“After a balmy respite, it’s feeling like fall again today: mostly sunny with a light breeze and high of 59,” read the New York Times on the light chilly morning of October 31st , 2015. I was glad because we needed the nice weather that day.
Miq Munoz was getting ready to leave his beautiful family for another day of work, he was coming from Queens; Boto, a young missionary native of Nagaland, India full with energy and zeal to reach out to the unreached people groups was doing exactly the same thing. He was expecting four of his team members to join him to lead worship for an extraordinary event, while at the same time Larry Holcomb of the Urban Center from Queens, and Chris Clayman of Global Gates from the Bronx were planning to arrive about the same time to meet me. April, Audrey, and Karen worked hard the whole week, and now they were on their way to the lobby of Calvary Baptist Church where two rectangular tables covered in red were waiting for them.
A few hours ago, my wife and I finally made it to bed after finishing some last minutes details for the conference. “We cannot do anything more, it’s in your hands,” I prayed right before I fell asleep, just hours before I knew I would be waking up with so much to do. “Ring Ring…” my phone was sitting on the dresser. I rushed to grab the phone, but my wife beat me to it. “It’s Chris,” she said. Chris and I have known each other for a quite some time now. To me, he is the modern day Hudson Taylor, an innovative, ambitious, godly, and down-to-earth kind of man.
“I am here,” he said. He was accompanied by Dr. David Garrison, who was his co-speaker. David has interviewed 1000 Muslim-background followers of Christ from all over the world and has asked them what God used to bring them to faith in Jesus Christ. His book, A Wind in the House of Islam: how God is drawing Muslims around the world to faith in Jesus Christ, has become an incredible resource to understand how God is starting movements with the Islamic world to bring Muslims to Christ. Chris was scheduled to speak in the morning plenary session, discussing the ever increasing number of Muslims in the metro New York area, and David was speaking in the afternoon plenary session.
“Let’s meet in my office,” I said. In his African-style banded-collar button-up shirt and un-ironed light green dress pants and a brown jacket, he did not look any different than yesterday when he spent his whole day in my office going over all kinds of details with me to ensure that we had covered everything. His constant big smile behind his extravagant goatee told me that he is as content as a man of God should be. He hugged me while I was sitting in my office chair, and in the most awkward posture while hugging each other, we began our day by praying for each other and everyone who was to attend the conference, including the presenters and speakers who were to speak and teach in forty four breakout sessions.
Collaboration and Team Work
Miq worked tirelessly, as did the rest of the staff to make sure everything went according to plan. The greatest challenge we had was the complex locations of rooms; therefore, we had an army of volunteers through the Urban Center to help the participants to move from one class to another without any major problems. At exactly 8am I went out to the sanctuary.
Despite the traffic problems and expected delays, I was shocked to see how everyone was arriving on time. This was just the beginning of an incredible day filled with God’s provision. People were waiting outside in the cold for us to open the doors for registration at 8am. April, Audrey, and a team of volunteers was ready to check those in who had registered online. Eliza arrived at about the same time, she was the designated photographer, and now she was to help with walk in registrations.
One Goal: To Eliminate Fear and Promote Love for Muslims
In the context of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris by Islamists, and the persecution of Christians worldwide at the hands of Islamists, the obvious and perhaps natural response should be revenge and hate towards Muslims. Yet, in midtown Manhattan, New York City; a city that has been a thorn in the eyes of Islamic terrorists for decades, our conference ‘Heart for Muslims’ was the first conference of its kind at such a magnitude that had ever been held by a church in New York City in order to eliminate fear and promote love for Muslims.
This is not the first time that Islamists have launched a campaign to eradicate Christianity and terrorize the West, it has been going on for the last 1400 years. Unfortunately, the church has not dealt with Islam or Muslims the way that Christ commanded us to do so. We are not called to add to the conflict of various belief systems in our ever deteriorating world, rather we ought to be the church of Christ for times such as these.
Calvary the Bold Leader
Recognizing the need for leadership and an urgency to invest in one of the most difficult frontiers that Christianity has ever faced, Calvary decided to stand in the gap and bring forward leaders to start a movement in New York City to reach Muslims. 450 people attended the conference, representing pastors, missionaries, heads of mission agencies, Muslim background believers, and a volunteer force from different ethnicities, denominations, mission agencies, and churches from all over the United State reaffirmed their commitment to love Muslims. I believe that Christian believers individually, and the church collectively, has a vital role to play in the world of conflict, hate and confusion. However, before we work on that, we need to wrap our heads around the idea that in our natural state, our response is always going to be fear, resentment, hate and revenge, but only through the power of Holy Spirit can we be a light to the world, and a beacon of hope in the midst of crisis.
There is an estimated one million Muslims in the Metropolitan New York area. Despite much labor, we are still experiencing only the beginning of what the Lord is doing to establish a disciple-making movement among the Muslims of our city. Because of our passion to Love Muslims, Equip the Body, and Connect People for Service, multiple New York City ministries came together to make the Heart for Muslims conference a reality. This citywide event featured plenary speakers, 44 breakout sessions and guided prayers: all focused on effective missional engagement among our city’s Muslims people.
Here are three comments from our staff members:
This conference was an amazing opportunity to offer resources that have never before been offered in this fashion. Although the objective of this conference was to help equip ministry leaders on how to reach the NYC Muslim population; the word got out and people from across the US showed up with an eagerness to share with the Muslim population in their own communities. All of the guests who came to me spoke about how they are encouraged and blessed by the discussions, lessons and testimonies they heard at the conference. On Oct. 31st God’s presence was felt at Calvary! – April Baez , Event Coordinator
“The energy of the unique ethnic worship music set the stage for an exciting day of training. I especially enjoyed Alfonse’s encouragement to newcomers when he told them, ‘I know it’s hard to find your way around the building, but remember, we are led by the Spirit’.” Miq Munoz, Media/Technology Manager
“I was very happy and blessed to be a part of Hearts for Muslims Conference on October 31. Seeing so many people of different race united here at Calvary Baptist Church. I was moved on how organized we were in moving people around to different Zones. We are truly a team player here at CBC.” – Audrey Pennant, Executive Assistant