NEW YORK – Larry Mayberry and members of Connection Church met Nancy as she frantically tried using five-gallon buckets to remove water in her flooded basement. After Hurricane Sandy, Nancy’s home in the Rockaways area of Queens needed much repair and her car was destroyed.
Mayberry was there when Nancy got word that FEMA denied her car claim. A few minutes later, after just a few phone calls, Mayberry told Nancy that God had provided a car for her from a friend in Texas. One week later, Mayberry’s father drove the car from Texas to Nashville, and Mayberry drove it the rest of the way.
When Nancy asked how the church was so powerful that it could provide her a car, Mayberry told her it had nothing to do with him.
“I got to share the gospel and tell her that the power comes from God,” Mayberry said.
Mayberry, community pastor of Connection Church in Astoria, Queens, is serving alongside church members as they reach out to Hurricane Sandy victims in the Rockaways. Connection Church adopted a block in the Rockaways, which is about 15 miles from Astoria.
They have provided hot meals, gutted homes, cleaned up debris and are working to help re-open a daycare so that mothers can return to work. Most homes on this block are still without power.
Although only three or four Christians live on this block of about 75 homes, Connection Church is using every opportunity to share the gospel.
“People on this block are recognizing that where the government was powerless to help them, God is overwhelmingly providing exactly what they need,” Mayberry said.\
Adopting a block in the Rockaways was the natural thing to do for Connection Church, as the church is focused on engaging the community, building relationships and sharing the gospel. From cleaning up parks and talking with people on the subway, to offering coffee and free coupons to local restaurants, Connection Church wants their community to know they care.
Unlike the stereotype that most New Yorkers resent the church, most people Mayberry meets just don’t know much about church and the gospel, or they don’t care about it. Connection Church seeks to help move people from apathy or ignorance to curiosity.
“Jesus tells us to love our neighbor. If we don’t have love for our neighbor, we don’t have love for Him,” Mayberry said. “Our focus is to engage lost people. We don’t just invite them to our church – we go to them. Christ should transform our communities through us.”
When Mayberry and his family moved to Astoria last November from Houston, Texas, they thought engaging lost people would be their biggest challenge. That hasn’t been so at all.
“People are lonely here; really lonely. If you engage them, they will tell you their life story,” Mayberry said. “We are trying to dig our roots deep. We want this to be our home.”
Mayberry came to Astoria with a prayer to reach the nations. National Geographic’s “Genographic Project” identified Astoria as one of the most ethnically diverse communities in the world. At least 10 nations are represented on the block that Connection Church adopted in the Rockaways.
As people from all throughout the world hear the gospel in Astoria, Connection Church prays they will take the hope of Jesus Christ back home and the gospel will spread.
Although the church plant is less than a year old, Connection Church is already thinking long-term, with a goal to plant a church every three years and to see those new churches also plant a church in three years. Mayberry and the Connection team envision that someday a church will be within walking distance of every New York City resident.
“We want to raise up leaders in the church and send them out,” Mayberry said. “We could plant 20,000 churches in New York and we wouldn’t be stepping on each other’s toes.”
Mayberry is praying that people in Astoria, and all throughout Queens and New York City, will come to know Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior, and will live their lives for His glory.
“People want to make it big in New York City,” he said. “What if they came to New York and found out God was actually seeking them? What if we could tell people that they are here because God wanted them to meet Jesus through us?”
Through the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s Office of Great Commission Partnerships, North Carolina Baptist churches across the state are forming partnerships with churches and church planters in the metro New York area. To learn how your church can get involved visit www.ncbaptist.org/gcp or contact Michael Sowers at (800) 395-5102 ext. 5654 or firstname.lastname@example.org.