Lawson Soward's Archive

Live from a Bronx McDonalds

933 Commentsby   |  07.23.11  |  The Bronx, New York

I am currently in a Bronx McDonalds with a kids drink so that I’m allowed to stay here.

The temperature here has been in the high 90s and 100s the past couple of days, we have no A/C and the city is like a concrete oven. I heard today that 23 people have died in the city over the past few days from this heat and as horribly sad as that is, I have no trouble believing it.

The A/C in this McDonalds is heavenly, my drink is refreshing, and all this with free wifi makes me feel like a king. Compared to the rest of the world – to many of my brothers and sisters posting from other places all over the world – thats not much if any of an exaggeration.

What an amazing experience this continues to be. Noemi arrived a while back and we’ve been attached at the hip since. I am so blessed to have her as a partner and as another full-time intern with the same schedule as me.

We’ve bumped up the prayer station count to 4 and even 5 times a week. They’ve become the mainstay of our outreach and I couldn’t love it more. We are an unconditional presence in the city that doesn’t yell hell-mongering, but rather offers prayer to those only comfortable to write it down, prayer on the spot to those who are comfortable with that, and the offer of Bible study and organic church to anyone feeling especially called in their searching for God. They are such great constants in my week.

Noemi and I have updated all of our fliers to complete spanish and have some tables that are purely spanish. One such table resulted in our first bible study where the person didn’t cancel last-minute (which is apparently really common in this city). Though the study discussion was lead by Noemi and Carol, I was as encouraged as if I had been there with them to hear how well it went and continue to pray for that relationship to be fruitful.

We have also joined a gym, hoping to increase our presence in the community and live in holistic health. The times there have been great for reflection during long runs on the treadmill and in looking for people who we can recognize as the days go by and potentially begin casual relationship with. We want to be in interaction with the people of the Bronx in as many ways as possible, and going to be around a college age group puts us around peers in an unintimidating setting that we are praying the Lord will use for the furthering of His kingdom in any mysterious way He sees fit.

My conversation clubs at Columbia University have changed in form a bit. Where I had been teaching two classes a week – one based off of worksheets & converational exercises and one based off of Bible study – with a partner from a sister organization here in the city, I am now only going to the Bible study and my partner’s time here has expired. My first solo study is this Thursday and I am very anxious to see how it plays out. The people there have genuinely become my friends and many are from Asiatic cultures without any exposure to Biblical text or the Christian message. It is truly unique and wonderful to watch someone learn about the gospel for the very first time with curiosity and interest in learning more. While some are compelled by what looks like a new truth and others are only reading it as an interesting literary means to expanding their English vocabulary, the time there is always a highlight of my week.

Honestly, most days of my week are highlights of my week.

We are praying every morning and continuing to see the answers to those prayers with much more dynamic timing than that which my often impatient heart wants.

Turning 23 this past Monday especially challenged me to continue to grow in discipline and patience, rather than years alone. I am so glad for the work God is doing in me and through me and my partners here.

Thank you for your continued prayers. They are felt every day.

Hello from New York

13 Commentsby   |  06.20.11  |  The Bronx, New York

My biggest hello from the Big Apple! My first days here have been such an adventure. It is clear God is working in the Bronx and in expanding my comfort zone.

My flight and arrival went smoothly and I couldn’t help but stare at the scale of this city as we flew overhead to La Guardia and a cab drove me through the highways and city streets to my new home. The cab dropped me off at the closest intersection and I was quickly picked up by the resident missionary of Christ Fellowship Network, Jared Looney. It was so great to see a face I recognized from Skype in such a new place.

When he dropped me off at where I would be living, I soon came to realize it was not the home of the a dominican family he had told me about. As it happens, the internship this summer is falling differently than any other because of the sheer number of people the CFN (who’s outreach to those on the fringes leads to a meager-if-existent contribution) is having to house for the next month or so. In addition to myself and my partner who will be flying in on July 1st, there are two students from ACU’s Graduate School of Theology (Penny and Carol) who are working on research for their thesis here while also interning. With a grand total of 4, the aging couple would not have had room for everyone, nor been up to all the demands that having 4 extra people living with you can entail. The money Penny & Carol raised to live here combined with a contribution from the CFN’s budget allowed them to take over the lease of a nearby apartment from the month they arrived (January) until July.  So I currently find myself living with two wonderful sisters in Christ who welcomed me and the unconventional arrangement with grace and friendship. I have never had any sisters before but they have helped me out just like a younger brother and have been great at helping me get my bearings here. My “room” is a futon in the living room/kitchen and a broom closet is my closet. They share the bedroom and have an extra mattress  for when my partner arrives. We take turns cooking every night and I am quickly becoming impressed by how many more things I actually know how to make than I had thought. I am set to move in with the family I initially thought I would be living with in late July, when the Penny and Carol return to Texas.

Once settled, I was sent to get a Metro Card, a subway map, a Bronx bus map, and explore. I went to all 5 boroughs in the first two days with a list of important religious and cultural sights to see. I saw a Synagogue in the neighborhood nearby my apartment, a Mosque downtown, a Buddhist temple in China Town, St. Peter’s Cathedral, and even went to Stock Exchange on Wall Street, what some consider a temple to Mammon. My second day, I was only allowed to speak in Spanish as I navigated through the hispanic neighborhoods around New York. It was humbling to see what 4 semesters away from immersion and 1 semester away from any kind of instruction can do to diminish your vocabulary. The rest of the week was spent in orientation meetings, reflection, and prayer.

We meet to pray every morning. We all get up at 9:00 and go to a median near the train tracks that it almost a bull’s eye center of the Bronx and pray for the city. We have been praying for God to stir the hearts of the people of the Bronx, and make our mission to go out looking for the answers to prayer. The results, even in the two weeks I have been here, have already been amazing.

A pastor in a rough L.A. neighborhood leading a church that meets open air in a park, has contacted the CFN, feeling called to move and minister in the Bronx. A Mexican brother who has been meeting off and on for the past 6 months or so, began a Bible study with folks back in Mexico through phone & Skype, and has finally begun reaching out to other Mexicans in his neighborhood.  A Ghanian brother who had been out of contact with the CFN for 3 years, called out of the blue and said he has two other guys he’s gotten connected to as well. Young single mother, Facebooked about connecting with a house church as soon as possible. A 3rd generation group, outside of any centralized CFN leadership has just begun in a friendship circle that Jared keeps in touch with. And most exciting of all, last night I got to film the brother-in-law of one of the guys in a house church I attend here, be baptized in a bath tub. He had previously converted to Islam, but has realized that salvation is found in Christ.

I meet with conversation clubs, some that use linguistic worksheets and others that use the Bible, to teach English to those looking to learn at Columbia University. I set up prayer tables 3 days a week where people can write their prayers with no pressure or find out more information about meeting with others seeking Jesus. I have prayed for people who are looking at serving a second stint of jail time, people who’s children are addicted to drugs, and people who can’t find a job that pays over half of minimum wage (or a job at all). The enemy is at work in this city but I sense God’s work as well. Scripture speaks of a God who loves overwhelming odds and responds to the desperate petitions of His children. I could not be more excited for what the next few months hold.

Thank you so much, again, for your support and prayers. I promise you that they are felt each and every day.

10 Commentsby   |  04.25.11  |  The Bronx, New York

I don’t feel like I’m going to be in Bronx in a little over a month. At all.

Senior year was supposed to be this light-course-load, relaxed, time but it has been the fullest of my years at ACU. It has been completely wonderful, but my thoughts have been almost fully consumed with trying to foster the relationships I have with people that will all be going separate ways (maybe forever) in a few short weeks. I have barely made any time to dedicate to pure, uninterrupted reflection on only this mission aside from organizing where I was going and sending out letters. Embarking in to a new phase in my life is so daunting. The thought of graduating and moving my bed from the city I’ve lived in for 4 years back to my parents house is surreal. I’m not ready.. for anything, but when I think about it, that is really so exciting.

I have never done any real mission work before. I am not a Bible major. I feel out of place among my peers on this blog; at times I don’t even feel like a peer. But knowing that we are all on the same team is so encouraging. I am exceedingly confident that God will do amazing things through my brothers and sisters who’s knowledge of the Word puts mine to shame, in places far more exotic and apart from the United States. As much as I feel discouraged sometimes, I am equally confident that God is able to do just as amazing things through someone as inexperienced as me.

I can’t wait to get to New York and to the inner city. I am so excited to re-enter into a Spanish-speaking community and grow into to a level of effective communication. I am horrified and thrilled by the thought of approaching strangers and inviting them to conversation and watching the spirit lead that conversation to Christ. My mission field is as organic as the mission I am entering into itself, but out of what currently looks difficult-to-define to my unknowing eyes I know God can work in amazing and definite ways. I may not feel ready, but I know God is.