Archive for September, 2016


McDonald’s Is The New Holy of Holies…












Some people watched the documentary film Supersize Me and became convinced that McDonald’s and other fast food companies were a tool of the devil, being used to destroy our bodies and maybe were even hell on earth. Who knows, they might be right. Whether you think it is Heaven or Hell, however, I have to inform you that McDonald’s is the new Holy of Holies- a place where the presence of God fills up the room, healing happens and God’s love is demonstrated to the broken. At least it happened to New York City Relief Senior Outreach Leader Brett Hartford and a man named Shawn during an outreach one Thursday night in New York City…

“Can I have your leftovers, anything you’re going to throw away?”

“Excuse me?”

Again he clarifies. He is sunken down as far as the hard plastic chair will allow. He wants my leftovers… from McDonald’s. (I don’t even want my firsts… and all I got was fries)


On Thursday nights we lead an outreach called, Don’t Walk By. This outreach is a little different than our normal outreaches with The Relief Buses. On this outreach we walk the streets of midtown Manhattan in small groups, searching for people in need. When we find them, we usually offer much needed items like socks, hygiene kits and some friendly conversation.

Don’t Walk By is a collaborative effort in partnership with The Rescue Alliance. Because of this partnership with NYC Rescue Mission, The Bowery Mission, Hope For New York and StreetLife Ministries, we can get someone off the streets and into a warm bed that night and offer possibilities to enter a long term program to transform their lives forever.

Of everything we do, Don’t Walk By has be my favorite outreach, because it takes away all the extra stuff – bus, soup, volunteer rotations, etc. We are left with the pure and raw relationships. Not that the other stuff is bad, because it’s not, it’s beautiful in it’s own setting, but it’s just a refreshing break in the week to have this one outreach out of twelve be completely different. For someone like me, a relationship and conversation driven person, it’s amazing.

It’s amazing to see what happens wshawn-in-mcdonaldshen you make yourself available to whatever happens. No expectations, no agenda, just a “hello” and the available time to see where that “hello” leads.

Tonight I went down 6th Avenue towards a weekly meet up spot at a McDonald’s to connect with some of our long-time friends from the streets. It was in that community that there just happened to be a guy sitting a few feet away, a guy all alone who had been praying for community–a guy named Shawn. (left)

We were connecting with our friends that night. We had purchased dinner for everyone and ourselves as well – community not charity. We were listening, sharing, caring, serving, learning, and just be-ing. Just friends catching up and growing together.

All the while, there is this man a few table away, reading a magazine. I saw him, but decided to watch for a few minutes. He approached me and asked,

“Can I have your leftovers, anything you’re going to throw away?”

Will we welcome the outcast into community by breaking Big Macs together? Is this the missing piece of our faith journey that God is wooing us to dive into?




This really took me by surprise.

What must it take to ask someone that? What does it feel like to be at a point where you hungry enough to eat people’s leftovers from McDonald’s? I’ve never in my life been in that situation.

I’m a foodie. I don’t eat fast food. My family manages our budget in a way that we only eat out a couple of times a month, but they are at good restaurants. But now, at this moment, I am sitting at the epitome of “fast food”, being asked for my contaminated, used, cold, leftovers.

“You don’t have to eat my leftovers. What can I get you?”



“Yes please.”


“Yes, anything you are willing to get I will eat.”

This reminds me of a story from the Bible where a man of zero perceived value finds worth in Jesus’ willingness to love and act:

Matthew 8:1-3
When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean! (healed)” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy.

In both cases, men with nothing to lose and everything to gain, placed themselves in the place of humility. Jesus asked, “Are you willing?”.

In both cases, the response was, “I am willing”.

My job is to be the physical representation of Jesus on the streets of New York City and New Jersey. What would it look like if Jesus was walking around today? How would He respond to what he saw? Would he be too busy to stop?

Do I get it right? Sometimes, yep. Others, nope, not even close. But, I am willing to try.

Are you?


This isn’t just a Brett thing. This is an everybody thing. We all get opportunities every day to “be Jesus”, to love well. Be it someone asking for food, holding a sign in humility, or something completely different. It could be a co-worker who you know is struggling financially. Maybe you should buy them lunch. It could be extending extra patience to the waitress who is doing an awful job, a car who cut you off (I could grow in this area!), or a family member who is continually pushing you to the edge of your patience.

Are you willing?

Give it a try, you never know what type of healing you can bring to the person who is the recipient of your willingness.

Much love all,

Brett (left, with volunteers)


Brett is living in such a way as to be the answer to the prayer that Jesus taught us to pray: “your kingdom come, your will be done, in McDonalds as it is in heaven.” Matt 6:10

There are lepers all around us–people that society wants nothing to do with. Will we touch them with our lives and be vessels of healing? Will we welcome the outcast into community by breaking Big Macs together? Is this the missing piece of our faith journey that God is wooing us to dive into?

Consider making a date to do just this. Come volunteer on a Thursday night on the Don’t Walk By outreach. Email volunteer@newyorkcityrelief to book your date. See you at McDonald’s!

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