A long Saturday of ministry at Saint Mary’s Park in the Bronx led 23 tired, cold and hungry Houston’s First missionaries to yearn for nothing more than a hot meal and a shower. Our Summit Young Single Adults' mission trip over the Easter weekend with Metropolitan New York Baptist Association (MNYBA) churches was drawing to a close. Downtown Campus Ministry Associate Peter Lee, the team leader, insisted they all meet together for their last supper in New York.
Of all the intentional ministry the group had done to draw people to Easter services in the boroughs of New York, simply gathering for a meal led to one of the most meaningful opportunities to minister they’d had all week.
At the restaurant, Summit staff member Angela Garcia’s curiosity led her to strike up a conversation with a group seated at the next table. She had noticed they were carrying guns and asked if New York had concealed carry laws as they do in Texas. The men were, in fact, NYPD 40th Precinct Anti-Crime Unit plainclothes officers. During their conversation the men received an emergency call and ran out quickly. The waitress left the plates as they were on the table, though a crowd was lined up to be seated.
Jager Livingston, one of the missionaries on the team, saw the men leave in a hurry and thought of his brother-in-law, a police officer in Alabama. Jager wanted to quietly bless the officers and paid their bill, thinking he and his group would be long gone before the men returned.
But within a few minutes the men returned to their meals and picked up the conversation with Angela. They talked about the city and her love for baseball and Yankee Stadium. When the officers got up to pay the bill, the waitress handed them a receipt with a note telling them the bill was covered and thanking them for their service.
“The guy just stared at the note for five minutes,” said Angela. “He walked over to me thinking I paid the bill and asked me if I would like to see Yankee Stadium.” Angela told them it wasn’t she who had paid the bill and so they asked Jager, Angela and others to hop in their police vehicles so they could take them to Yankee Stadium. The men enlisted the help of a passing patrol car so a few more of the group could go.
During the ride, the group had a chance to talk to the police officers about their jobs and their lives. After arriving at Yankee Stadium, the group took a few photos, and before they all got back into the police cars the small group of missionaries asked the men if they could pray for them. All the officers wanted to pray.
“We gathered together to pray for those officers there, smack dab in front of Yankee Stadium!” said Angela. “On the ride back, the policemen spoke of how stuff like that rarely happens to them, and how people seem to hate them. That was so sad to hear.”
With recent negative public opinion and violence toward police officers, in general, and in the NYPD specifically, the “accidental” meeting couldn’t have been timed any better to bring unexpected light into their lives.
“God had those guys’ hearts ready to receive a blessing,” said Angela. “It touched my heart after we prayed when he told me, ‘I hope you remember this moment, because I’m going to remember what you all did for me.’”
A member of the team shared this blog post with the officers. Here's their reply:
"We all gathered to read the blog and we are truly touched by it. We will forever remember that day and thank you again and may God bless you all!"