Archive for December, 2010



As we enter the Christmas season I find myself “coincidentally” reading the beginning of the book of Luke and was surprised to discover how much of the Christmas story is about mercy. Luke is unique in his description of Mary and her new pregnancy. When Mary meets her cousin Elizabeth who is pregnant with John, Luke records what some theologians call The Magnificat. It’s also called The Song Of Mary and many churches sing it regularly as part of their worship service.

It’s a supernatural moment when this humble, pregnant Jewish teenage girl bursts out in prophetic utterance in which she praises God for not only showing favor to her by choosing her to bear the savior, but for His mercy “to all generations.” I call it “The Mercyficat”.

What stood out to me was a line I never noticed before. In verse 53 Mary says, “He has filled the hungry with good things; And sent away the rich empty-handed.”

She could have said a lot of things about Jesus, but chose to say that God was sending his son to flip the script, turn the tables and get things back to where He wanted them. In verse 52, she talks about how God is bringing down rulers from their thrones and exalting those who were humble.

Does God despise the rich? No, God is replacing the old system of “might is right” with a new kingdom system where the last are first and the first are last. He measures the condition of people’s hearts. As The Message puts it, “The starving poor sat down to a banquet; the callous rich were left out in the cold.” It wasn’t the rich’s wealth Mary was talking about, but the self-absorption and lack of concern (or mercy) for others that can come with it.

Acts 10 talks of a man who was wealthy and powerful named Cornelius. As a Roman centurion, Cornelius commanded respect. Rather than Lord his authority over others and exploit them, Cornelius was a devout man who consistently helped the poor. Peter was told in a dream to go bring the gospel to this man. God was moved by the man’s lifestyle of mercy. It got His attention.

Peter had to break all the cultural and religious rules to go and enter this man’s house. It ushered in a new wave of revival as non-Jews were now welcomed into God’s plan of salvation. Ironically, it all started with a gentile who was a representative of the polytheistic, morally bankrupt, ruling power known as Rome. He was in the world, but somehow he was not “of the world.”

We too live in a corrupt system and society that holds very different values than the kingdom of God. We are called to be salt and light, transformers of this dark and deteriorating culture that we live in. One of the most effective ways to be agents of transformation is through mercy.

Sometimes around this season people get riled up about whether Christmas is being promoted adequately. I myself am a big “Merry Christmas” fan, however, rather than engage in the “culture wars” and try to get people to say “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays”, I am more inclined to pursue, “Mercy Christmas” through my actions. The best way I can think of to celebrate God’s gift of mercy to us is for us to give that same gift away to others. Rather than try to take the culture by force, I suggest we “subversively” spread the true meaning of Christmas through grassroots actions.

I am the Executive Director of New York City Relief, which utilizes The Relief Bus outreach as literal vehicles of mercy to people on the streets. We not only give away needed clothing, food and resources, we endeavor to give away our friendship to people.

Although it’s obvious that the homeless and addicted in the inner city are in need of mercy, we don’t have to travel far from home to find people in our local communities who need mercy as well. For several years my family has welcomed in an elderly couple that live next door, to enjoy breakfast together with us on Christmas morning and watch my kids open their presents. This brother and sister have no other family to spend the holidays with. It enriches all of our lives to share Christmas together.

When we celebrate Christmas, what we are really celebrating is His mercy. Maybe like Cornelius, God will call us to show His mercy to people outside of our social and economic classes. Maybe like Peter, our mercy mission will cause us to break some of our own cultural or religious traditions in order to deliver the love of Jesus. So many times, God uses the gift of mercy to break down our own hidden prejudices and stereotypes that we weren’t even aware of. James 2:13 says it well, “Mercy triumphs over judgment.”

How is God calling us to show His mercy this season? Who can we choose to bless extravagantly? Let’s be a part of fulfilling Mary’s prophecy to deliver the mercy she spoke of “to all generations”.

Posted under Uncategorized

Don’t Walk By 2011

For the past two years I have had the privilege of being involved in the Don’t Walk By outreach. My role is training over 1,000 volunteers for outreach to the homeless on the street of NYC. Here is a photo of a typical night during this 5 night outreach.

It has been really amazing and I would like to invite you to participate. We are especially in need of outreach team leaders. We’re still seeking 50 more Team Leaders to sign up. Would you consider signing on as a Team Leader for one (or more than one!) of the Saturday outreach events? Do you know one or two of your friends you could invite to join you in this important service? If each of our Team Leaders brought on 2 friends to serve as aditional Team Leaders, we would be in great shape!

To provide practical and scriptural support to those who are already signed up or are considering the role, we’re holding a Team Leader training this Tues, Dec 7 (THIS Tuesday!) from 7-8:30pm at Calvary Baptist Church at 123 W 57th St. If you can join us, will you please reply to this email to let us know you’ll be there?

Included here is a link to the Don’t Walk By registration page which contains info about the Team Leader role and links to info about the overall effort

Below is an article I wrote recently that was published in The Love Express and the Tri-State Voice. It gives lots of details. If you haven’t seen the Don’t Walk video yet, you really should. It’s a short and excellent video that has been shown to thousands now. Here is the article:

Imagine your desperation if you found yourself suddenly out of work, unable to pay for housing and suddenly thrust into the world of homelessness. Maybe even in your state of depression, you turn to liquid comfort to warm your body and numb your heart. Now imagine that it happened in the dead of winter and you were forced to find refuge on the streets of New York City, shuffling from one feeding program to another, searching for a lifeline to get back on your feet again.

We must place ourselves in other’s shoes to understand what kind of devastation the homeless must feel after having lost all sense of security. Compassion demands that believers do something to bring hope and help, but how?

January 8, 2011 marks the 3rd Annual Don’t Walk By outreach to the homeless organized by the NYC Rescue Alliance. For the last two years over 1,000 volunteers from over 100 churches have over a five-week period walked every block on the island of Manhattan on a search and rescue mission for streetbound homeless people. This year the outreach runs each Saturday evening from January 3 through February 5.

Amazingly, each year over 1,000 homeless people have been engaged and impacted by the love of Christ through volunteers. The strategy is for volunteers to meet at 2pm a specified anchor church in the zone of Manhattan that is being targetet that week. At the church, these volunteers receive training in practical ways to engage the homeless during the outreach. After that, they are fed some warm soup, and sent out in teams to walk their portion of the city that night. Volunteers take out goodie bags of items that people on the streets need, along with information on resources to help them get off of the streets.

Volunteers invite the homeless back to the anchor church that night for a hot meal, free coats and blankets. More importantly they receive the opportunity to sleep in a warm bed that evening and get into a long-term program for life transformation. When men and women are found to be interested, they are transported back to the church by a fleet of vans. Doctors and nurses are also available at the anchor churches to assess medical needs. Each night the outreach concludes at 8pm.

For the 2011 outreach, we are looking for three different types of volunteers:

• Street Engagement Volunteers who will walk the streets of New York looking for homeless men, women and children and offer them the opportunity to come back to an anchor church for a hot meal, shower and a bed.

• Street Engagement Team Leaders are responsible for managing a group of 5-8 Engagement Volunteers. Team Leaders will walk the streets of New York looking for homeless men, woman and children and offer them an alternative to homelessness.

• Hospitality Volunteers are a critical group of men & women who perform a variety of key tasks serving homeless guests and supporting logistics at the host church. Some key hospitality tasks include greeting homeless guests who return to the host church for meals, engaging homeless guests in conversation as they eat, helping assessment staff connect with homeless guests, coordinating logistics for clothing distribution, supporting meal preparation, serving meals, clearing tables, and sitting with homeless guests while they await transport to a residential program.


December 7th, 7-8:30pm/TEAM LEADER TRAINING at Calvary Baptist

January 8th – Upper West Side, All Angels Church 251 W 80th St, 10024

January 15th – Midtown, Calvary Baptist Church 123 W 57th St, 10019

January 22nd – Lower Manhattan, Oversea Chinese Mission, Hester St. between Mott & Elizabeth

January 29th – Upper East Side, Trinity Baptist Church, 250 E 61st St, New York

February 5th – Bethel Gospel Assembly, 120th St between 5th & Madison Ave

Age limit for this outreach is 18-years-old. To participate, volunteers must sign up at For more information email Katrina Monta at or call 212-684-2800 x164.

Juan Galloway
Executive Director
The Relief Bus

Posted under Uncategorized