Hope for New York volunteers are constantly thinking through how they can best serve their neighbors in need as a response to the grace shown by Jesus. Maybe that means hosting a dinner to engage peers to address homelessness. Or inviting college students to use their design skills to serve non-profits across the city. Maybe it means serving faithfully at one specific ministry, or growing closer in community with others by serving together.
Let these stories from four Hope for New York volunteers inspire you to pray through how God might want to use you to bring greater peace and flourishing to this city. Looking to get involved as a volunteer with HFNY? Find great opportunities at hfny.org/volunteer.
Redeemer East Side
Last month, my friend Mel and I hosted an Exchange Dinner on behalf of Hope for New York’s Young Supporters Committee. We go to Redeemer East Side, and planned the dinner to engage our friends and colleagues on homelessness in this city, to connect them with ways to volunteer, and to vask for a financial commitment toward The Hope Exchange, HFNY’s monthly giving program.
This was the first of HFNY’s Exchange Dinners, so it was a bit of an experiment. But we ended up bringing together 14 strangers! We weren’t sure how the group would mesh or how receptive everyone would be to the program. Leading up to the dinner, we prayed for our friends’ hearts to be open to the message of supporting the poor of our city. Of course, God had it all worked out!
Not only did all 14 people get along very well, but also we had engaging conversations and even spent time assembling care packages for the homeless from items everyone had donated. God is unfailingly good, and He always keeps me on my toes. I’m so thankful to God for this unique opportunity to reach our friends. The next day, a non-Christian friend told me she wanted to volunteer with us next month at the Relief Bus. I look forward to many more Exchange Dinners!
Redeemer West Side
As a professor in the Interior Design department at the Fashion Institute of Technology and a Redeemer West Sider, I try to help our students master abstract academic concepts while fostering social responsibility. To that end, I founded the Integrated Service-Learning Project at FIT in 2013, which encourages students to gain experience by participating in pro bono projects that benefit their communities.
We’ve had the opportunity to partner with many of Hope for New York’s non-profit affiliates. In 2015, a group of students re-furnished the Bowery Mission Women’s Center bedrooms. They also presented proposals for the facade at Living Waters Community Center. It’s incredible to see the students’ desires to serve others by sharing their talents as a way of responding to issues of social justice in the public square.
It’s also gratifying to hear from the non-profits we’ve served — like Restore NYC. They were
so grateful our students were able to turn their dreams for their space into a reality. The interactions our volunteers have with those they serve has given them a lens through which they can see beyond themselves and become engaged in the complexity of the world’s struggles for human dignity. I’m excited to see how they’ll serve our neighbors this year through our partnership with St. Paul’s House.
Shortly after I moved to New York from Denmark, I decided to volunteer at The Bowery Mission’s Wednesday meal service after finding out about Hope for New York at Redeemer Downtown. While the concept of serving others wasn’t foreign to me, my busy schedule always got in the way of making serving others a priority.
But after I started serving at the Mission, I met a number of volunteers who had similarly busy schedules, yet still managed to prioritize service. As they encouraged me, I slowly started to make room in my agenda. Now, I serve as a Hope for New York Volunteer Team Leader with The Bowery Mission. Not only do I directly serve people in need, but also I’m also able to assist the Mission and my fellow volunteers. And I’ve learned an important lesson: Service is not about me. It’s about God! But God can use me only if I humbly let Him lead me.
Certainly, there are times I feel discouraged. When volunteers don’t show up. When efforts aren’t appreciated. But I’ve also been so inspired by the many people in New York who genuinely want to help others — and by the way many of the people in need bear their difficulties in faith. Their attitudes are humbling and encouraging. Serving others has a way of bringing enormous blessing and joy to you.
Redeemer Lincoln Square
My first Christmas in the city my community group from Redeemer West Side volunteered at His Toy Store in the South Bronx with A House on Beekman. We’ve continued serving there alongside each other every year, and it has been one of the great gifts God has given me since moving here five years ago.
It is a gift to see the joy on kids’ faces as we jump rope together or paint faces — not to mention interacting with parents as they choose gifts for their children. Our shared experience of serving has allowed my community group to grow closer, and it has also connected us to people we might not have known otherwise — and, ultimately, it’s drawn us closer to Christ.
And as we’ve understood more of who we are collectively in Christ through serving, He’s grown our desire to share His love outwardly. His Toy Store opened our eyes to the needs of our neighbors and has given us a heart for serving together in other ministries, like Don’t Walk By and The Bowery Mission Women’s Center. Volunteering has been an incredible way for us to live out our faith and grow deeper in community. God has graciously given us the gift of Christ, how can we not serve those around us and share His love with others?