Who's there? You never know. When I walk out my front door in New York City I'm as likely to meet a person from around the world as from around the corner.
Once I went outside and found an Islamic family, recently arrived from Egypt, in front of my house. They were looking for an address, but they were in the wrong neighborhood (they did not know that East 24th Street was miles away from West 24th Street). Wrong neighborhood, that is, on their agenda, not the Lord's. We ended up teaching English to the wife and finding a job for the husband.
Another time I found a Russian immigrant, Nadia, looking somewhat confused. Long story short: Nadia ended up living with us for a year or so, and heard about the Lord Jesus day and night.
Once when I answered the phone, a Sri Lankan man asked for help. He, too, ended up living with us. We helped him bring his wife and child over from a war-torn area of Sri Lanka and assisted him with his career. He is now a successful businessman and he and his wife have three children (the latter two with Biblical names). In fact, this is the man who gave the Egyptian man employment!
Every day in New York City is an adventure in world missions. And there is no sign that this will let up soon; in fact, the opportunities are growing. A report in The New York Times earlier this year confirms what our eyes have already seen: immigrants are becoming the dominant group in New York's demographics. 563,000 legal immigrants poured into the city from 1990 through 1994, joining the more than 2 million legal and 400,000 illegal immigrants who were already here. (I judge these numbers to be conservative.) During the same period ('90-'94), about 500,000 native New Yorkers left the city.
Not only are immigrants replacing American-born residents; they are out-reproducing them. "In 1990, 29 percent of the women in the city were foreign-born, but they had 43 percent of the children." Foreign-born residents and the children born to them here make up 53 percent of New York's official, legal population.
The trend is toward a greater representation of the world in this single city. One of the most dramatic increases is among those from former Soviet Republics. "Average annual immigration from the Ukraine, Russia, Belarus and other nations rose tenfold from the 1980's to the 1990's."
The top countries of origin for immigrants to New York City are:
- Dominican Republic
- Former Soviet Union
- China (includes Taiwan and Hong Kong)
These 15 sources contribute nearly 80 percent of the number of souls arriving annually. Add the other countries of origin and we have more than 112,000 legal immigrants moving to New York City each year, all of whom need to hear about the saving grace of God in Jesus Christ.
When we at Urban Nations say, "The world is here now," we're not just talking through our hat. Our motto is well chosen: Reaching the World Where the World's Within Reach. But we need more than a motto to do the work.
"Opportunity to fulfill the Great Commission in a single generation."
"No, we're not. Everything is in place—except the funds."
"What are you going to do?"
"Knock-knock!" (Mt. 7:7,8)
2662 East 24th Street
Brooklyn, NY 11235
E-mail: [email protected]
- 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.