An Urban Harvest
New York City can be a place of unpredictability. Almost nothing is unheard of in this dynamic center of world influence and contrast. When a team of Gideons participated in a Metropolitan Scripture Blitz to the city earlier this year, the experience matched the reputation of the city in excitement and wonder. Vernon McDaniel, a Gideon from South Carolina and a veteran of New York City blitzes, has traveled to the city for 10 years just for this occasion. “God has given us favor,” he said of all his previous experiences. His trust remained strong that the same favor would be present for this year’s blitz. Covered in prayer, these men entered the heart of a cultural juggernaut, trusting God for courage and divine appointments.
The first day began early. Gideons distributed New Testaments at six high schools and a college in Queens. In the afternoon, they visited The Bowery Mission in Manhattan. A historic institution, this long-standing mission has been providing hope to the city’s homeless for over a century. The visiting men received a tour and were shown the podium from which Billy Graham once remarked, “If Jesus was still alive, this is where he would be.”
As the tour was coming to an end, mission staff received word the speaker for that evening had cancelled. The slot was offered to the Gideons, and they accepted. After prayerful preparation, these few men had the complete attention of hundreds of homeless New Yorkers. The reception was astonishing. Some confessed sin, many asked for prayer, some received Christ, and all heard the message of salvation. After speaking, Gideons walked pew-to-pew, praying with people individually. One of these individuals was Joseph, a 30-year-old musician, who had become convinced of the truth of the Gospel and decided to give his life to Christ. “Drugs had ruined his life” Vernon said, yet “he said he was going to see if maybe God could use him again.” It was a divinely orchestrated scenario.
Later in the week, Gideons visited Rikers Island, the world’s largest prison. Upon arrival, their mission was delayed by complications. Their paperwork had been misplaced, and they did not have the clearance they needed. They prayed fervently, and in time, were allowed through every checkpoint of the maximum security facility. Gideons were also given an opportunity to present the Gospel message to a group of inmates. After sharing, one of the men asked who among the prisoners needed Christ. Hands went up everywhere, and together they spoke aloud a prayer of salvation.
Many firehouses and police stations were also visited by the blitz teams over the course of the week. In honor of the 15th anniversary of September 11, Gideon members presented an “In Memory” GideonCard to staff members who lost their fellow servicemen on that tragic day. There were many opportunities to share the Good News with the men and women who have dedicated their lives to helping others. “Each year we are welcomed into more firehouses and police stations,” noted Gideon Tor Torkelson of New York, “In each facility the desire for the Word of God is tremendous. It’s truly encouraging.”
While the Gideons were accomplishing their work, several teams of Auxiliary were also traveling throughout the city to deliver and place Scriptures at medical facilities and safehouses. The safehouses exist primarily to assist men and women who are homeless or who have recently been released from prison. The residents vary in background, culture, and language; however, they all have one very desperate need – hope. “We had the staff of one of these facilities tell us they could take 1,000 Scriptures every few months and never experience a shortage,” remembered Katie McCormick, an Auxiliary from South Carolina. “The desire for the Word of God is so great. When people realized we had Bibles in different languages, they were so amazed, and they would ask us earnestly if they could have one.”
“A blitz is a monumental task, and there are always a thousand setbacks, but God can do what we cannot”
When the blitz came to a close at the end of the week, Gideons and Auxiliary had placed and distributed over 190,000 Scriptures in over 10 different languages. “It’s amazing how God goes before us,” said Torkelson. “People often wonder why I’m never very worried about the details. God always seems to put the right people in the right places, despite what I plan. A blitz is a monumental task, and there are always a thousand setbacks, but God can do what we cannot.”