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A Glimpse of Sunnyside

July 29, 2014

It’s one thing to describe an event. You know, you begin at a certain point in time…you point out some of the things that you saw…maybe the emotions that you felt during the time…and then it reaches an end point. That’s sort of…it. And so…effectively…an event has a beginning and an end. You might remember it…you might even plan to do it again…but in large degree…it happens and you move on.

For the last five years, members of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church have been traveling to New York City for a week during the summer months. For the last three years, we have been traveling specifically to the neighborhood of Sunnyside, in the borough of Queens, and partnering with Pastor Jon Storck and the people of Grace Fellowship Church and Queens Presbyterian Church. And it’s over the last few years that many of us have not just participated in an event…and not just had an experience…but where we have actually put down some roots. It would be fair to say…at least in a sense…that we’ve begun to live there. Now to be clear, nobody from our church has actually packed up and moved up there (at least not yet). But we have built relationships that extend beyond the week. And so more than an event…it’s become a way of living for us.

This year we were able to send two teams to work with Grace Fellowship Church at the Sunnyside City Camp. Those were two teams, over two weeks, to one city, with one mission. The camp begins each morning at 9:00am with breakfast for the 80 campers. That time is followed by a morning assembly, times of teaching, recreation, and arts and crafts, with pick-up at 3:00pm. The campers all receive a lunch each day as well, prepared by a very special group of women from the church. The goal is to provide a safe, encouraging, and spiritually nourishing environment for elementary aged kids from the neighborhood to spend the week.

What we have seen is that through the development of actual relationships, enduring relationships, and through the ministry of the Gospel, is that the students have come to understand the truth of who Jesus Christ is…and what He has done for us. We have seen families continue to bring their children to City Camp because of the trust that has been built over the years. And we have seen new families come and participate because of the enduring legacy that has begun to spread through the community.

And all of this is connected to the local church. That’s the beauty of it. That’s the testimony of it. All of it points directly to, and flows from, the love of Christ expressed through the Body of Christ. When people see us in the park, they know that the church is looking out for them. When they see us walking in the neighborhood, they know that church is embracing the community. When the attendants at the hotel hear why we are coming to Sunnyside, they know that the church is willing to give of herself for the community. These are transcendent realities. These are the things that become the hands and feet of the Gospel to a community. And these are the types of roots that are beginning to grow deep in Sunnyside.

One of the beautiful things about this partnership with Grace Fellowship Church is the fact that it really has become a tangible expression of 1 Corinthians 12:12 where Paul writes, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.” There are a variety of ways to serve. For instance, some are great teachers…and we need those. Some are creative and artistic…and we need those. Some are great at just getting outside and playing with kids…and listen…we need those too. And we see how those different gifts and talents can all be used by God to accomplish His purpose. As 1 Peter 4:10 says, “As each has received a gift, us it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.”

We get to see that. We get to participate in that. And we get to look forward to going back. In both the second and third letter of John, he ends his writing with very similar language. He says in 3 John 13-14, “I had much to write to you, but I would rather not write with pen and ink.  I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face.” That’s sort of how we feel after being in New York. There is much to say…more to say than we can even begin to articulate. So don’t be afraid to ask. The Lord is moving in Sunnyside. He’s doing things in that neighborhood. And it has been a tremendous blessing that He has allowed us to be a part of it.


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