When I was a little kid, not 100% certain what age but under 10 years old, I watched a movie called Godspell. It was filmed in New York City (NYC) and it immediately just captured my heart! In the opening scene of the movie, there is a song playing calling people our main characters out of their daily lives and into Central Park’s Bethesda Fountain. There they find John the Baptist who baptizes them all in a lovely, fun water-fight type moment. There is complete joy and total acceptance in that scene. There is also deep and rich diversity. I fell in love with NYC in that moment and only grew to love it more over the years.
Fast forward 4 decades or so and I found myself this past April in NYC for the first time. I’ll admit, I was nervous about going there because I had built the city up so much over my life that there was every possibility it could never measure up. My daughter was my tour guide of sorts as she had already been there the last summer with an acting troupe. As we flew in, it was a cloudy and rainy day so I couldn’t see the skyline immediately. On the drive from the airport to where we were staying, I kept staring in the direction of city and finally, the skyline could be seen. My heart lept out of my chest and the tears started flowing. I was finally in NYC!!!
In the days that followed, I realized that my heart was home. Our first excursion took us to Brooklyn and a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. As soon as we got out of the car in an area just on the Brooklyn side of the bridge, I felt like I knew the place, even though I had never been there. We walked around a little bit and found a cute bakery called Cranberries. The smells and sounds were joyous to me and I really couldn’t even believe we were there. As we walked up the steps to the bridge, all of Manhattan sprawled out before us, I was again struck with the deep peace in my heart and the awesome sense of home I was feeling. In a city of over 8 million people, I had complete peace.
The second day found us back at the Brooklyn Bridge in the morning and then a walk through the city and on up to Central Park. As we entered the park from 59th, on our way to the John Lennon memorial, Strawberry Fields, I was again moved to tears at the deep sense of home I felt. All of my life had led me to this moment, this place, in this city and I was undone and the beauty and love I felt for NYC and from God. God planted the seeds in my heart for NYC as a child and here I was, standing in the middle of a dream coming true. I already cry easily and this moment, this moment brought a flood of tears.
The rest of the week was filled with both purpose and play. See, the main reason I was in NYC was to meet people from a ministry called International Project (IP). IP is a spiritual organization that seeks to train people on cross-cultural relationship building. They believe strongly in honoring an individual’s culture and building a loving community of people who desire to follow Jesus. There is never a plan to change anyone or force another way of life on anyone because their heart’s greatest desire is just to love people like Jesus loves them and build a community that is culturally specific to the group involved. There is no “one size fits all” approach, and I love that so much. IP has a training program for people who want to learn how to live with a cross-cultural focus and then they have a network of home churches around the 5 Burroughs of NYC.
I believe the love of Jesus, and the heart of Jesus Himself, has no barriers. ALL are loved and ALL are welcome. There is no culture or people group Jesus isn’t interested in and because of that, followers of Jesus must also be as willing to love all and reach out to all. There is so much we can learn from people of different backgrounds and traditions and I don’t really understand why, but I know that we have this tendency to fear what is different and I find that so sad. I want to know and understand other cultures and other people groups because maybe I have something to offer them, and even better for me, it’s highly likely they have something of offer me! Our differences don’t have to scare us, they can intrigue us to learn more.
I hope you are asking God to bring the dreams of your heart to life. Psalm 37:4 tells us that God will give us the desires of our hearts and I believe that is true. I believe fully that God plants seeds in our lives and hearts that when they grow, are our dreams and so of course He will make those come true. It requires faith in His ability, willingness and timing. My dream to go to NYC grew over several decades and only when God knew the timing was right, did the dream get fulfilled. I had to be in the right space and place with Him in my life for NYC to have the impact it had and I’m so thankful. Whatever dream you are waiting on, don’t give up. Keep asking, seeking, knocking. Keep dreaming.