A prime element of that unique set of circumstances which Urban Nations seeks to exploit is the capacious freedom we enjoy to disseminate the Word of God. In no other nation is this liberty as large as it is in America. In no other city are as many nations represented as are present in New York.
As a gift from God, we find ourselves ministering to people from scores of nations, some of whom have not hearkened to the Word they've had, some who've not had the Word at all, and some who've not even heard that there is the Word. In every case we find it our obligation and privilege to make that Word known.
Urban Nations Ambassador David Schildkraut told me that in a recent class he recounted to his students the story of Purim (found in the Book of Esther). "After the class," David reports, "a number of students asked me where they could find the account they had just heard. I told them that it was from the Book of Esther in the Bible.
"Six students told me that they had never read or owned a Bible. I told them that I would gladly give them a Bible, upon one condition: that they promise to read it. I `sowed' four Russian Bibles, one Spanish Bible and one in Arabic. Two of the students asked me when they had to return them. I repeated: They could keep the Bibles on the condition that they read them."
David asks for you to "pray that Irina, Elena, Zhanna, Inna, Roberto and Achmed would not only read the inspired Word of God, but that the Spirit would grant them understanding. Only the power of the living God can cause atheists, Muslims and other non-believers to be so open and eager to receive His Word."
Another Urban Nations Ambassador, Bob Ciago, is teaching English and Bible to (among others) a 30-year-old medical college graduate from Communist China: Ming Bo Lee (who calls himself Paul). As a result of UN's ministry, Ming has been attending worship services each Lord's Day. He has also been coming to fellowship dinners hosted by members of Messiah's. (The accompanying photo shows several immigrants with UN staff and volunteers at one such fellowship: Ming Bo Lee is on the left, David Schildkraut is in the back row with a Russian man between him and Ming, and Bob Ciago is in the rear row at the right.) Additionally, on Mondays and Wednesdays he comes to English classes which have evolved into simple Bible studies with a wee bit of instruction in the use of idioms.
Bob reports: "In a recent discussion about civil government, Ming Bo Lee told us of the persecution of Christians in China. He said it was not uncommon for anyone found merely to be in possession of a Bible to be sentenced to prison for as long as seven years."
Thus, Ming had never had access to the Word. But God had not left Himself without a witness altogether. Bob was curious as to why Ming was so very interested, from day one, in studying the Bible and attending church functions. Ming Bo Lee explained that though he was an "atheist" from an atheistic home and atheistic culture, something had been gnawing at him since medical school: As a student of anatomy (Bob had to ask him to repeat the word "anatomy" seven or eight times before he understood the word; one of those amusing reminders of Babel!), Ming Bo Lee began to think. "How could a body so complex just come about? How could this come to be without a Great Designer?" He concluded that it was impossible. Thus, God's magnificent design (Psalm 139) led Ming to want to know more about the "Designer," Whom we know very well through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Ming Bo Lee has been here for just six months. This "atheist" has now asked our church to pray for him as he prepares to take a medical school exam this September. Something remarkable may lie on the other side of this prayer: Ming has told us of his desire to increase his medical competency here and return to China to help his people. It is our earnest desire that Ming Bo Lee's choice of an American name proves to be of Divine origin. We pray that "Paul" returns to China a physician equipped to heal more than the body. We pray that he will be a bearer of that Word which is given for the healing of the nations.
It is here in New York City where all nations have by God been gathered. It is here where His Word is, for many, first heard: from those who had simply never heard, to those who had been forbidden to hear. This is the field we work until harvest. Please join us in this labor of love for the glory of the world's only Savior.
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- Steve M. Schlissel
Steve Schlissel has served as pastor of Messiah's Congregation in Brooklyn, New York, since 1979. Born and raised in New York City, Schlissel became a Christian by reading the Bible. He and Jeanne homeschooled their five children and also helped raise several foster children (mostly Vietnamese). In 2003, they adopted Anna (who was born in Hong Kong in 1988, but is now a U.S. citizen). They have eight foster grandchildren and fourteen "natural" grandchildren.