Praying With the Heroin Needle Still In

By Taylor Field

Not far from the Graffiti 2 Send Relief Ministry Center in New York City, rows of heroin addicts gather in groups. They shoot up, exchange money, shout at each other and sometimes get arrested. Some have a film of dirt covering their skin. Others have prison tattoos, indicating what crime they committed or what gang they belonged to.

During the pandemic, many ministries in New York City instituted “grab and go” programs giving people food and other necessities outside, so they could safely receive help. With our team at Graffiti 2, Josh Johnson instituted something else—a ”stop and care” ministry. Volunteers would buy food or coffee for someone and for themselves, so they could eat and talk with them outside.

Recently, Josh took Noah, his son, and another volunteer, on a “stop and care” time. The three of them had a thermos of coffee that they were offering to a group of people. One, José, was sticking a needle in his leg before he also stood up to get his coffee.

José appreciated the coffee but was mindful of the awkwardness of the situation. As the small talk grew more serious, José shared that he wanted to get clean. He said that he had three children whom he hadn’t seen for two years. He just wanted to be able to hold them again.

Noah, asked José, “Why don’t we pray right here?” Noah put his hand on Jose’s shoulder right there on the street among a group of addicts and prayed for José to walk with Christ, to get clean and to get to see his children again. The rest of the gang got quiet.

All this time, the needle was still in José’s leg.

After the prayer, they invited José to join them for dinner down the street at Graffiti 2 to start his new phase of life.

Perhaps the first step was simply for José to just pull that needle out of his leg—there’s always a first step, but I was reminded of some of my own problems that aren’t quite so visible.  Hearing this story recently made me rethink a passage in Romans:

Christ showed his love toward us, [in that while the needle was still hanging out of our leg,] Christ died for us.

We all have been shown unimaginable mercies. Let us not forget that this year.

If you would like to go on a mission trip to help those battling addiction, struggling with housing security or facing other challenges in New York City, you can learn more or sign up here today.

Taylor Field is the founder of the Graffiti 2 Send Relief Ministry Center and a ministry ambassador.

Published January 26, 2022

Taylor Field

Taylor Field served as an IMB Journeyman with his wife, Susan, in Hong Kong and has a Ph.D. in Biblical Studies from Gateway Seminary. For the past 35 years, he has served with the North American Mission Board and now operates as Send Relief’s Regional Director of the Northeast. Starting in a storefront called “Graffiti,” he helped start five community ministry locations in New York City with additional affiliates in other urban areas. He is the author of ten books discussing urban ministry tactics and continues to faithfully serve church plants and community ministries in the Northeastern United States.