Demons, suicide, sexual assault and the enduring effects of sin -- our innate brokenness and separation from Our Father, the Son and Holy Spirit -- are a regular part of my life at InterVarsity's New York City Urban Project. Simultaneously, physical and spiritual healing, audacious hope, and life chosen over death is just as common. Here's what that looks like. (Names have been changed to protect privacy*)
Tuesday, Matt* told me that he was raped by his next door neighbor for a year starting when he was 9 years old.
Wednesday Michael* said he purchased sex with exploited girls in massage parlors in China.
Thursday Latisha* and others described the shame of their ethnic identity and undesirability as women of color.
Friday, Juan* admitted that he was addicted to hallucinogenic drugs in the past, is oppressed by demons, and was cursed by a shaman as a child in Colombia. Jacqueline* wanted to commit suicide unable to deal with the stigma of mental illness. And Natalie* is immobilized by her parents' pressure and expectations and literally ran out of the sanctuary as worship got "too deep." Taylor* can't tell her mom that her boyfriend is black. And Larry* admits that he hit his girlfriend more than once.
Tuesday night, when I put my hand on Matt*, a colleague began to intercede and we began to battle for his soul. And Jesus won.
Wednesday, Michael* repented for crushing the image of God in the women of his province by visiting brothels and desires to be an instrument for the abolition movement in China.
Thursday, Latisha* and the women of color in the room heard they are desirable, lovable and worthy of acceptance, celebration and romance.
Friday, Juan* had an encounter with Jesus. He commanded the voices to cease and the demons to leave in the name of Jesus. And they obeyed. He chose to join the family of Jesus, to believe in the Trinity and renounce the ways of the Enemy.
Jacqueline* is alive because of Jesus. She is not defective, unwanted or unloved. She is worthy of life and worthy of time. Natalie* hears through Spirit-filled intercession that the presence of God is safe for her because Jesus. He is the first-born of many brothers making the way for her in His Family and she is free to worship without inhibition. Taylor* left with an invitation to humble curiosity, to pray against the fear her parents hold of black Americans, and be a bridge and an advocate for her boyfriend to her family's culture. And Larry* needs immediate separation from his girlfriend, therapy and a deep sense of his own sinfulness and grace of God to stop the cycle of domestic violence in His family.
The stories described are normal. The pain that many of us carry, including those on college campuses are why we ask those who support us to pray and give. For we know the battle is not against flesh and blood but against powers, principalities and spiritual wickedness in high places. If we were just here to feed the hungry or visit the sick, then there would be no difference between us and the next NGO. But this is the outpouring of a life lived in pursuit of God's redemption and renewal of all things. NYCUP, where we seek to develop leaders with the character and capacity to change the world is a classroom for disciples of Christ to equip them for the Great Commission. And the fruit of this work is transformed people who transform the world through feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, healing the sick, casting out demons, ending human trafficking and much more.
We long for our students and community leaders to become ambassadors of Christ, ministers of reconciliation, evangelists in word, deed and power. We create a space for those willing to have an encounter with the living God to meet Him and make the conscious decision that Jesus is Savior, Lord, Messiah and King. NYCUP provides a context for that to happen. Thank you to those of you who pray for Priscilla and me and this work. We are grateful and excited to see His Glory revealed in the eyes of powerful and powerless, those in the margins and in the middle, those that we idolize and vilify -- because all are in need of an encounter with Jesus.