every person touched by Coats for the City.
“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:37-38).
Start with one coat.
It can be that jacket in the back of your closet that you rarely wore, or it may be the one you purchase after the holidays (many stores have big sales on winter gear once warmer weather arrives). Talk with your church family and start collecting new and gently used coats.
Every resource we have has been given to us by God. All that we have is His.
“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).
Coats are not the only thing you can donate to New York City. Your time, and your presence, are welcomed! Are you bilingual? You can communicate and translate in boroughs where English is not spoken well. Nervous to talk, but hard working? Your hands will have plenty of items to be moved and distributed. Are you an encourager? Your smile and reassuring words will never be forgotten.
“Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality” (Romans 12:13).
Beyond the coats
Coats for the City will look different for different N.C. volunteers. Your experience will be unique, whether you partner by collecting or by handing out coats in one of the New York City boroughs. But the mission goes beyond the coats.
N.C. Baptist churches are serving New York churches year round. During the height of pandemic, Buies Creek Baptist sent hand sewn masks and backpacks with school supplies.
“Our hope is that Coats for the City will create biblical partnerships with brothers and sisters in NYC throughout the year,” said Lauren McCall, executive assistant of the mission catalysts group at the Baptist State Convention. “If you are a lay person, pastor or student, there is a place for you.”
The goal is great – for the gospel to cover every part of New York City – and it’s a year-round effort.
Will you pray? Give? Serve?
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Hayden Cork is a freelance writer and associate pastor at Beulaville Baptist Church.)