Meet the need first: clean a toilet

They didn’t know what to do. The Graffiti team in Coney Island, led by Stephen Trainer, wanted to reach their neighbors. Many were from different countries, and many were going through serious financial challenges.

A few team members asked their mission trip leader what they could do for the day. He took them to a local drug store where they bought cleaning supplies. They then trundled into a small grocery store across the street. The area was filled with local stores run by neighbors from far away countries. This owner was from the Middle East.

The group and their leader asked if they could clean the owner’s restroom for free. The owner waved them to the back of the store. Later he came to see what was going on. He thought the group had just asked to use the restroom. He couldn’t believe they were on their knees scrubbing the floor.

There were language barriers in talking to him, but with a little help from an Arabic translation app, the team was able to communicate they were followers of Jesus and simply wanted to bless the man and his business.

At first, the store owner looked angry. He did not understand. But then, a tear slid down his cheek. He suddenly embraced the mission leader and spoke in broken English, “We are brothers.”  He led the group to the front of the store where they had a deep conversation about who Christ is and the differences in what they believed.

The store owner did not accept the Lord that day, but the team felt they had made more progress than if they had simply given the man a tract condemning his religion.

Now in that neighborhood, a new Graffiti church meets with new believers. In one of their outreach programs, they have 40 people on the waiting list—most from countries with few Christian witness.

God has so many ways to reach people, but one of the ways we use most in New York City is to meet the need first. The Bible says many things about God but summarizes it all in 1 John by saying God is love.  And what is love? The Bible says love is patient and kind.

There are so many conflicting cultures and values in our present world. Isn’t it amazing how kindness seems to cross every culture? Sharing Christ doesn’t necessarily require a complicated evangelical strategy. It may start with a willingness to clean a neighbor’s toilet.

Taylor Field is the Send Relief missionary in New York City for the North American Mission Board who also planted and continues to grow Graffiti Church in New York’s Lower East Side.

What is your church doing to connect with your community? What is one simple thing you can do?

Go to and click “Get Started” to find ways ways Send Relief helps churches impact communities for the sake of the gospel.

Published July 12, 2018