Saturday, November 10, 2012

My Beautiful City

“Beautiful City” from Godspell in 2000 - written by Stephen Schwartz
Out of the ruins and rubble,
Out of the smoke,
Out of our night of struggle
Can we see a ray of hope?
One pale thin ray reaching for the day. . .
We can build a beautiful city.
Yes, we can. Yes, we can
We can build a beautiful City.
Not a city of angels
But we can build a city of man
We may not reach the ending
But we can start slowly but surely mending.
Brick by brick,
Heart by heart.
Now, maybe now
We start learning how.
When your trust is all but shattered.
When your faith is all but killed.
You can give up bitter and battered,
Or you can slowly start to build!
A Beautiful City.
Yes, we can.  Yes, we can
We can build a beautiful city,
Not a city of angels,
But finally a city of man!

This wasn’t the blog entry I had planned to write.  I had planned to write all about what the Lord had been doing and how He’d led me back to New York.  I haven’t really told most of you that I’m even back yet.  So, I can only imagine your shock as you read this entry.  I’ve been back for almost four weeks.  Just in time to meet up with a hurricane named Sandy.  So, I feel like explaining how the Lord led me back here is pretty unimportant right now.  I just feel that the fact He led me back is significant.
By now you should have seen all of the pictures of destruction.  If you have not seen the significance of what’s happened to New York and New Jersey go online and look it up.  This should not be ignored or understated.  The amount of devastation is of Hurricane Katrina proportions.  We have had the worst disaster in New York’s entire history.  People ,you need to know what’s happened because I believe this is not only significant because we should know what is going on in our world and take action, but also because it is important to the Word of God and what He is saying to us as the people of God.  So, in short, look it up!
You might then say to me, “Well, you definitely didn’t pick a good time to go back to New York” or “Now, how do you feel about being in New York?  I bet you wish you weren’t there now!”  If you think that you’d be wrong.  You’d be wrong because I love this place.  I love these people.  And to be away at a time like this would bring me much heartache.  I would long to be here to help.  The Lord knows that about me and I know this is one of the major reasons He brought me back for, “Such a time as this”.  There is no coincidence that He has brought many of my friends and I back to our beloved New York.  I have felt for quite a while that the Lord has a great plan for the believers He is migrating back to New York, their home.  No matter if we were born here or not, we’ve adopted this place and the beautiful people here as our home and family.  It’s the place we feel that we fit the best.  It’s the only place I’ve ever lived where I didn’t have the desire to be anywhere else and have always been grateful to be while I’m here.  No matter what has gone on in my time here. 
I’m not going to post any pictures of destruction, devastation and carnage.  You can go anywhere online and find plenty of those.  I’m going to tell stories and show pictures of the good that has gone on since Hurricane Sandy.  I find that when I’m away from New York there is a general perception that all New Yorkers are rude, pushy, self-absorbed and kleptomaniacs.  To be honest, I have found those types of people everywhere and more in places people don’t “expect “ them to be.  What you may not know is that the loveliness of people here can be very overwhelming.  Since the hurricane I have met some of the most selfless beautiful people I have ever met.  I was able to volunteer with the Red Hook Initiative in Brooklyn, NY for a few days.  My last two days there I pretty much stayed at their headquarters as a Volunteer Coordinator and Front Door point person.  Red Hook is not a wealthy neighborhood and these people have been without power, heat or much food for almost 12days.  Their main subway line to get anywhere took the longest to be restored to them, and was not even flooded.  They came in asking for blankets, flashlights or batteries for elderly people stuck on the 12th or 14th floors of their buildings.  Hundreds of volunteers poured in to go into dark, cold, dangerous buildings to serve those unable to leave their apartments food.  We sorted through hundreds of bags of clothes and supplies to distribute to people in need.  People not affected by the storm gave generously to those who have lost EVERYTHING.

And the most amazing and disheartening thing for me was when we ran out of supplies and had to turn people away.  The amazing thing was that they didn’t yell or scream at me.  No one every cursed me out or got angry with me.  They thanked me for all the help we had given them and walked away peacefully, but downcast.  Watching someone who has lost so much and just needing a blanket to keep warm walk away defeated was heartbreaking.  This is not the mythic New York so many people have in their heads.  Yes, people are angry, dejected, and scared.  So, yes fights are happening between neighbors, looting, etc.  But neighbors are also watching out for each other and taking care of each other.
A lady I met one day while serving food emptied out her refrigerator because she knew all the food would go bad and cooked all of it, giving all she had away to the people in her building with nothing.  Another lady came in to get a ride for a woman and her sick newborn to a nearby shelter.  Churches in the East Village have set-up the largest relief effort in all of New York City’s five boroughs.  They got there before FEMA, Mayor Bloomberg, Governor Cuomo, The Salvation Army and the Red Cross.  By the time any of those organizations got there, the needs of the people were being met in such a way that they just told them to “carry on”.
So, just as the song says, “We can build a beautiful city, not a city of angels, but a city of man” God doesn’t always send angels.  Sometimes He calls us to step up to the plate, broken men, to be the angels to others. 

 I’m going to post links to the website for the Red Hook Initiative and Trinity Grace Church.  TGC Brooklyn (where I have been attending church) is doing some work with RHI and other relief efforts in Brooklyn including the East Village Trinity Grace Church which was one of the churches in that large relief effort.  You can donate money, if you would like to, on either one of the first two links below.  I am also going to post a link to the article about that East Village relief effort. 
My city is Beautiful, My God loves my city and I ask you to pray for us.  Pray that people would turn to God through this tragedy.  He has had mercy on my city, this could have been much worse.  But, He is definitely calling us higher and I am asking you to partner in prayer with us that His desire for us would be met.

 Love, Ebony
Red Hook Initiative -
Trinity Grace Church -