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Moments with missionaries: Timothy Walsh

Overflowing with opportunities

Forty thousand cars drive past our church’s campus every 24 hours.

That statistic was among the first things I was told about our congregation’s location after I was assigned to a mission restart on Long Island, N.Y., in May 2021. Our campus is located more or less dead center on the island, right at the intersection of a main north-south artery and the Long Island Expressway or LIE. (The joke we tell around here is that the lie in LIE is “express.” At rush hour, it resembles the world’s largest parking lot.)

With 40,000 cars a day driving by and close to a million people within a 20-minute driving radius, there’s certainly opportunity for us to meet people! So we hung some new banners, cleaned up our roadside landscaping, and put out a big clothing donation bin. We also pop out for every car with a flat tire that pulls into our parking lot (probably three a week) with a water, a smile, and an invitation to church.

There are also street fairs and festivals every weekend from June to September, where smiling people from a small, friendly local church hand out frisbees and tote bags and . . . you guessed it . . . invitations to church.

The funny thing is, when you’ve taken all these opportunities to meet people, you end up meeting people!

man holding small child
One of the ways Grace of God meets people in its community is by participating in local street fairs and festivals.

You meet people who’ve been in church all their lives and people who’ve never darkened the door. You meet people whose home lives are very buttoned up and neat, and people whose home lives are anything but. You meet people who want to ask every question under the sun, and you meet people who fear the sound of their own voice. You meet people who are happy, sad, and kind—and some who aren’t.

And with the eyes that our Savior gives you—eyes like his own eyes—you love them. “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them” (Matthew 14:14).

New Yorkers are busy. Every time I leave our island, I see how much more slowly everyone else lives life. Not New Yorkers. Our lives are fast-paced, and our days are full. And being that busy, we don’t always interact well with one another. The caricature of New Yorkers (“I’m walkin’ here!”) isn’t terribly inaccurate. We’re “peopled out.” It can be hard to love at every opportunity when you can easily bump shoulders with hundreds of strangers on a normal day.

But it’s what makes Christians stand out.

New Yorkers guard their affection. It’s doled out sparingly. But the love God puts in our hearts as his children does not need to be guarded and measured. We let it spill out through our front doors and into our communities and our workplaces, our schools and our supermarkets, and every interaction we have. Why? Because while we may have new opportunities to meet people every day, we just can’t be sure how many opportunities any one of us has left.

Maybe 40,000 cars don’t drive by your church every day. Maybe you don’t see new people on every trip to the supermarket. Maybe it doesn’t feel like the same opportunities exist for you to show love. But I promise you—and, more important, God promises you—they do.

Learn more about home mission work at wels.net/homemissions.

Author: Timothy Walsh
Volume 111, Number 03
Issue: March 2024

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