Linker Girls Take on NYC!

Alternatively Titled: So THAT’S Why They Call it Subway Tile!

Also Alternatively Titled:  Well That Was a Nice, Long Walk.

A few months ago, it was announced that our church would be going on a mission trip to New York City.  Ava happened to be in that service and asked if kids would be allowed to go.

Our response was, “I don’t know, you’ll have to ask Pastor Josh.”  Which should have pretty much closed the case because Ava is too shy to talk to her extended family, much less our church staff.

That booger went and stood in the church lobby until the pastor walked by and asked him.

We had previously talked about including our kids in mission trips, as we are passionate about missions, and hands-on learning is the best learning.  However, we had not made a concrete plan in regards to when and how to take them.

It has been a few years since we went to Haiti, and we were both excited to have the opportunity to participate in missions once again.  We thought about both of us going and taking Ava and Israel, but the week of the trip was not good for our family to watch our Littles, and it quickly became apparent that it would be best if one of us stayed home and one of us went.  Since Ava would be going, in the end it seemed to make the most sense for me to go with her to make hotel rooming situations easier.

Now, when we made this plan, we didn’t know that I would be keeping up with our 10 year old in NYC whilst 20 weeks pregnant.  But that’s a Moo Point.

SO, we turned in our names and our money (thank you, Mini-Shoots for Missions people!!!), we did some evangelism training, and we were set to head off to the Big Apple to help a church plant.  Piece of cake…right?

Fun Fact:  Camp ended up being right before the trip.  Camp ended on Saturday, and we left for NYC on Tuesday.

First thing was first: Ava’s first flight.  I think it dawned on me that I might not possibly have done very well preparing my daughter for this type of travel when we were standing in line for security and she found out that that involved taking off shoes.  FORTUNATELY, she didn’t have to remove her shoes due to her age, because she was wearing her high top Converses.  Which take a SWEET FOREVER to take on and off.  Had that been required of her, TSA would probably have changed their shoe removal policy pronto.  Ain’t nobody got time fo’ dat.

Once we made it through security (not gonna lie, that part got hairy,) Ava enjoyed her first flight immensely.

Then we arrived at LaGuardia.

Before the next part of this story, let me back up and say that Mom had texted me before the trip to ask how she could pray for us.  My response was something like, “That I don’t lose my ten year old in the city.  Oh, and that we minister to people.”

So I guess God decided He was going to tackle my greatest fear right off the bat because the very first thing I did upon leaving the airport was LOSE THE TEN YEAR OLD.

It was very confusing.  There were Metro Cards and a bus that filled up and Ava was a number of people (from our group) in front of me when the bus driver said “No more passengers.”  Next thing I know, I’m standing on a curb while my daughter was on a bus driving through Queens.

Don’t freak out too much, she was with half of our group and I knew she would be fine.  But the irony of this being the first thing to happen was not lost on me.

Fortunately, at the next stop we were all reunited, and Ava wasn’t wearing a diaper that said “Property of Human Services.”

After our first Subway ride and a long walk, we arrived at home away from home: Comfort Inn in Queens.

Our work with New City Church would not begin until the next day, so we had some time to sight-see.  We chose to go to Times Square to eat and walk around.

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Not going to lie, the combination of our first day navigating on buses and subways and the crowdedness of Times Square was pretty overwhelming.  I was beginning to wonder if it would have been better for Josh to have gone on this adventure.

But the next day put my mind at ease.  Apparently, although NYC has a lot of people, the “normal” parts of it are not nearly as crowded as Times Square.  Also, I remembered that I could hold Ava’s hand when we got in crowded situations.  (I know that sounds silly, but it had been a LONG time since I had held her hand, due to her having 3 younger siblings.)  Also, getting on and off the subway gets a lot less stressful after a little practice.

Wednesday morning we had orientation at New City Church.  Having been born to a couple planting a New England church myself, and having been a part of a very similar church while we were in Tallahassee, their story was dear to my heart.  The pastor is a Georgia boy who felt the call to plant a church in NYC.  They started with his family of four in Long Island City, which is about 2 square miles at the tip of Long Island in Queens, right across the river from Manhattan.  LIC is known as the stroller capital of New York; its population has exploded in the last 20 years because families who have children who prefer to continue to live in the city (as opposed to moving out to the suburbs) often move to LIC.  It also has a very ethnically diverse population and a strong feeling of community.  And not a lot of churches.

New City Church started in 2013 in the pastor’s apartment.  Over the course of four years, it has grown to a congregation of about 150.  They now meet at a middle school right across from Hunter’s Pointe Park, which happens to have a great view of Manhattan.

After we oriented (?), we prayer walked around the community that New City Church is seeking to reach.  We prayed over a few parks, the local subway station, and the school where the church meets.

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That afternoon, we did our first real ministry project: street cleaning.  The church staff go to community meetings so that they know what the needs of the community are.  In this way, they discovered that the trash on the streets is considered to be a huge problem.  They decided to become a part of the solution.  All summer, mission teams don safety vests with the church’s name and clean the streets.  It is a great way to both help the community and make the church’s presence in the community known.

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Not going to lie, the street cleaning was a pretty intense workout for this Prego.  Up and down to pick up trash and then running (waddling) to keep up with the group.  I don’t think a Richard Simmons video could have been better exercise.

That evening, we went with a group to ride the Staten Island Ferry to see the Statue of Liberty.  Fun Fact:  The Staten Island Ferry is free!  It doesn’t get as close to Lady Liberty as some of the other cruises…oh, but it’s free.

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(This would have been a good night to bring my 85mm instead of leaving it in the hotel room.  Whoops.)

The next day, we did what New City Church calls Conversational Mapping.  We went into a community a few subway stops from LIC that needs a church.  New City Church is hoping to either have a satellite campus there or plant a new church, and mission teams are going in to collect information to help lay the groundwork for this project.  We went in with surveys about the community, seeking to speak to whoever would give us a few minutes.  The questions ranged from general to spiritual and we were told not to stress out if people wouldn’t talk to us or if we weren’t able to always complete the surveys.

I don’t have pictures from this experience since I was actually having to talk to people.  But it really was a great experience.  First of all, we were surprised at how many people agreed to talk to us.  I’m sorry, but if I see someone conducting a survey, I’m probably going to pretend like I didn’t see them and keep going.  But a lot of people were happy to speak to us.  (It probably didn’t hurt that we were a team of 2 women and a girl…and I’m clearly pregnant.)  We got to interview a scientist, a homeless gentleman, and a little bit of everything in between.  It was a privilege to get to be a part of that community, if only for a few hours.

That evening, we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge before eating…pizza, of course!  The bridge itself is gorgeous and offers some pretty awesome views, too.

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On Friday, we had our third mission project: Weeding in the park.  When the church discovered that Hunter’s Pointe Park was short-staffed when it comes to landscaping, they saw another opportunity to step in and help.  We got to don our sassy yellow vests and gloves again, and after some very specific instructions on which plants did NOT need to be pulled (thank goodness, or this non-gardener would have pulled it all!), we got to work!

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Here is our group!

Friday night, we went to Central Park.  As it turns out, Central Park is BIG.  By the time we found the Grand Lawn, we were pooped and ready to head back to the hotel.  Apparently there’s a zoo and amusement park rides in Central Park somewhere?!  I don’t know, if there are we didn’t see them!

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The schedule on Saturday was different.  We had a ministry project in the evening, so we had sightseeing time in the morning.  Ava and I chose to go to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum with a group.

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The New World Trade Center, as seen from the memorial.

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The flower means it’s that person’s birthday.

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It is hard to get a good shot of the Memorial since it is sunk in the ground and surrounded by people.  This should give you and idea of the fountain.

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Not a lot of photography is allowed in the museum, but there are some things, like the last column, that we can take pictures of.

It was a really good, albeit sobering, experience for both of us.  We are studying American History this year in CC and I don’t know that there’s a better way to make Week 24’s history sentence have meaning for Ava.

That evening, we had a “Party in the Park” with New City Church.  A lot of people are out in the park on Saturday, and this event gives the church a chance to mingle with members of the community and invite them to join them the next morning in the school across the street.

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Sunday morning, we worshipped with New City Church.

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And I realized as we were preparing to leave that I had failed to get a baby bump picture in NYC, and although I didn’t really want to, I knew that this child would probably not appreciate the lack of evidence that he/she was actually there.

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So there you go, goofy baby bump pic.

So now that you have got the play-by-play, here are some reflections on the trip:

  • NYC requires A LOT of walking.  And when you are following your 6’4″ pastor who is not pregnant, and you are a foot shorter with disproportionately short legs AND pregnant?  It is a lot of power walking.  I thought, “This must be what running that marathon through Disney World is like.”
  • HOWEVER, if walking is too monotonous for you, you get plenty of cross-training on the Subway stairs!  I estimated that we were averaging climbing five flights of stairs every time we took a train anywhere.  I was feeling the burn.
  • In light of this information, I think I figured out why New York pizza is so special.  By the time you have done the physical exertion required to get to the food, you are so hungry that that pizza tastes like THE BEST THING ON EARTH.
  • Of all the maladies I could have come home with (migraines and tummy troubles would have been very likely considering the trip came right after camp,) I came home with…poison ivy.  You read that right…I went to the place known as the CONCRETE JUNGLE and came back with poison ivy.  That is pretty special.
  • But jokes aside, it was pretty incredible to get to experience this with Ava.  I got to witness a lot of firsts for her, and my prayer is that she continues to develop a love for missions.  I just love, love getting to see people reaching out with the gospel in the context of a specific culture and community, and it was very special that it is something the two of us got to see together.  I have asked Ava to write a guest blog post from her perspective, so hopefully that will come in the near future!

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