Below are reflections from two REH staff persons who have been serving monthly at the Bowery Mission's East Harlem Campus, an all-male residential rehabilitation program.
When Pastor Justin first asked me to lead a chapel service at the Bowery Mission East Harlem Campus, an all-male residential drug and alcohol rehab program located at E. 115th Street, I sought wisdom from a friend who calls herself a ‘sober addict.’ She told me, throughout her healing journey, it was not those who spoke the best or taught her the most, but the ones who showed her love that made the greatest impact. Truth is important, of course. And love cannot be love without also being True. I needed this reminder in order to reflect my own experience of God’s love out into the world––that this would be enough. I’m grateful to the Bowery Mission for deepening my understanding of this each time I visit.
When I consider the Christian view on healing, my mind goes to the Gospel of Mark. In one of its earliest healing narratives, Jesus is preaching to a crowd when four men arrive, carrying a paralyzed man on a mat. When their path to Jesus was impeded, due to the large crowd, the men cut a hole in the roof and lowered the paralyzed man into the room to encounter Jesus––what a scene! When Jesus sees their faith, he forgives the man’s sins and tells him to “get up, take your mat and go home” (Mk. 2:11), and the man does so. While this passage deserves more time than I can devote here, it is important to punctuate its intersection of healing and love. In Jesus’ time, ill health often came with negative connotations, both religiously and socially. Religiously, in that time, ill-health was often believed to be the result of personal or ancestral sin. Socially, those suffering from ill health were often treated as social outcasts, because of their presumed sin and their inability to work. Therefore, when these four men showed immense love to their paralyzed neighbor, it was countercultural; a transgressive love. I believe this passage points us to the kind of love that we are called to show to our neighbors, an act that is only possible because of Jesus' transgressive love for us. Because of this, we are blessed with the possibility to heal in community.
My understanding of this has been deepened by witnessing and joining in the care administered at the Bowery. As Christians, we are called to mirror Jesus’ holistic healing which not only treats a person’s symptoms, but nourishes their soul and puts them back in connection with their community. The Bowery is a reminder that healing never takes place in a vacuum. The program helps residents to find jobs, better understand themselves, and take time to find their feet in a chaotic world. The chapel services are my (admittedly small) window into the Bowery, but I have seen lots of love and hope in the relationships the brothers have built—their jokes, their beliefs, and their questions. I’m grateful to all of them, and to the chaplains and staff at the Bowery who have invited REH to participate in the care of their residents. The Christian life has no categorization for a believer without a community. The people at the Bowery understand this, and our neighborhood is better for it.
–Will Sheldon, REH Intern
Since the 19th Century, The Bowery Mission has faithfully served New Yorkers. Motivated to help the impoverished and marginalized, this organization continues to astound our city through its charitable actions. Redeemer East Harlem was invited to serve alongside The Bowery by leading a monthly chapel service. It has been an honor to partner in a place where the gospel of peace is heard, the love of God is demonstrated, and where holistic flourishing abounds. We thank God for the excellent care administered at The Bowery.
The chapel services in which we participate are located at the Bowery’s East Harlem campus, and are a wonderful way we can serve the home’s residents. While serving there, we’ve had the opportunity to meet people from all over the world. We’ve heard stories of God’s providential work in the lives of many––stories that include the good, the bad, and the ugly. We are not only privileged to minister there, but we are also ministered to and encouraged by the radical love and generosity occurring at the Bowery.
This is how Christian ministry works, of course. We not only give, we also receive. We see this exemplified in the ministry of Jesus. Consider momentarily that the incarnation of our Lord Jesus serves as a basis for how one is to minister. Jesus willfully entered the world marked by sin, suffering, and misery (Romans 8:3, Phil 2:7). He voluntarily entered into the lives of people just like us: the broken, the outcasts, even those oppressed by demonic activity (Mark 5:1-20). Yet, Jesus was also ministered to (Matt 4:11, Luke 8:1-3). In an analogous way, Christian ministry is, at times, the same. We step into the lives of others to minister to them and yet find ourselves being ministered to and blessed by them. In God’s kindness, this reciprocity ensures that we are refreshed, in the same way, we refresh others (2 Tim 1:16, Philemon 1:7, 1 Cor 16:18).
One of the privileges afforded us in our visitations is to hear the way Christ, in his loving kindness, saved the residents of the Bowery. Indeed, we’ve witnessed how the love of God arrested them from a life spiraling out of control. In their testimonies, we see ourselves! For we all like sheep, have gone astray (Isaiah 53:6). We’ve been reminded that our confidence rests not in our ability to save ourselves, but in Christ’s faithful, tender voice to call us home (Matt 11:28, John 10:27-28). Though there are some residents still curious and questioning the Christian faith, nonetheless, the joy of the Bowery is knowing that Christ is consistently proclaimed, for which we give God great thanks (Phil 1:18)!
–David Fernandez, Community Outreach Manager
Here is a brief video about the Bowery Mission's Residential Program for Men:
Please keep this ministry in your prayers!