Arkansas Baptist women from six different churches recently spent five days in Bay Ridge praying for, ministering among, and learning from the diaspora in Brooklyn, New York. Bay Ridge is one of many ethnically diverse communities in Brooklyn, New York. God connected these women with women from Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Palestine, Yemen, and other nations. The Gospel was shared, seeds were planted, sprouts were watered, and hearts were strengthened and blessed.
The Brooklyn Arab American Friendship Center (BAAFC) is a lighthouse in the middle of Bay Ridge. Arkansas women have been involved there over the last 12 years. Arkansas Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) Executive Director Debbie Moore has led more than 60 Arkansas Baptist women to serve and share the light of Christ during that time.
Moore shared the purpose for these trips, “We go there to teach English classes to the immigrant population, but our motivation is sharing the love of Christ. We’re able to provide encouragement to the BAAFC staff (a small group of volunteers who serve faithfully). We walk the streets praying, meeting women in dress shops and other small businesses. We drink coffee and tea, listen, learn, and love in Jesus’ name. Our trips to Brooklyn always make me thankful that God continues using Arkansas women, just ordinary Christ followers, to plant gospel seeds and cultivate friendships that one day may result in decisions to follow Jesus.”
Bit Stephens said, “On this trip, it was reiterated in my heart for the need to return consistently to ministry locations. The trust and confidence built over a decade by Debbie Moore and 60+ other ladies continue to provide access for the Gospel advancement. This advancement went out to 10 people groups of ladies from North Africa and the Middle East. They are precious and are so grateful for the teams’ faithfulness in being present.”
A group of six ladies from First Baptist Church in Russellville arrived on Sept. 29 to host a women’s retreat at a church plant in Bushwick, a neighborhood in Brooklyn. The second group of seven from Little Rock area churches arrived on Oct. 1 to join them in teaching at the BAAFC.
Natalie Burk, leader of the group from Russellville reminisced, “Last spring, a group of six women from Russellville FBC travelled to Brooklyn to serve in Bay Ridge at the Arab American Friendship Center. One afternoon we went to Bushwick to meet Danny and Melissa Torres and serve at a food pantry with Swerve Church. One of our pastors had previously connected with Danny Torres and asked us to add him to our prayer list. We would communicate with him monthly about how we could pray for his family and Swerve Church. I felt like I knew Danny and Melissa before I actually met them because of praying for them. That day we learned more about their church/ministry and how we could best partner with them. Melissa gave us the idea to do something special for the women who attend Swerve.
“We gathered a team of six women to plan and prepare for a women’s event centered around 2 Corinthians 2:15. Our theme was ‘Sweet Savor’ and how we are the fragrance of Christ. We had lunch, played games, made hand scrubs and were taught a Bible lesson by Jill McSheehy. Jill is a talented, articulate speaker who prepared and taught. The ladies of Danville FBC collected beauty items for each woman to have a nice gift bag as well as gift cards for door prize giveaways. Twenty-five women came and seven children.”
McSheehy reflected, “Going into it, I prepared with the thought we were serving them. And we did. But as I observed the women of the church together with one another, I realized our role was more like that of a connector. We would be there for a day, but they would be with each other long after we left. At the event I could see that they became closer to one another, and my hope and prayer was that our day with them helped them to forge stronger relationships with each other. It’s those relationships that will help them minister to one another and reach their community in a way that will go beyond a one-day event. “
Burk said, “I was blessed by our time at Swerve Church. I left impacted by Danny and Melissa’s humble, servant leadership. It was a joy to see the love that the women and children had for Christ and for each other. They were a beautiful picture of what the body of Christ should look like! My prayer is that they left refreshed and encouraged.”
On Sunday afternoon, the “Russellville ladies” joined the group that had just arrived from Little Rock for a time of fellowship with Church Planters Nate and Leslie Tubbs. Nate pastors Cornerstone Church in Bay Ridge.
Old friendships were renewed, and new ones formed as the Arkansas team met with the volunteers at BAAFC to hear testimonies of God’s faithfulness and solidify plans for the upcoming four days of classes. The two groups would take turns teaching and practicing English with the students while engaging in learning activities and crafts.
A highlight of the trip was taking a ferry to Brooklyn Bridge Park with the New York skyline as a backdrop to enjoy a day of cross-cultural fellowship with the volunteers and students from BAAFC.
Rosita Waite, a member of Hillcrest Community Church who has gone on previous trips to Bay Ridge, shared, “On this trip to Brooklyn I got to see in greater sense the expressions of our Lord Jesus through many members of His body; the sisters in NY including ‘G’ (Central Asia) the Russellville team, Lesley Tubbs and family, and our team. Hearing every testimony and seeing every interaction made me just want to praise Jesus. And then ‘R’s’ (Middle East) sweet heart reminded me that our God works even in the heart of those who are yet to submit to Christ.”