Author Archive

Mar-27-2021

Massive life change!

Dear Friends,

Tracy and I have been off the grid for a while, but I wanted to somehow try to describe the amazing journey we have been on over the past 3 months. I wanted to share my testimony to you of the goodness of God in our lives. I included some cool photos to help you visualize our surroundings.

Riding the Whirlwind

Imagine being whisked out of your everyday life where you live in the suburbs and work in the city to suddenly being parachuted into the south pacific to join a wild band of missionaries being trained to launch all over the world, taking the gospel to the farthest regions of the planet.

Last December, within two week time we cleared out our house, put it up for sale and got on a plane to follow Jesus to the ends of the earth. After 18 years of serving people struggling with homelessness, putting down roots and building friendships, it wasn’t easy to leave our old lives, but sometimes God has to disturb our present in order to give us a new future. We are laying down the old story and old pattern in order to enter a new story. 

Pruning can feel painful, but when God prunes our lives it is preparation for greater fruitfulness. Sometimes you have to sell everything you own in order to get the pearl of great price and it is all worth it, especially when the pearl is Jesus.

Worship gathering at YWAM University Of The Nations

The Road to YWAM

For 3 months we have been living on another planet called University of the Nations in Kona (click link to see video). It is the largest training center in the world for Youth With A Mission (YWAM). The missionaries here are willing to pay the cost of any sacrifice in order to proclaim Jesus to people of every tribe and culture. The ethos at YWAM is thick and even rings out of their songs such as The Missionary Anthem  (click to see song live) that states, “I will preach the gospel, die and be forgotten, as long as You get the glory.”

Did you know that YWAM is the largest Christian missions organization in the world? Founded in 1960, it now has more than 1,100 base locations and 18,000 staff in over 180 countries. Each location is a Biblical teaching and missionary training center that welcomes young adults from around the world, and is also active in ministries in their own communities.

YWAM’s mission is to “Know Him and make Him known.” Every leader and staff member in this movement is a volunteer who has dedicated their lives to pursuing God’s purposes and callings. To say that it has been inspirational would be a gross understatement. The fire of God rages hot in this place.

Our entire Crossroads class including kids

Crossroads

Our Discipleship Training School is known as Crossroads and is designed for people like us more mature “youth” who are at a crossroads in life. We made so many lifelong friendships with our fellow students during these past 3 months. When you go through an intense community experience like this, you are bound for life.

Crossroads provoked our hearts as we dove into core themes such as identity, inner healing, and the character and nature of God. We were challenged together to take new ground through classes on spiritual warfare, Christian worldview and the Holy Spirit. All of this while daily practicing listening to the voice of God as we interceded together for nations and received prophetic words from the Holy Spirit. 

Let Me Be Real…

My GOALS for attending Crossroads DTS were to:

  1. Find emotional and physical healing from trauma that I experienced during the pandemic
  2. Restore my soul and recover from burnout
  3. Experience the supernatural and become more sensitive to the Holy Spirit so that I could be better led by Him
  4. Receive direction for the future, especially next steps

I am happy to report that God met me in all of these areas and gave me healing and new freedom in the areas of:

  1. Shame- over trauma and rejection
  2. Fear- of man, conflict, inadequacy
  3. Control- Performance and people pleasing

I am being vulnerable to share these things with you so that you too can have renewed hope and faith for your own freedom. If he did it for me, he can do it for you! 

Leaving our past life and position was a stripping down to the core and what is essential. God used this opportunity to remind me of my identity as his son rather than in what I can do for Him. Henri Nouwen once said, “Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of our spiritual life. Being the beloved is our core spiritual existence.” 

Radical Transformation

These 3 months of living from intimacy with God has been one of the most incredible experiences of our lives. We came here to encounter His power so that we could be more transformed into His image and he did not disappoint. We experienced a paradigm shift as we surrendered to God, becoming 100% helpless. Embracing our weaknesses allowed us to stop striving in the flesh so that we might yield to the Spirit. We have learned to go from trying to be responsible to being response-able to God’s leading. These are lessons that we will spend the rest of our lives practicing.

Breakthroughs

God embedded so many truths into my soul such as: 

  • My confidence cannot be found in my gifts or abilities, but in His presence. 
  • We behave what we really believe about ourselves and about God. 
  • If the enemy can get us to believe lies about our identities, he can rob of us our destinies and ability to pursue our dreams. 
  • What actually has authority in my life is what I look to to determine my purpose, meaning, direction and joy. 

By immersing myself in God’s reality, my belief system has been reset and realigned with God’s truth, grace and love. Maybe God wants to use the disruption created by the pandemic to do a reset in your life as well. 

I Hear You God!

We received prophetic words in the very beginning of the school including this personal one: “You will be a spiritual father and mother, maybe going base to base mentoring leaders.” This was a confirmation of what the Lord was already putting in our hearts. Even during our stay here God opened doors to pour into the young people all around us.. Another prophetic word from the platform was, “God is releasing the grace to do his will, to call people to their destinies.”

What God is doing in us here, we want to share to encourage you. He’s not done with you yet! If you are feeling stale or stuck in the mundane, He has a freshness and newness to reignite your passion for your first love. If you feel dry, he will pour out fresh oil and make you come alive! His dreams for you are what you were born to be and do. Let our lives be a living testimony to you of God’s grace and new beginnings.

The scripture that was spoken over us that is also for you is Isaiah 43:18,19:

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it 

springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

My word to you is not necessarily to leave your home and job to join YWAM (although I highly recommend it), but let go of areas in your past in order to enter God’s future. There is more!  

Our New Tribe

One of our speakers, Terry York said, “When you find your tribe you will find your calling.” We have found our tribe and our calling at YWAM. Our mission is to take the gospel to the world so that salvation and freedom can be had in every country and people group. Loren Cunningham, founder of YWAM articulates this so well in this video titled, I Am A Missionary.

We were created to live with hearts on fire and I believe this is the place he has sent us to enter fully into his calling and fully into his JOY. My eyes now glisten with hope for that reality. My life depends on love, His audacious, heart-exploding love. 

I can sum up our experience and what I hope for you in this scripture verse:

Acts 2:28  
“You have shown me the way of life and you will fill me with the joy of your presence.”

Next Steps

What next steps are there for Juan and Tracy? Now that we have completed our lecture phase, we are headed to the mission field for two months of outreach to the poor in Mexico. We go with a small team that includes 12 people ranging from 5-years-old to 70-years-old and includes citizens of Finland, Norway, Africa and China. 


Our Mexico outreach team

COVID continues to rage in Mexico and so we are trusting God for his protection as we take all wise precautions possible. Please pray for God’s protection over our team and for breakthroughs in our missions work.

After our outreach is over, we will be coming back to the US to visit family, friends and raise the missions support necessary for us to serve full-time with YWAM. The most exciting part of the trip will be welcoming our first grandchild into the world in July! Our daughter River and her husband Jabez are bringing a precious little girl into our family and we couldn’t be more excited!

We will return in August to join the YWAM staff in Kona where we will work with young people training for the mission field. We feel that God will use us as a spiritual father and mother to help catapult young leaders into ministry around the world. We will draw upon our 30 years of experience to mentor and teach the next generation. After that semester, it is our intention to travel internationally, working with YWAM bases around the world. Let the adventure begin!  

Our mission is clear:

Mark 16:15 “He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”

Thank you for your love, friendship, support and prayers!

LET’S STAY IN TOUCH!
You can connect with me at juangalloway@gmail.com.


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Nov-5-2020

New Episode of 36 QUESTIONS podcast!

Check out our podcast about marriage, ministry and whatever crazy thing comes up while we are recording. In this episode…

Saggy biceps, taking your thoughts captive and U2 praying in tongues. What do all of these things have to do with each other? Listen to Episode 19 of 36 Questions to find out. In this episode we also review the book The Process by Bill Hoffman. Listen HERE or on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

#juangalloway #tracygalloway #marriedinministry #arthuraron #36questions #climbingmteverest #socialmediatoxicity #fuhgitaboutit #talkingheads #theprocess #billhoffman Check out our facebook page!


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Jul-2-2020

I’m Turning 50!

It’s hard to believe that I am turning 50-years-old! I want to celebrate by asking you to join me for a special cause. Please take a look at my video:

Please consider becoming one of the 50 people joining the monthly donor program for New York City Relief that we call DRIVEN. It’s easy to set up a recurring gift on my fundraising page. Any amount is welcome!

Help me celebrate my 50th birthday by changing lives TOGETHER!

Please join my team by clicking HERE!


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Jun-8-2020

The Blacklight Effect

My Backstory

Most people don’t know this about me, but I grew up in a black community in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. My middle class neighborhood was almost entirely black and my public schoolmates and friends were also almost all black. I guess my parents were pretty progressive in this sense, because they definitely could have afforded to live in a more homogenous white neighborhood or pay for me to attend a private school where I would not be the “minority” in a majority-minority community. 

This was the 70’s and the era of the big afro. During my childhood from ages 5-10, it wasn’t uncommon for me to be called “honkey” in a disparaging way on the school bus or in the hallways of my school. It was a little scary sometimes, but I also had many black kids who accepted me as their friend and equal, especially as we roughhoused together on the playground. We also got paddled together as equal offenders by our teachers when we got into trouble in class.

After my family became radically saved from a life of addiction, and depravity, we moved out of the states to become missionaries in St. Thomas and Tortola in the Virgin Islands. My parents started a church in which most of the congregation were black West Indians. From there we moved to Puerto Rico where they built the first Christian television station on the island, beaming out the gospel in Spanish for free to all who had a tv with an antennae. 

Additionally, not everyone knows that my brother is Mexican American and was adopted as a child from Guadalajara, Mexico. I say all this to express my unique and rich upbringing in multicultural and ethnically diverse environments. It prepared me for my work at New York City Relief. Today, I serve a population of people in New York City and New Jersey who are predominantly black and hispanic. Unfortunately, the people I serve are also plagued with homelessness and disproportionately so.

Homelessness Brought To Light

Most people are familiar with blacklights and how they can reveal hidden blood, urine and semen by making them glow in the darkness. These are contaminants that are invisible to the human eye in the light of day, but are magically revealed by this tool. 

New York City Relief is still serving food to many hungry people
during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This COVID-19 pandemic has been like a blacklight revealing tragic truths that have existed for years in New York City. With the largest homeless population in America (80,000), the greatest city in the world has actually been a humanitarian disaster zone for a long time. 2019 showed a 39% increase in homeless deaths over the prior year. 

The crisis became normalized over time as people got so used to seeing droves of beggars that they began to accept this as an unchangeable reality. Recently, because of news media coverage revealing thousands of homeless men and women packed into COVID-19 infested shelters in New York City, the public’s eyes were opened to a dark reality. One man who struggles with homelessness named Luis said of the congested shelters, “It was like a death camp.”

There are 961 documented cases of homeless people infected with COVID-19 and 87 now dead from the virus. The actual infection and death rates are likely much higher as many never got tested for the virus. The poor are typically very under resourced when it comes to health care. 

Luis tells his story of homelessness during the pandemic.

See a powerful video of Luis’ story about what it’s like to be homeless during the COVID-19 pandemic here.

During the pandemic, while the average citizen was concerned about their own health and hunkered down in their homes, they began to imagine the hell people were experiencing who had no home to protect themselves. The homeless had no place to run and people were starting to take notice.

Racial Atrocities Revealed

This COVID-19 virus has not been an equal opportunity infector. Most of the people who have been infected and who have died are people of color. New York City identified death rates among Black/African American persons (92.3 deaths per 100,000 population) and Hispanic/Latino persons (74.3) that were substantially higher than that of white (45.2) or Asian (34.5) persons.

All of us are experiencing brokenness and suffering in America, but our brothers and sisters of color are being hit especially hard. People of color were already struggling in America. Blacks were unemployed 64% more than whites. Blacks make up 12.7% of the US population, but 33% of the prison population. I could go on, but I think you get the idea. Ethnic equality has suffered and social injustice seems to continue unabated.

The recent deaths of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery have also been like blacklights, but this time revealing the systemic racism that has existed in our country for hundreds of years. White America has had their eyes opened through the technology of cell phone video cameras capturing senseless violence inflicted on black citizens. The dirty secrets of hidden racism have been thrust into our faces and into our homes. It forces us to ask ourselves if we are part of the solution or part of the problem. 

Christians Called To Action

Recently, Bishop TD Jakes wrote an excellent opinion piece for Fox News in which he said, “Americans – and Christians in particular – have a moral imperative to tackle this problem.  “Learn to do good: seek justice, correct oppression,” the prophet wrote in the first chapter of Isaiah.”  

As a Christian leader, I stand in solidarity with my brothers and sisters who have been stigmatized by the burden of homelessness to the point of not being offered adequate protection from the plague of the century. As the leader of a nonprofit outreach organization, I will continue working to give them not only essential survival supplies during this health crisis, but also resources that will enable them to take their lives back and escape homelessness for good. 

I also stand in solidarity with my brothers and sisters of color who have been marginalized and brutalized through our lack of attention, care and equal protection. Our country has no excuse. Silence is no longer an option.

God will not just help those who help themselves. In fact, if we could all just help ourselves we wouldn’t need God at all. God will help those who we link arms with. Together we stand, divided we fall. Together, we are the vehicles for justice and change. Scripture demands that we stand up for others in need, aligning ourselves with the oppressed:

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Proverbs 31:8-9

The American Nightmare

Both the pandemic and the recent murders of black citizens have shined a spotlight on the underbelly of the American dream. Those on the bottom just keep getting crushed when good people do nothing.

Jesus threw a wrench into the gears of the machine of power and oppression when he came as a poor man born into an oppressed race. His very being represented his heartbeat for humanity, but he made it clear through his teaching and daily lifestyle that he was there to lift up the outcast. In Matthew 25, Jesus represented himself as the hungry, the naked, the prisoner and the sick–all people who were vulnerable. 

Jesus didn’t pity them, he called the weak strong and called the poor blessed. Followers of the Son of God must also honor those who have been disenfranchised, pulling them from the fringe into the center. As Bishop Jakes also said in his article, “You cannot be a Christian and stay silent.”

Could it be that the church and American citizens at large are finally being stirred by the crisis of the homeless during the pandemic and the barbarity we have seen inflicted upon black citizens? Will this compel us to do what we can to bring change?

All Is Revealed

Jesus himself says in Luke 8:17, “For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.”

As God uses these “blacklights” I have mentioned to call out injustice, let this be our prayer of activation as we get “woke”:

“Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Ephesians 5:14

If we will wake up to our indifference, our silence and our sins of omission, God will use us to:

  1. Shine a light (demonstrate truth)
  2. Tear down darkness (evil and lies)
  3. Build bridges of reconciliation 
  4. Become agents of healing 
  5. Love like Jesus

All of this so that everyone–rich or poor, people of every color, will be welcomed to His feast where all are valued, enriched and loved equally. This is how we can be the answer to Jesus’ prayer, “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Peace.


Posted under Uncategorized
Apr-11-2020

New York City Relief Covid-19 Update Video!

Thank you to everyone who supports New York City Relief and our work on the streets with our friends challenged with homelessness! Please keep praying, the war isn’t over. We are fighting for the survival of those most vulnerable. We all need resurrection power right now. Happy Easter!


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Mar-25-2020

Standing With The Homeless On The Frontlines of Covid-19

Mother Teresa once said, “When a poor person dies of hunger, it has not happened because God did not take care of him or her.  It has happened because neither you nor I wanted to give that person what he or she needed.”

Last year, there was a staggering 39 percent increase in the number of homeless people who died in New York City.  From July 2018 to June 2019, over 400 people living on the streets passed away. In the current pandemic, that will pale in comparison for people living on the streets, unless we mobilize and take action now.

Serving hot meals in the Bronx.

March 26, ABC News reported, “New York officials have confirmed the first homeless death from the novel coronavirus, a grim statistic that homeless advocates fear could rise in coming weeks.” 39 people from 12 different shelters in New York City have now been diagnosed with Covid-19.

I am the president and CEO of New York City Relief, a mobile outreach to people struggling with homelessness.  Since 1989, our mission has been to connect people to what they need to have a better life. In this health crisis, we have our hands full serving those most at-risk: the elderly, sickly, addicted and lonely.  They are exposed on the streets with no way to “socially distance” themselves from each other and the infected.

Before the pandemic spread across America, news stories were full of headlines about the homelessness crisis.  New York City has the largest population of people who don’t have permanent housing. Now, over 80,000 people are struggling to find a meal as homeless services are closing when the need is greatest.  The fears are legitimate and we understand workers must be protected. However, during one day of outreach alone last week, we served 800 meals in 3 hours–a new record for our organization.

This tells us where things are headed.

Our staff and volunteers are stepping up to the frontlines during this crisis to help those who cannot help themselves.  Many are putting their health at risk for the sake of strangers who they consider to be their brothers and sisters. They are also potentially putting their families into harm’s way through secondary exposure.  In other words, it’s getting real.  

Now is the time for all New Yorkers to support community-service organizations like New York City Relief that are fighting for our homeless neighbors right outside our doors.  We need extra funds for safety supplies such as masks, gloves, hand sanitizer and forehead thermometers. I am calling on Americans to rise up, as we did after 9/11.  It’s simple: give so that others can live.

The city, state and federal government can only do so much.  It’s time for us all to sacrifice for the sake of the other. When preparing his country to face war, Winston Churchill famously said, “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.”  It will take spine and grit for us to fight this war against the spread of Covid-19. 

If you are on the fence about helping, maybe this will bring things into focus: 

Helping the homeless helps everyone. 

Flattening the curve for our neighbors on the streets flattens the curve for all of us.

During my 17 year career serving friends challenged with homelessness, I have officiated at funerals for those who died alone on the streets. 

Flattening the curve for our neighbors on the streets flattens the curve for all of us.


If compassionate people step up to do what they can, many of these tragedies can be averted.  We have the power to effect change and protect those in danger. 

Now is the time to act. 

Courage.  We are all in this together.

PLEASE HELP IF YOU CAN. EVERY GIFT COUNTS. To make a donation to support our efforts on the streets, click this link.


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Feb-24-2020

Death On The Streets & Hope For The Future

Recently I helped officiate at the funeral of the father of a good friend of our family. I was honored to say some words of comfort and encouragement to all of the loved ones of this very accomplished man. He wrote his own obituary and it was so inspiring to me that I even followed his example by writing my own.

I have been a minister for many years and I have always told people that I much prefer officiating at funerals rather than weddings. It’s not that I don’t like weddings. It’s just that funerals are an appropriate moment for people to think about death, life and eternity–even for those who don’t consider themselves “religious.” I like to speak into that moment to give comfort, hope and direction on how to prepare for their own death one day. I also like to be there in a time of great need for those who are mourning and need someone to stand up for them in a time of great difficulty.

Juan and friend at Harlem outreach

It’s a gift to me to be of service. I think that’s why I like working at New York City Relief. We get to be there for people during the worst moments of their lives.

Freddie

I once knew a Haitian man named Freddie who lived in an abandoned building across the street from the New York City Relief headquarters in Elizabeth, NJ. He attended the church I pastored, and I remember imploring him to let me help him get off of the streets. Unfortunately, he didn’t take me up on my offer and one night, Freddie had a seizure in that abandoned building and passed away. I held a funeral service for Freddie and all of his family came to celebrate his life, including a daughter I didn’t even know existed. We sang hymns in Creole, ate Haitian beef patties and I shared the hope of salvation in Jesus Christ. Seven people responded to choose to follow Christ and together we found beauty in ashes.

Even in sorrow, we can find hope. It makes me think of this verse from Psalm 9:18

 “God will never forget the needy;

    the hope of the afflicted will never perish.”

Shocking Statistics

Recently, I read an article about the number of people living on the streets who died in New York City last year. Shockingly, the number of deaths of people experiencing homelessness rose by a staggering 39% over the previous year. From July 2018 to June 2019, 404 people living on the streets passed away.

The number of deaths of people experiencing homelessness rose by a staggering 39%.


Many of these individuals are buried in a potters field on Hart Island, located a few miles offshore from the Bronx. Wikipedia says, “The remains of more than one million people are buried on Hart Island. The dead are buried in trenches. Adults are placed in larger pine boxes placed according to size, and are stacked in sections of 150, measuring three coffins deep in two rows. Inmates from the Rikers Island jail are paid $0.50 per hour to bury bodies on Hart Island.”

The top five causes of deaths of people living on the streets last year were drugs, heart disease, alcoholism, accidents and cancer. Ten of the people committed suicide. The facts are that if you don’t have a place to call home, your life will be shortened by 20 to 30 years. It is tragic for these precious souls to pass away in such dire straits and hidden in anonymity–almost like they never existed. Once upon a time, these men and women were born to parents so eager for their beautiful babies to accomplish their hopes and dreams and experience a wonderful life.

Seeing A Brighter Future

I think it is important to remember the lives of those who died in a state of homelessness in order to acknowledge their value and remember that they are precious in the eyes of God. I believe that this can give us inspiration and courage to do something about those people who are still alive and trying to survive on the streets right now. We don’t have to wait until a funeral comes to honor someone.

NYCR volunteers making friends during outreach

The motto of New York City Relief was borrowed from the United States Airforce Pararescue. It says, “These things we do, that others may live.” I invite you to join us on the streets to build a life-giving relationship with someone who might feel very alone. Show them they matter by giving them your time and a listening ear. We’ll do the trickier part of connecting them to physical resources that they can use to get off of the streets. This is just one way you can help our friends on the streets see a brighter future. 

To volunteer, visit our website at newyorkcityrelief.org/volunteer

Please consider partnering with us by making a gift to help people see a brighter future at newyorkcityrelief.org/donate


Posted under Uncategorized
Nov-27-2019

Corban’s YWAM Mission Trip

My son Corban is a great young man who has decided to serve others on the mission field. Please take a look at his newsletter below and consider partnering with him. Click here to see a video of him telling all about it and see how to give online. Thanks!


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Jul-18-2019

Any Port In A Storm- Part 13 of STREET PILGRIMAGE

IMG113

My final night of living on the streets of New York City during my spiritual pilgrimage was spent desperately trying to sleep on the floor of the Port Authority Bus Terminal (see left). Like most nights that week, it seemed to go on forever and yet I could never get enough sleep. It was very difficult and like all the people struggling with homelessness surrounding me, I was willing to take any port in a storm…

Grunge And Glory
That day I been panhandling in front of Trump Tower on 5th Avenue. After I was done there I made my way to a quiet, hidden place just blocks away. It was a public, indoor seating area with bathrooms that most people don’t know exists in New York City. It was an oasis for someone like me who badly needed a warm place to rest after a long day on my feet. It was a clean, safe spot for a grungy guy like me to recharge.

Throughout my week on the streets I was diligently seeking God through prayer, listening and reading. I only brought a few items with me that week and one was a new book by Jack Deere titled, Even In Our Darkness. I had this book sitting in my home for a while, but hadn’t read it. I felt that God wanted me to bring it.

As I read the book that day, I strongly felt the presence of God. It was sort of an out-of-body experience. It’s hard to describe how it feels when you experience the Holy Spirit in such a powerful and tangible way. Although my body was achey and depleted from life on the streets, at this moment my body and emotions were overwhelmed with his pleasure and love. It felt like waves of pleasure rolling over me. By the way, although this has happened to me before, it doesn’t happen to me very often. I wish! It was an answer to my prayers for this week-long experience, because my ultimate goal for this pilgrimage was not to understand what the poor are going through (although that did happen), but to come closer than ever to Jesus. I believed that if I drew close to the poor, that I would invariably end up drawing closer to God himself. That is exactly what happened.

Jack Deere’s book was such a perfect companion to me that week. The book was both heart-wrenching and inspiring. In it, he described the story of his success as a leading scholar, popular speaker and author while also suffering through losing his son to suicide and his wife to alcoholism. It was a powerful tale of healing in the midst of tragedy. I had seen Jack Deere speak before and there was something disarming and warming about his genuineness and authenticity that drew me in like I was having an intimate coffee with a best friend. God was using this book to draw me into his heart. (Buy the book!)

Along with the book I was reading a lot of scripture every day from a Gideon Bible I had been given at the New York City Rescue Mission. That day, a few scriptures really stood out to me and were actually prophetic in my life:

“If you seek Him, He will be found by you.” 2 Chronicles 15:2

As I was seeking the Lord that week I was truly encountering his wisdom, vision, grace, mercy and power. I went on to read 2 Chronicles 16:9:

“The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth to show himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him.”

This felt like a promise to me that God was going to provide everything needed to fulfill his vision for New York City Relief–not only finances to keep gas in The Relief Buses, put food into hungry people’s stomachs and give a working wage for our hard working staff, but the spiritual and emotional strength needed to overcome whatever obstacles might come our way. I felt God specifically tell me to partner with more churches to accomplish our mission. That is exactly what I ended up doing over the next year and experienced a lot of favor from churches ready to link arms and partner with us to bring love and grace to those experiencing homelessness. With the help of church partners we even produced a video highlighting the power of partnering with New York City Relief to transform the church and our friends on the streets.

IMG112Transient In Transit
In considering where I was going to spend my last night in New York City, I decided to use my new friend Jacques’ advice and sleep inside the Port Authority Bus Terminal where many people find shelter every night (see left). He taught me how to buy a cheap bus ticket so that the police wouldn’t at worst arrest me or at best kick me out of the bus station into the cold. It can get down into the 30’s at night in March. I decided to give Jacques a call to see if he would be at Port Authority himself that night. I had been alone for days, so it would be nice to see a friendly face. There was also more safety in having someone to watch my back in the middle of the night when bad things can happen. Fortunately, I got ahold of Jacques and we made plans to meet later.

pa exterior

The Port Authority Bus Terminal (see left) is the largest in the United States and the busiest in the world by volume of traffic, serving about 8,000 buses and 225,000 people on an average weekday and more than 65 million people a year. How was I going to get a wink of sleep in such a busy public place and why would so many people experiencing homelessness choose to stay there at night?

Unfortunately, according to the NY Daily News (and many of my friends who have stayed in public city shelters) this is why,

“Rats, bedbugs and violence plague the city’s dysfunctional and overcrowded shelter system, built to house people temporarily but now straining under the weight of an expanding crisis. Nearly every homeless person the Daily News interviewed detailed stories of fighting, filth and widespread thievery at shelters. Some had even worse horror stories. Jermaine Williams, 39, a Brooklyn native who’s been homeless for a decade, said he was once awakened by a man masturbating in his face at the homeless shelter on Bedford Ave.

“Outside Penn Station Monday night, Charmain, 41, swore she would never return to a shelter. “I’m not going. They’re going to have to lock me up. The streets are a lot safer. I almost got raped (in a shelter)”, said the woman, who’s been homeless for a year.”

I arrived at Port Authority to find Jacques charging his phone at a charging station while his wife slept on the floor. He told me that his wife was bipolar and self-medicated with tobacco mixed with marijuana. If she didn’t smoke regularly she would flip out. He said even their doctor told him to just let her smoke. Jacques’ wife was stable enough most of the time to paint homes with him and they work regularly when it’s warmer out. She kept her face completely covered with fabric and I asked him if it was because they were religious. He said she just doesn’t want people looking at her. They have been together for 15 years, and married for 5.

Unlike most of the homeless I saw living in the transit stations, Jacques doesn’t drink. Jacques also told me he doesn’t panhandle because it would make his wife too sad. One time they fell asleep at Grand Central and woke up to lots of food and money that people had put down around them. He used the money to buy weed for his wife to keep her calm. Once, some guy even handed him a bottle of expensive whiskey. He doesn’t want to fall into the trap of using alcohol as a coping mechanism, so he gave it away to a homeless guy who was in turn ecstatic.

Not having a drinking problem helps Jacques gain favor with the police. As we were talking, the police came through waking everyone up. Before they could get to his wife, he headed them off to let them know that he was her husband. He woke her up, and as soon as the police left five minutes later, she laid back down and went to sleep.

A little ways down the terminal, I watched the police try to rouse a man. He would not wake up, so they physically picked him up by the arms and carried/dragged him out of the station. I wouldn’t sat that they were too rough–just doing their job. Left behind was a grey wool blanket, which I quickly snatched to use as a mat to sleep on. It was pure instinct, because I was imagining laying my head on the bare, hard floor all night.

Jacques couldn’t go downstairs yet to the Greyhound waiting area until his wife got up and went for a smoke. I was exhausted, so I headed downstairs alone. I put my mat down on the floor in the waiting area and began to read. A man asleep on the floor near me had his boots off and his feet smelled up the entire waiting area. I don’t mean that it smelled a little. It was like toxic fumes that would make your eyes water.

A bus passenger asked the man if he could put his boots back on, but he said they had gotten wet, so he had to let them dry out some. She, along with another passenger, relocated to some seats a little farther away to escape the feet fumes. Thankfully the man did eventually put his boots back on which helped tremendously. Honestly, I could have put with it, but it made everyone else nauseous.

I laid down on my mat, took off my own boots (no shame!), wrapped myself in my blanket and tried to fall asleep. I understood why the other man took off his boots and sympathized. My feet were hot, swollen and my boots were very uncomfortable to wear when trying to sleep. With all of the people around me, both homeless and travelers, it took a while. Even though it was late, there were a lot of people in the Greyhound waiting area. Regularly, loud announcements blasted over the PA system informing people of travel information. I finally fell asleep around 12:30am. At 1:30am the cleaning crew and police woke everyone up so that they could sweep and mop the floor. I stood along with everyone else watching them clean and waiting for our opportunity to get back into the passenger waiting area and catch more sleep.

Port Authority

I did finally pass out, but at 5:15am I woke up needing to go to the bathroom. After that I could not fall asleep again, so I headed upstairs and bought a coffee at Dunkin’ donuts with a gift card that someone on the street had given me while I was panhandling. Boy, was I thankful for that coffee.

As difficult as it was to sleep in Port Authority that night, I reflected that it was actually better than some of the other places I had stayed at which were run by the city of New York like The Main Chance drop-in center. No wonder some people opted to sleep on the hard cement floor here in this busy hub. All of the people who had laid on the floor next to me that night were refugees from who knows what kind of crisis and disaster in their lives. Joining their ranks was eye opening and reminded me once again of how Jesus joined our ranks and chose to align himself with us, despite our many flaws.

Many countries around the world struggle with abject poverty and homelessness. It is more difficult to understand how such a wealthy country like America can fail to help our most vulnerable citizens. I see this as an enormous opportunity for the American Church (big C!) to take our place as those who would come not in judgment, but in compassion to help lift up the broken and the burdened of our society.

I hope that I can be a friend to the downtrodden, the way that Jacques was to me. I hope that I can be Jesus to others the way that Jacques was to me. So often, God doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the called. It took sleeping in Port Authority to see that even clearer. You and I can be a port in the storm, whom others can run to in time of crisis. Like Jesus, we can speak peace and command that storm to be still. “Port Authority” has taken on a whole new meaning to me. We have been authorized and commissioned by Jesus to be a place of refuge for those in trouble.

Stay tuned for part 14 of my STREET PILGRIMAGE series titled, The Final Stretch.


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Jun-28-2019

Freaked Out On 5th Avenue-Part 12 of STREET PILGRIMAGE

5919It was day 6 of my spiritual pilgrimage living on the streets of New York City. It turned out to be the most shocking day of my journey in which I met God in the most disarming way through messengers who he sent to me in the strangest of places…

On a whim, I had decided to walk 20 plus blocks to Trump Tower on 5th Avenue to panhandle. It felt kind of symbolic to go beg and pray at the new White House–kind of like when I begged on Wall Street at the New York Stock Exchange earlier that week. It wasn’t a political move of any kind on my part. By the time I got there my feet were killing me. Some guy was selling silly anti-Trump buttons on the sidewalk. Lots of tourists were taking photos in front of the iconic tower. As I begged, I prayed for the people dropping change in my cup, for the city leaders to have wisdom and innovation to help those experiencing homelessness and for the president and national leaders to know how to help the poor. While I prayed I made a total of $5.39.

It was while I was praying that they most amazing thing happened to me. Three college-aged girls came up to me and asked my name. They sat down on the sidewalk right there on 5th Avenue and talked to me for the next 20 minutes. Their names were Bailey, Andrea and Tiffany. The girls asked if I was hungry and gave me some granola bars. These were some of the only people from mainstream society to give me the time of day all week. I was pretty flabbergasted that they were being so nice. They asked me questions about myself and how I was doing.

One of the young women who initiated the encounter, Bailey Kriebel, later wrote on Facebook about the experience:

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“Over Spring break, I chose to go on a service trip to the Bronx, New York with other students from Messiah College (see left). By the end of the week, my heart was full and I could not contain my excitement for Jesus or for the things He is going to do in my life. I would like to talk about a conversation that I had with a homeless man that really stood out to me.

“We were walking around Manhattan that day and we were encouraged to pray for anybody that we felt called to pray for. My eyes focused on a homeless man sitting across from Trump Tower. As I walked over to him, two other girls from my group followed. Let me remind you that it was freezing. For me, I can go back inside my warm, cozy house when I cannot bear the cold anymore. But for him, he couldn’t. He had no place to go.

“I walked over to him and I asked him his name. He looked surprised, as if his name was meaningless. He told me that his name was Juan. I asked him how he was, and he told me that his feet were sore because he had just walked 20 blocks. I asked him why he was walking that far, and he said he was on a pilgrimage. All he had was a backpack and a blanket. The girls and I offered him granola bars. We actually sat on the sidewalk with him for a while and talked.

“Instead of talking about his life and experiences as a homeless man like the other homeless people I have encountered, he talked about how badly the homeless are treated and how unfair it is because they are people too. He explained that homelessness could happen to anyone, because New York contains many areas that are in complete poverty.

Bailey

“After talking some more, he revealed that we were the only people to actually sit down and talk with him. Only two people asked his name before us. I was amazed. I prayed over him and thanked God for such an amazing individual. I prayed that he would stay safe, healthy, and warm.

“Before we left, he told us to friend him on Facebook. When we looked up his profile, we realized he was not homeless. He was the president of New York City Relief, which is an outreach program we helped with earlier in the week. If you do not know what New York City Relief does, they give food, hygiene kits and socks to people in need and they also offer direction to rehab and detox facilities. We worked there earlier in the week and when I mentioned New York City Relief to Juan, he acted like he had no idea what it was. However, Juan chose to be homeless for a week to find Jesus. We happened to reach out to him and move him even closer to God. He even gave a sermon about it. Around the 40 minute mark, he mentions us and our encounter in this video.

“I would have never even considered walking up to a homeless person before this trip because of the stereotypes I had of them. After this entire trip, I want to. I want to offer them granola bars and prayer. A $2 granola bar may not seem like anything to us, but it could mean everything to someone less fortunate.

“I am going to end with a verse from Isaiah 57. God says: “I live in a high and holy place, and with the oppressed and lowly of spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and revive the heart of the oppressed.”

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I was pretty blown away by the whole experience of meeting these young ladies. I had been mostly alone, isolated and ignored by the public as they walked past me every day. The only people to sit down and talk to me all week, feed me and pray with me were kids we hosted and trained on a New York City Relief outreach for one day that week. They had served on our mobile outreach called The Relief Bus at Chelsea Park in Midtown Manhattan and now they were an unstoppable force for Jesus doing things that most grown men were afraid to try. Watching their life transformation before my eyes felt like an out-of-body experience. I was freaked out, but in a good way.

One of the other young women, Tiffany Burrows actually wrote a college paper on the experience in which she explained:

Tiffany Burrows

“New York City Relief is unique in that they do not simply provide handouts; rather, they seek to commune with the homeless, hear their stories, and to demonstrate that they matter. Often, this inspires the people they serve to seek the opportunities that New York City Relief offers to better themselves. Four of the core values of New York City Relief are Compassion, Oneness, Revolution, and Excellence. Working with members in this organization truly revealed what it meant to be the hands and feet of Christ.

“Personally, it inspired me during my outreach on The Relief Bus to see the homeless in a positive light and to see them in general. In the past, when I saw a homeless person, I would not acknowledge them out of fear. I did not want to give them money to support any bad habits they had and I did not know what to say to them.

“However, what I gathered from this experience was that they want the three essential human needs we all want: to be seen, heard, and valued. Towards the end of the week, I was walking through the streets of Manhattan. I saw what appeared to be a homeless man sitting and begging across from Trump Tower.

They want the three essential human needs we all want: to be seen, heard, and valued.

 

“I decided to take a chance and live out some of the values I learned from on The Relief Bus outreach. I welcomed two other girls from the trip to join me and talk with the homeless man. We sat down next to him and asked him what his name was. He was surprised to be acknowledged and told us that his name was Juan. Juan asked us why we were taking to him and we simply responded that we wanted to get to know him. Our genuineness released some of his hesitancy and he opened up. He shared that he had been on a pilgrimage and had walked several miles before resting. He was cold, tired, and hungry. We offered him granola bars we had carried with us for our travels. We later asked to pray for him and he was receptive. Juan was filled with gratitude and hope. He told us that he had a Facebook account and encouraged us to friend him.

COREVALUES

“Later, the next week we did and discovered that the man we sat with was Juan Galloway, the president of New York City Relief! He messaged the two girls and myself to inform us that he spent the week being homeless to understand the lives of the people he serves.

“Throughout that week, he broke barriers, stereotypes, and was humbled beyond belief. Hardly anyone outside of other homeless people had spoken to him during that journey. He shared how much it meant to him for someone to authentically demonstrate that he mattered. He said that the example we set is the kind of culture he seeks to instill in his team that works at New York City Relief. After dialoguing with Juan more over Facebook and doing further research on the organization, I saw how effective they are. It was extremely unique for the president of the organization to take the risk and be homeless for a week. It showed his humility and compassion for humanity. It also showed that even as the president of New York City Relief, no matter how “high up” you grow in your organization, you are no more important that the people you work among and serve.

“Further, despite enduring many hardships during that week, he chose to focus on the small acts of kindness he experienced from the homeless community. For instance, one night, Juan slept on the E train in Manhattan. After still being tired and exhausted, he encountered another homeless man that offered him his last Dunkin’ Donuts gift card. Repeatedly, he saw the homeless community truly living in communion and giving their last resources to support one another. These are not the stories told about the homeless in our society. Therefore, Juan and New York City Relief make it part of their mission to share these stories with others.

“One quote from Juan’s dad, Richard Galloway, who had started this organization in 1989 stands out to me. He said, “The homeless are not a problem to be solved. They are a portal to the heart of God.”

“Personally, I cannot see a better organization out there that is seeking to remain humble and authentic in their work. They realize that their mission is not a one-way process, but rather a reciprocal one. Because of these experiences, I am now willing to risk comfort to get to know the marginalized. It will be my goal to risk leaving my comfort zone to see people for all that they truly are.”

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These three young women experienced the truth and the truth set them free. They experienced the truth of the commonality and humanity of the poor. Even more importantly, they experienced the truth of the love of Christ that looks past the symptoms of sin and bondage to see and value the hearts of his beloved.

This is what it takes to experience the transformational power of God–leaving what we know to walk by faith into the unknown. Living on the streets taught me that lesson well. I met Jesus through people struggling with homelessness, but also through three college girls who would not be held back by fear of “the other.”

This encounter was a sign from God to me–we were transforming volunteer’s lives who were then going out to transform other lives in the name of Jesus. They had a passion and energy you don’t often see. They were glowing with Christ and were spreading a compassion revolution. These mighty women of God had experienced personal revival and were on a mission.

They were a living example of the scripture which had inspired my father and mother, Richard and Dixie Galloway to start New York City Relief thirty years earlier:

“If you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.” Isaiah 58:10

In Acts 21:8,9 it mentions the four daughters of Philip who were prophetesses. God had sent me three such women who were walking in the spirit and following his guidance. They were messengers and mouthpieces sent to confirm my mission, affirm my call and encourage me to persevere. God had my attention and I was listening.

Out of the literally millions of people walking the streets of New York City and the thousands of people begging, these girls found me, a needle in the haystack. This was no coincidence. The odds that they would choose to minister to me were beyond astronomical. This was an experience that I would never forget. It was a sign to me that our team at New York City Relief was on the right track and that we should keep going, full-steam ahead. When I heard God’s voice through his young servants, the Holy Spirit breathed on me.

Is he breathing on you as you read this? Do you sense him beckoning you to follow in his footsteps and become the blazing light that you were created to be? Do you hear the echoes of scripture when Jesus beckoned, “Come and follow me” and “Feed my sheep?” Be careful of what you wish for, because God might freak you out too. Worse things can happen. 🙂

Stay tuned to read more about my spiritual pilgrimage in Part 13 titled, Any Port In A Storm.


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