Video: Pastor Charles Galbreath on Community Engagement

Nyack College and Alliance Theological Seminary are proud of the work our alumni do. Here, we introduce Pastor Charles Galbreath of Clarendon Road Church. He is a graduate of our seminary and works closely with his Brooklyn community.

Pastor Charles Galbreath, Master of Divinity from Alliance Theological Seminary:

I really do feel as though I was a missionary. I don’t come from New York. I’m not familiar with Brooklyn. I’m not connected here, so I’m coming in as an outsider. And so I’m asking the question: How can I as an outsider be able to connect with those who are here in this congregation?

One of the prevailing challenges was the issue of gun violence. An issue that I wasn’t necessarily familiar with, but a issue that I knew that we were called to make an impact with. It is something very, very painful and difficult. And what are the words do you say when you enter into a house with a family who has experienced such loss and such pain?

And so a group of clergy and pastors and leaders in this area have formed a community group to address this issue of gun violence to see what are some of the things we can do to mitigate the violence, but also to eliminate the violence.

Of the pastors who we put together this group, one of them is a Nyack College grad, another one is Alliance Theological Seminary grad. But as we started to have conversations and hear about each other’s story we’d say, “You went to Nyack? Oh, I went to Nyack. You went to ATS?” But what was impactful is that we all had the same vision. We were all connected towards this vision that brought us together as pastors and leaders to impact Brooklyn.

One of those areas that we were able to also partner with was with the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, as well as the New York Police Department. In putting together this past summer a gun buy back program, thankfully 65 guns were turned in on that day. And that Sunday, somebody brought in a backpack in the middle of service with a gun and said, “I need to turn this in today.” So I believe that we are called to show mercy. We are also called to stand for justice. For us, this was a issue that was ripping apart our community and we could not stand silent.

I always let my church know for all the things that I’m doing that make you all a little bit uncomfortable, blame Nyack. Blame Alliance Theological Seminary. Particularly the area of community engagement. Of being incarnational in regards to what we do as a church community. To be able to recognize and see that I had to know who these people were. I had to listen to them deeply, as well as to be a part of them. And that gives me greater insight to have influence here at Clarendon Road Church leading a diverse congregation. And sometimes doing that multicultural work can get a little messy, but if I didn’t have the foundations from Nyack, I think I would have been afraid of the mess and ran away from it instead of just jumping into it and saying, “Yeah, sometimes it gets messy, but that doesn’t mean that we run from it. It means that we collaborate and work and grow together.”

I always share it with them. I said, “Listen, I’m leading you guys in discipleship, but I’m the pastor for this entire neighborhood. There’s some folks who only come in here a couple of Sundays a year, but I’m their pastor.” And I’m all right with that because I believe that as a church, we are called to serve this community, to be that light of the gospel right here on this corner of Clarendon and New York Avenue. And so that’s a direct influence of Nyack.



Urban Ministry and Pastor David Beidel

pastor david beidel alliance theological seminary

From Pastor David Beidel’s blog on urban ministry at New Hope Community Church and Urban Hope NYC

There is a long and beautiful road I use whenever I travel to my alma mater, Alliance Theological Seminary. Our church was conceived and an “urban promise” was made some 20 years ago on that quiet road, when God used the memory of a prayer request to break and capture my heart.

A young man was temporarily living at my house when he asked our small prayer group to pray for his 10-year-old niece, who was being prostituted by her stepfather to support his crack habit. We all sat stunned at his request, literally overwhelmed by the evil it represented. A subconscious numbing seemed to wash over everyone. A few of us mumbled a prayer; though our heads were bowed, our hearts were running from the horror and the sorrow of our city.

A week or two later I was heading to seminary preparing, ironically, for urban ministry. I sensed God saying, Do you really want to serve me? . . . You have to go there; you have to let it in; you have to begin to feel what I feel. I said, “Yes Lord” and wept in a way I never had before and never have since. I prayed, “Whatever it takes, help me to make a difference in my city.”

That day marked the beginning of a long journey. My wife, Rebecca, and I began New Hope Community Church in our living room a year or two later. Our neighborhood in Staten Island had its share of crack addicts and prostitutes, abusive parents and physically and psychologically abandoned children. Three children we ministered to were murdered, one ended up in jail for murder, several more for attempted murder. Many were taken away by child protective services because of neglect and physical and sexual abuse.

There is very little that seminary can do to prepare you for inner-city work. Chasing pit bulls out of your backyard . . . running outside in pajamas as you hear one of your neighborhood kids being beaten half to death . . . wrestling with your gun-wielding neighbor as you try to convince him not to shoot a police officer. Our house was broken into, our cars robbed often, our hearts broken and bewildered time after time. Nevertheless, just as Jesus had a special appointment to keep in Samaria, we have experienced His nearness as well.

One of the great joys of this journey is that “where sin increased, grace increased all the more” (Rom. 5:20). For 20 years we have experienced “grace upon grace” as we have witnessed thousands of our neighbors open their hearts to Christ. Hundreds have been discipled. The Lord enabled us to purchase a warehouse (formerly used as a chop shop, pit bull puppy mill and drug dealers’ haven) in a neighborhood that had been known as Wild Wild West Brighton, Bloody Brighton or Murder Alley (our cross street!). As a church that operates on a shoestring budget, it is impossible to express the mighty miracle that God did in eliminating our $400,000 mortgage in 2010.

When we purchased our facility in 1999, West Brighton had the second highest murder rate in New York. In January 2000 we as a church fasted and prayed against the “spirit of murderous rage” in our neighborhood, and the murders stopped. To this day, 12 years later, the murder rate is down 95 percent. The Lord has clearly given us favor.

The harvest here is so ripe, it’s as if the fruit is begging to be picked. We spend hundreds of hours walking the neighborhoods, knocking on doors, praying and sharing the good news. Seldom does a week go by when we do not have the opportunity to lead several neighbors to Christ.

One young man, Elijah came to the Lord in jail. I had been talking to him about Jesus for weeks, and one day, there seemed to be a breakthrough. But that night, he participated in a robbery and was caught. He took that experience as a wakeup call from God. Now he often accompanies me in going door to door to share the gospel in the very housing project where he lives.

“I have a big heart for anyone that was in any type of lifestyle that I used to be in,” says Elijah. “I don’t want to see that. If I’m in the light, you know, I want you to tan with me.”

The great and constant challenge for any ministry in a blighted community, however, is not evangelism but discipleship. The difficult, long-term task is assisting our neighbors to unload decades of sin and sorrow. For this reason we began “Urban Hope NYC.” Our dream is that Urban Hope will be a sanctuary: a safe, sacred, enriching, encouraging and empowering place for every child and family in our community. We aspire to be the fence at the edge of the cliff instead of the ambulance at the bottom.

We have a full schedule: children’s discipleship, teen leadership development and community outreach ministry. There is always something wonderful going on at our after-school center. Every week we have music lessons, step dance, drama, a computer/homework center, Child Evangelism Fellowship and Metro Ministries Bible Studies and outreach events. Every summer we run a month-long, Christ-centered summer camp.

For all of our children’s ministries, we endeavor to hire junior high and high school “graduates” of our program as “street leaders,” serving as junior counselors, homework assistants and community peer leaders. The program is very costly, but it is one of the keys to the success of the ministry. One of the most vulnerable times in an inner-city child’s life is from ages 14 to 19. The typical “rebellious teenager” scenario that all parents struggle with to some degree is amplified when a child lives with a dysfunctional family, dwells in a high-crime community, is surrounded by negative peer influence and attends an overcrowded, highly immoral, gang- and drug dealer–saturated school.

After 15 years of ministry, it seemed like we were banging our heads against the wall when it came to the teenagers in our ministry. Rebecca and I had kids over to our house, threw them birthday parties, helped them build tree houses. But as soon as they turned 14, we lost them to the streets. The children we had nurtured were the ones who broke into our home, rifling through our bedroom in search of valuables. Many got killed or were involved in a life of drug abuse and crime; the girls got pregnant at 15 or 16. It was heartbreaking.

In our context, the cost of the street leaders program is minimal compared with the payoff. This simple strategy has enabled us to stay connected to our kids during their most difficult years. It has also borne great fruit for the whole program. As we enter our fourth year at Urban Hope NYC, many of our first campers are becoming street leaders. All of our younger kids look up to—and look forward to being—street leaders. Our street leaders in turn understand that they have a responsibility to be an example to the little ones. It has been a joy to see the step-by-step transformation of the beautiful children of our neighborhood.

There is so much more to be done. The housing projects of our cities are among the neediest mission fields in the world. I think of them as villages, filled with thousands of residents who are yearning for transformation. There are as well many godly families in these neighborhoods that are longing for a healthy alternative for their children. Again, the difficulty is not evangelism but that the enormous and heavy catch often breaks the nets.

Please join us in prayer as we envision children’s churches rising up in hundreds of housing project communities in New York City and throughout our nation. God’s promise to us throughout the years has been: “The desert and the parched land will be glad, the wilderness will rejoice and blossom” (Isa. 35:1). We have great reason to rejoice as we watch our urban wilderness blossom and bloom. We rejoice in the mighty hand of God and in His great love.



What it Really Means to Live through Faith, Hope and Love

My Chalkboard

I made this chalk board out bark and chalk spray paint… I then wrote this as a reminder of what God spoke to me.

 “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

– 1 Corinthians 13:13

This verse and passage of scripture is perhaps the most used along with Jeremiah 29:11. Wall art was created, tattoos done, all surrounding the truth that only faith, hope and love will abide. We have fallen in love with this concept, literally bought the t-shirt and placed it on the walls of our homes and hearts. But have we really understood what it means for only faith, hope and love to abide? Do we really get what this looks like when it is lived out on a daily basis?

If I may be blunt, my answer to this question is a resounding, big fat, NO! A couple of nights ago, I was spending sometime in prayer with my guy and as we took a couple of moments in silence I heard that very phrase play in my mind; ” Only Faith, Hope and Love will remain”. Now let me be clear, we were not praying for our relationship, or love etc. At the moment that I heard that phrase, I was asking God to make us both more like Him. I was praying to be people who dwell in the river of life that He has provided for us. I was asking Him to help me, not focus on the bad things I experience, the opinions of others towards me, etc., and to see what He sees in all people ( this is a daily prayer of mine). And God’s response to me was ” Only Faith, Hope and Love will remain.”.

CTA button for Blog UGI sat on that for a moment and then it hit me like a wave. What God was saying to us in that moment was that in ALL of eternity the ONLY  things that will last are the things that come from a place of “Faith, Hope and Love”.  No word that is uttered, no work that is done, no opinion, no idea, absolutely nothing done outside of faith, hope and love will stand in the fire on that day that before our God. All else will be burned up like kindling at a bon fire, but everything that was/is rooted in these three things will stand the test of time.

We worry about a lot of things. I could spend the next two hours writing a list of things we worry about. BUT I won’t, so insert your own worries/anxieties here _______________. However most, if not all of the time, the things that we spend our time and mental capacities worrying about, are things that will mean nothing and become ashes to be soon blown away and forgotten in eternity.

So my question for you is: How much of what you allow to dictate your emotions and actions is influenced by faith, hope or love? How much of what you do, say, or seek finds its origin in one of those three things? If you answer is less than “everything” ( and you know it is because you probably feel awfully uncomfortable now), my friend something has to shift.

Now what does it look like to live from a place of faith, hope and love? Well I think the beginning portion of the 1 Corinthians 13 passage makes it pretty clear; with patience and kindness, with humility and grace, with forgiveness and mercy, with justice and joy, with lots and lots of do overs, with seeing the best and believing the best always and in growing in the maturity and love of Christ daily.

In the words of my dear friend Janet, “Jesus put the flesh and bones on this passage”. In the gospels we see a beautiful picture of what this complex love, radical faith and un-moving hope looks like.

May we people who live from a place of “Faith, Hope, and Love”!

Meet the New Rockland Professors at the Alliance Theological Seminary

ATS facultyBy Eric Hoke~

Fall 2014 is a monumental and exciting year in the history of Alliance Theological Seminary. We welcomed five new professors onto our Nyack Campus. We are so excited to welcome their expertise and thank God for their investment into our ATS Community. We wanted to allow you the opportunity to get to know them better.

Christopher Dost is the Assistant Professor of Old Testament and Director of Online Programming.

Dr. Dost holds a B.A. in Music from Western Connecticut State University. He came to Nyack College in 1999 to take a few Bible courses. After a brief hiatus, he returned to Nyack to pursue the M.A. Old Testament degree at Alliance Theological Seminary, which he completed in 2003. Since that time, he has worked at ATS and Nyack College in varying capacities: first as a T.A., then as an adjunct, afterward as a partnering faculty member, and now as the Director of Online Programming. In that time, he has also completed M.A., M.Phil., and Ph.D. degrees (2007, 2011, 2014) in Hebrew Bible at The Jewish Theological Seminary. Dr. Dost resides in Nyack with his wife (Michelle) and four daughters (Abigail, 13; Anna, 11; Mia, 10; and Gabrielle, 6).

Dr. Dost is a Red Sox fan.

Ron Chen is the Chinese Studies Program Coordinator at Alliance Theological Seminary.

Ron lives in Plainview, NY and is currently the Associate Pastor at Queens Herald Church while getting ready to become a church planter and plant a church in Long Island. He and his wife Candice are expecting their first child in late fall.

Ron holds a B.S. in Interdisciplinary Studies (Youth Ministry and Religion) from Nyack College and an M. Div from ATS. He is currently in the D. Min program. When asked why he chose to serve at ATS, Ron responded, “I think it can be best described as a God moment. I was driving my interim Senior Pastor and his wife to take a look at Nyack College. On our way up we have an interesting conversion about my future and the next thing I know I was in the Dean’s Office and was given a job description. I went home to speak with my wife and she said I was crazy. We spent some time praying about it and felt the Lord’s peace to proceed forward.”

An interesting fact about Ron is that he was a high school dropout and joined a gang in Chinatown when he was 14.

CTA button for Blog ATSDr. Aaron Sherwood is the new Assistant Professor of New Testament

Dr. Sherwoord and his wife Lucy have two daughters, Eleanor (5) and Isabel (2). They live in Nyack and have just moved from overseas this summer.

Dr. Sherwoord earned a Ph.D. at Durham University in England, technically in New Testament but really also in Old Testament and early Jewish studies, as well. Before that, he earned an M.A. in Biblical Studies at Regent College in Vancouver, and holds a B.A. in philosophy. Dr. Sherwood and his wife have served in churches in lots of different ways over the past fifteen years, in home group, children’s ministry, prison ministry, and some preaching.

When asked why he chose to serve at ATS, Dr. Sherwoord responded, “I am very excited about the ATS aim of commissioning students to go into the world and engage in indigenous missions, whether in America or internationally and overseas, and that ATS wants those ministries to be grounded in a profound understanding and appreciation of God’s love and purpose for the world as revealed in Scripture. And so, I wanted to take up my role in equipping students by helping them with that first, fundamental step, of knowing and understanding the biblical basis for their beliefs and their pastoral vocations.”

An interesting fact about Dr. Sherwood is that he loves Miyazaki films and has a collection of stuffed animals from them in his office.

Dr. Stanley John is the new Professor of Intercultural Studies at Alliance Theological Seminary

Dr. John was born and raised in Kuwait in a south Indian family. He grew up attending the Indian Assemblies of God church in Kuwait, but for the last several years has been part of a multilingual Methodist church that worships in English, Korean and Spanish. He now attends a C&MA church in New York.

Dr. John received a B.A. in Biblical Studies at Zion Bible College in Barrington, Rhode Island, an M.A. and Ph.D. in Intercultural Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. His dissertation is titled, Networks, Agents, and Mission: Transnational Religion of Kerala Pentecostal Churches in a Context of Temporary Economic Migration to Kuwait.

Dr. John has been an itinerant evangelist speaking at churches throughout the United States, especially among ethnic immigrant churches, such as West African, Hispanic, Slavik, Korean, and Indian churches. He also teaches annually in various seminaries overseas including the Ukrainian Evangelical Theological Seminary in Kiev, Ukraine, Faith Theological Seminary in Kerala, India and Mission India Theological Seminary in Nagpur, India.

Why attend the Allianace Theological Seminary:

When asked why he chose to serve at ATS, he responded, “I believe God has called me to serve the global church by raising leaders for church and society. I can imagine no better place to fulfill that calling than at ATS-Nyack. Let me give you three reasons. First, the location in New York provides the opportunity to serve not only locally in a very diverse context, but also globally through transnational networks. Second, a missional ethos with a long heritage in preparing and sending missionaries is central to the Seminary, the College and the C&MA denomination. Third, being housed within the larger Nyack College family, ATS has the opportunity to integrate theological and missiological studies with other disciplines such as the humanities, sciences and business so that students get well-rounded education”.

Something interesting about Dr. John is that he has quite a sweet tooth and loves trying desserts from diverse cultures. His favorites are Tres Leches and Tiramisu.


Get Over Your “self”

Update during banquet

Nic & Rachael Billman. Two people who have truly learned how to love and put others above themselves. I love all of the amazing people, I have met and have the pleasure to do life with here at Shores of Grace.

” You need to get over yourself.” Were the tough yet loving words I needed to hear.

We think about ourselves like A LOT. Like all of the time, a lot. Like more than we think about anything or anyone else; there is a constant ” me, me, me; I, I, I” track playing in our minds. “I have no friends here, I can’t have deep conversations here like I do at home, I feel alone, no one will like me, people don’t see me or my gifts, I am not known, I can do better, ( insert your own self-track here_________) …”

If you’re anything like me and I am quite sure that you are, you are often thinking about yourself in one form or another. And while having thoughts towards yourself isn’t exactly a bad thing, you being the most important thing in your life, is. Yes, we ought to love ourselves, loving ourselves requires us to do some thinking, (God’s thinking to be exact) but that good thinking, those loving, kind and gracious thoughts towards us, could only come from one place…

God commands us to love Him above all else. When you are in love with someone, he or she becomes the object of not only all of your affection but your thoughts as well. God in essence has commanded us to keep our minds and thoughts on Him above all else.

Secondly God commands us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. However if all you think about is you, you’re not loving anyone else, but you. And even worse, if your thoughts towards yourself sound anything like mine, you only think about yourself, but you certainly don’t love yourself.


My friend Robyn and I at our last banquet. She has been one of my blessings here at Shores of Grace. Her kindness and truthfulness, have helped me grow so much here.

To be honest, I spent the first half of my journey here in Brazil thinking about myself. About all of the things God was showing me that needed to change. I had a “me” fest going on practically 24/7. Until God gave me a wake up call and showed me how selfish and un-surrendered I was. And as exhausted from the war continuously going on in my mind, there was no way I was going to dispute His claim. He reminded me, just as my friend Robyn had done earlier that night, that I needed to die. That my “self” needed to be laid down, surrendered, and gotten over, once and for all. And so I did.

I repented to God, to my leaders here and surrendered my “self” the me, me, me’s, and I, I, I’s. I traded my thoughts for His own, for thoughts of Him and his beauty.

” You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” Isaiah 26:3

CTA button for Blog ATSThis is sooooooo true!!! As I have been practicing thinking about his goodness, his mercies, his kindness, meditating on his word, thinking about what he says of me and to me, I have entered into a level of peace and joy I had not experienced before.  It is the kind of peace that doesn’t budge during a dispute, a joy that isn’t robbed when others don’t find your joke as funny as you do. A hope that isn’t quenched by the lack of current fruit. A grace that sees the beauty that rests upon each person you encounter.

Getting over my “self” was literally the 2nd best thing I have ever done, 2nd only to my decision to say yes to a relationship with Jesus. My mind is free now to:

  • Enter into His presence without distraction
  • Know Him and who He says I am
  • Know and enjoy true peace and joy
  • Rejoice, always
  • See what God sees in people, as well as situations

And it is free from:

  • Anxieties
  • Worries
  • Insecurities
  • Distractions
  • Doubts

When Jesus said; ” Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you.” ( Matthew 6:33) He really meant it. Seek God. Want to know the kingdom? Get to know the King. Want to know how to get to know God? Start thinking about Him. Be so consumed with Him that He’s what oozes out of your lips, pores and actions. That’s the kingdom. All of these things; joy, peace, provision, hope, grace, identity, love, service; come from seeking Him. The kingdom is seeing the work of Christ being completed in you and therefore affecting and changing the world around you.

So as my good friend and God told me; Get over yourself. And find the King and the kingdom in the process.


Finding yourself frees you to love you, all of you! And then and only then can you love…


Working with a Brazilian Ministry: From Orphan to Daughter


Made a new friend at street church, she wears an eye patch because she was shot in the eye, and survived. This past Sunday she oded on crack, in the hospital a woman told her she wasn’t going to die because God has a plan for her. I came with the same message… He chases so hard after His loved ones. Truly He does not relent. Love never stops loving

I love Brazil. I love that I am literally living a dream, I dreamt for nearly 10 months. It is a privilege to do the little things to help keep this ministry (Shores of Grace) running, I have learned to love those things. My heart burns within me when I hit the streets with my team, my new family and I see the faces of those women, young men or children. Tears often fill my eyes as I experience the love of the Father towards them. The years at Camp of the Woods as a Guest Service representative comes pouring out, and I love it, the nights we have the Father Love Banquet. Oh what a delight it is to serve a drink to someone who is thirsty.

Yet my dream, Gods dream for me here in Brazil has proved to be a difficult one. These past few weeks I have been wrestling the skeletons of insecurity and pride, that have been rooted into the closet of my heart by the lies of the orphan spirit.  To be honest I was not expecting to come to Brazil and have the rug pulled out from underneath me. Looking back, I realize that expected to come here with so much to offer, so much to give and do and instead God brought me here to break me. To cut some more dead branches out of my life and to teach me how to truly be a “wounded healer”.


Shores of Grace staff and volunteers ready for the Father Love Banquet.

I have spent days feeling alone, feeling not good enough, inadequate, and empty handed. And that’s because I have based my identity and my truth on what I could do, and on what others think of me. At home it was easy. I sang, I preached in certain places, I am in prayer ministry teams, I have good grades, people who see and call out my gifts, I have plenty of friends, a good reputation that follows me, but here I have NOTHING. No friends, no reputation, nothing to base my worth and joy upon other than God.

And that is where the struggle began. Because while I thought I knew who I was and whose I was, I surely did not. Let me tell you, this lesson has not come easy to me, at all. I literally feel like the dog who goes back to its vomit, nearly every day. I go eat the good meal of what God has to say, I throw up the lies and then bam, 2.5 seconds later I am eating my vomit and wallowing in self-pity as I do.

But I have made a resolve to win the battle for the inner life as Dr. Rob Reimer would say. I am not, nor will I be a victim. I will no longer be ruled by the opinions of man. Nor will I allow what I do or do not do define me. I am choosing to believe that I AM A DAUGHTER. Whether you think I belong in the family or not =).

A few days ago as I laid in bed with fever over and over again I heard God say, “I have chosen you, I have called you, I have chosen you, I have called you, I have put treasure on the inside of you, I will reveal my glory through you as I desire, when I desire, you are mine, you are mine, YOU ARE MINE.” These words pierced my heart and I literally laid there and cried.

CTA button for Blog ATSI know I am not alone in this struggle, I know many of you like me, truly don’t know who you are, you think you do, but if all of those things you base your identity on were pulled like a rug from underneath your feet, you’d end up on your face, just like me. But the good news is, God longs for us to be free, to walk in wholeness and experience the Spirit of Adoption that already defines us, in full. It’s time to kick that orphan spirit in the butt and embrace who we are!

Here are the ways He is teaching me how:

1- Soak in God. Practice His presence. The word says His thoughts towards us are so great in number, they can’t be told. Yet He burns to tell us what thinks about us. He wants us to know how wide, deep and long His love is for us.

You have multiplied, O LORD my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us; none can compare with you! I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told.- Psalm 40:5

2- Word. Word. Word. – Get in it. The word is a double edge sword. It literally pierces our hearts. I am finding that the mPromisesore I read, the more I soak in, the less the lies play over and over again in my mind. Because truth sets the captives free.

3- Community. Seek it out. Speak. Be honest. And allow others to speak into you. Hiding, pretending does not help anyone. Want to live your best life now? THEN BE REAL ( Preaching to myself here).

But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
    he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
    I have called you by name, you are mine. – Isaiah 43:1

                                         I am His. You are His. We are sons & daughters of the Living God. And so here in Brazil I am learning how to move from being an orphan to being a daughter…

Ministry is Being Faithful in the Little Things

Pao de Quiejo

Making Pão de Queijo for one of the Betânia girls birthday party… It was the first birthday she’s been able to celebrate.

” … You’re not looking for the big things, you’re looking for the day after day. You’re not looking for the flashy but the faithful ones…” Chris Burns, Faithful 

Many times we confuse ministry for the stages, the big events, the packed out meetings, the music, the messages, etc. While these are sometimes a part of ministry, they in and of themselves are not the ministry the Lord has called us too. Here in Brasil, God is teaching me that ministry is being faithful in the little things, in the day after day living.  Serving isn’t teaching a lesson, leading a group, or being in the front, most people can do all of those things. Teachers, preachers, and worship leaders are a dime a dozen.  Serving is being willing to get your hands dirty by doing the difficult and undesirable. Serving is re-mopping the floor, with a smile, after someone once again dirtied the floor you worked hard to clean. Because everything that we do, EVERY SINGLE THING we must do as unto the Lord, both the things that others see and praise us for, and the things that no one will ever acknowledge.

I have been guilty too of thinking that ministry is glamorous. Yes, there are moments that one gets to see big and powerful, fun things, but those moments are ALWAYS preceded by the day after day little moments one gives their all to.

“One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.” – Luke 16:10

Center Do Recife

With Nany (left) and Mirella the full time employees at Betânia, Shores of Grace. Here we were on our way to Center do Recife to purchase the items we needed for the BBQ, Amor do Pai banquet. It was a long ride and a fun adventure.

Honestly, there is nothing glamorous about being a missionary. There is nothing fabulous about giving all one’s life to serve another. Don’t get me wrong, I am having a blast here.  I love this country and all that I get to do here. But it isn’t about the flashy things and it isn’t flashy. Talking to a lady boy whose body is full of scars, on the streets while he tells me he wants bigger breasts isn’t flashy. Painting the dirty nails of a street worker while her next client looks on, isn’t glamorous. But  we love, we do the hard work, we spend our energy, time and money and live our lives for others because God is worth it, and they are worth it too.

The cost of ministry is often far greater than the price we want to pay. We go into things expecting this Hollywood type of life in ministry with signs and wonder and miracles all over the place; when in reality the most successful ministers and ministries are the ones who’ve risked their lives, who’ve slept on dirt floors, who take cold showers, who have up-rooted their entire families to a different country, sell all their possessions and live simply out of obedience. They are the ones who hug the lepers and befriend the least of these, these are the ones who clean and prepare a feast for the prostitute, the transvestite, the widow, the fatherless, who love, and smile and press on when they’ve had little to no help, or have felt alone, rejected and misunderstood.

Jesus isn’t going to admonish us on the day we stand before Him about the amount of people who attended our meetings or enjoyed our music. He isn’t going to ask us about how many people  we saw healed or prayed for. He is going is going to remind us about the ones we loved well, the ones we fed, clothed, visited and cared for.


Banquet prep. It was amazing to see an entire group of people pull together to clean, do yard work, cook, grill,  decorate, build a fire, then tear down and clean again. All in order to honor the daughters of God. Indeed the ministry of Shores of Grace is one of full surrender, love and service.

“And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” – Matthew 25:40

This is my new reality. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love learning how to be faithful in the day after day. Because the ultimate reward is Him. My reward isn’t in public recognition, fame, or even the praises of man. My eternal, ever lasting reward is the one who will stand before me and say ” Well done my good and faithful servant”.

And so I challenge you, live the day after day for the one who lived all of His days for you.

 This is a 22 minute documentary on the issue of human trafficking here in Brasil. Some of my friends from here at Shores of Grace are featured in this documentary. It is worth your time, I recommend you take your time to watch.

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Amor Parace com Algo

cafe meroI’m sitting at a cafe, enjoining a tasty Nutella crepe and café colado, staring at my computer screen and listening to Mama Heidi Baker while trying to come up with words to explain my first week in Brasil. It is not an easy task. Lately words fail to describe the emotions, transitions and thoughts that race through my mind. I am learning and experiencing so much. I guess I could tell you about my new bedroom, roommates, ministry assignments, Brazilian food etc, but none of it has affected me as much as what is happening in my heart.  My new friend Larissa articulated what I am re-learning in the depths of my heart so beautifully; “Love looks like something”  (“Amor Parace  Algo” Mama Heidi).


Love looks like spending lots of $ on marshmallows, so others could have their first s’more.( Pictured top left: Nic & Rachael Billman, and Johnny honoring Gi for her hard work with Shores of Grace.  Bottom left: Larissa, Josiah, and Johnny enjoying s’more’s. Bottom right: Myself and Lindsey, who has amazingly also taken great care of me, and has become a good friend in the process)

Since I arrived on the Shores of Grace base last Thursday, there has been a daily constant in my life: love. More specifically “o amor do Pai”, the love of the Father. It is like I am waking up every morning to a treasure hunt that leads me closer and closer to the heart of God for myself and others. While I have known the love of God and He has been deeply transforming me in recent months with His love, my experience here is like nothing I have encountered before. It is beyond the right theological beliefs or understanding of correct doctrine, something is happening deep within me and I know I will be forever be changed. I cry daily. Not because I miss home, or I am experiencing culture shock or even because there is any particular sadness in my heart. I cry because I can feel the love of God overwhelming my heart, as I sit and read, as I watch little girls jumping up and down shouting the name of Jesus, as I wash dishes with a new friend, and in my broken Portuguese I get to share my story as he shares his with me. I cry because this love goes beyond a feeling.  It is something I literally see, every day.

Mae Robyn and I

Robyn aka Mae Byn (sitting bottom right) has so kindly taken care of me this past week. She has shown me the ropes, shared her life with me and has been a beautiful example of grace and kindness towards me. Thankful for her and the experience we have shared so far. Such as meeting and having coffee with a beautiful Brazilian woman! I am blessed.

I see it in a volunteer or staff’s patience with me in answering all of my constant questions. I see it as my new friends stop and love on the ones right in front of them. I see it in the way each person is honored and treated as valuable. I see it in the face of a boy or girl from a favela (a ghetto that is ran by drug lords, worst than any American “hood”) sinking into the lap of a man or woman whose smile beams with the love of Jesus. I see as an entire group of people has given their lives to bring grace and hope to the women and children on the streets of Brazil. “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” – John 13:35 Now don’t get me wrong, I have seen the love of God in others before, in fact, I would see it every time I gathered with my church family in Nyack, New York. BUT there is something very different about this experience for me. Before leaving for Brazil I prayed “Father, teach me how to love like you do”. Through my day-to-day experiences and interactions, God is teaching about the depths of his love for me, and the world. And He is teaching me how to love, like He does. He is literally showing me what love looks like.


Worship at the Shores base Monday night. Lots of dancing and joyous celebration of the One who loved us first. Betania Girls, children from a nearby favela, full time staff, guests and volunteers all join the celebration.

Love looks like washing the dishes. Love looks like truly listening to someone else’s story, with grace. Love looks like cleaning up the floor after a little girl pee’d her pants and making sure she is clean and has fresh clothes. Love looks like spending all day in the kitchen to prepare a meal so that others would feel honored and cared for. Love looks like a hug at the right moment. Love looks like forgetting about yourself and putting the needs, hopes and desires of the one in front of you, first. O amor de Deus se parece com alguma coisa, e eu desejo de ser aquele que mostra o seu amor bem. (Gods love looks like something, and I desire to be one who displays his love well.) May this also be your prayer, for truly it is by our love that the world will know HIM.


Our Wednesday Night Luau with the nearby favela kids. How awesome it is to be able to display God’s love through fun!

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Poetic Prose: A Student Prepares for a Summer Overseas and Writes “Shifting Shadows”


Selfies with the Deans of ATS Dr. Ron Walborn & Dr. L.A. Carlo

Transition: movement, passage, or change from one position, state, stage, subject, concept, etc., to another; change.

Transitions have been plenty these last couple of days. Friends moving away some forever, some for the summer. Graduation. The end of an internship. Packing and moving… The old is passing away and the new is coming.

It feels like I am trapped in a house caught up in a tornado that is being whisked away to a land far off… Except there is no literal wind carrying me to new places, nor am I trapped in a house that is being swept away,  I am willingly moving from one country to another. Packing up and changing my entire life for the next 11 weeks, leaving behind the comfortable, familiar and secure. To be real I am a little frightened. I know that even though I will return to NY in August, finish my degree and work for a place I love; when I step on that plane in 13 days there will be no going back for me. This transition will be sure to thrust me into the trajectory my life has always been meant to be on. It will usher me into next stage of my life and prepare for what is ahead in the years to come.

My 10 weeks in Brazil will involve heartbreak, as God will surely break my heart for what breaks his. I will experience culture shock, I will miss home, my friends, my family, my church and I will cry often, for many reasons. And in the end, I won’t want to leave the new place my heart will have grown to love deeply and call home.


My Pastors Jeff Salvesen & Martin Sanders, Shawna (taking the pic) and I during our staff photos for our new Living Christ Church Website (go check it out: ) Photo Cred: @NyackChurch

10 weeks will be life altering, and I will have no control of it. I won’t have my loving roommate to cry to, and pray for me. I won’t have my pastors, elders and leaders to hug me, share firm words of truth and pray for me and I won’t be an easy phone call away from my family or friends, to carry me through.

How ever I know that I will be surrounded by new friends, some of which I got to know and  love last summer (during my first visit), who will lovingly and gracefully help me through. And I will have those moments in the quiet, in which the Lord will become realer to me than he has ever been. I have the surety in my heart that in the midst of it, God, who has already gone before me, will be there to carry me through.

First Flight

How it all began last summer… Found this gem while packing.

It would be honest to say that I need to grieve. It is the close of a chapter for me, and the start of act two. This means that I can no longer to resort to old patterns of behavior and thinking. I am now responsible for all I have learned and it is up to me to live it out. It’s time to step out of the shore, into the waters and go as deep as God leads me to go, with confidence. I’d been at home at the shore, I grew comfortable there, I was happy with the progress I made while sitting on my beach chair getting my feet wet. But now I have to live it all out, for real, out there, where I have no life vests or opportunities to run to the easy, the secure and the comfortable again.

Yet in the midst of the fear, and the grief, I am ready.  I am ready to take the plunge. I am ready to embrace the new, to open up this good gift he’s given me and I am confident in the one who makes a way in the sea for me! Because even though everything around me is changing, I can rest assured in the truth that He, my God, will never change; “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17)….He is the constant in my life. He is the security I need.

“Thus says the Lord, who makes a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters…Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. 19 Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

– Isaiah 43:16, 18-19

moving day!

Finally moved all of my stuff into my friends storage space! Shouts outs to Koob ( in the red) & Chris for helping me move! Bigger shout out to the Kotecha’s for allowing me to store my belongings in their storage spaces for the summer!

How the Alliance Theological Seminary Made a Difference in my Life

-A Personal Essay by Eric Hoke, graduate of the Alliance Theological Seminary at Nyack College: In 2012, I sensed that God was calling me to continue my education. I was a youth pastor in New Jersey, married for a few years and ready for the next challenge. There were undoubtedly multiple seminaries to choose from and it took a considerable amount of time, prayer and effort to find the place where I fit. After attending an Open House at the Alliance Theological Seminary, learning about the seminary’s mission to educate not just the mind, but to transform the heart and not just for academia but for the church and the nations, I knew this was the place for me.

alliance theological seminary eric hokeIn my last year of my time at the Alliance Theological Seminary, my life circumstances seemed to be stacking up perfectly. I was weeks from my graduation as well as ordination in my denomination—two landmarks I had been working tirelessly to for years. I had landed my dream job as a youth pastor at a large church in New York City. I was ecstatic, all my hard work was paying off and I was so excited for this next season of my life. It seemed like nothing could have gone wrong.

My wife and I said goodbye to a great church and community where we had spent the last four years and began our trek from suburbia to the big city. After unpacking our UHAUL and settling into our new apartment, we began our new jobs and lives with minimal stress all things considered.

Unfortunately everything came to a screeching halt within our first week there.

My supervisor and I had a miscommunication in regards to expectations and my employment was terminated immediately!

I was crushed, heartbroken and in despair. Everything was stacking up perfectly… how could this have happened?

My mind fell into a panic; we were in the most expensive city in the country, and given 3 weeks to find a new place to live with only my wife’s salary and hardly any money put away. It was an incredible amount of trial and pressure, like nothing I had ever experienced in my lifetime.

But in the midst of it all, God provided encouragement, grace and support through the community at ATS.

My professors and classmates were all aware of my transition and I cannot count the number of times I had to explain how my position abruptly fell through. Each time I explained my circumstance to someone in the ATS community, they were empathetic, offering prayer and encouragement. Some bought me food as we took evening classes together. Others would call me outside of class to pray for me. One even offered to let my wife and I live in their apartment until we found a new place!

It was both humbling and overwhelming to see the way in which my seminary family gathered around me in the hardest trial I ever endured.  I don’t know if I would have made it without them. It reminded me why I chose to earn a seminary degree from Alliance Theological Seminary—not just for the academic excellence or the heart for mission, but because the community also cares for my soul. As I walked across the stage on Saturday, I felt honored to be a part of such a special place and thank God for each person that I’ve come across in my journey here. I expected to receive an education, but what I found was a family.

Taking a Risk: Leaving the US to Serve in Brazil


And also planted some flowers for our Easter service in good company! Photo Credit to @NyackChurch!


Nyack College’s PSF class 2014 !

So much has happened since I last blogged; Lots of tears popped out of my eyes, anger was explored and roots of deception and bitterness in my life were finally uprooted. I Am now free from years of brokenness, internal struggles and dark secrets. I joined the healing prayer team for my church, Living Christ Church, and learned how to walk in my authority as a daughter of God. I witnessed a class of Nyack college students experience the freeing and the healing love of the Father. Then I began training the new admissions associate for the Alliance Theological Seminary as I prepared to transition. I accepted the position as Area Coordinator for Simpson Hall at Nyack College this Fall and said “See ya later” to my amazing roommate over a turkey bacon & egg breakfast (as we are both moving out of our shared space). I finally ended my 2nd year at seminary with a 4.0 GPA- this woman got Straight A’s.

These last few months have been incredibly difficult, transformational, and emotionally unnerving. But somehow I got through them all and I am now preparing for my next adventure; Spending 10 weeks this summer in Recife, Brazil working with Shores of Grace in their efforts to rescue women and children from sex slavery. I leave May 28th! woooohooo

off of the streets“In 2010 it is estimated that 40,000 sex workers were active during the World Cup in South Africa. Now four years later, the World Cup is on its way to Brazil, a country already known for its exploitation of sex workers…hundreds of thousands of women & children will be at risk for trafficking, violent sex crimes, disease, drug abuse and death. In the summer of 2013 I had the opportunity to see 4 children pulled off of the streets of Brazil and placed in a home where they were given a safe environment to live in for the very first time. God broke my heart over the injustice and exploitation of Brazil’s women and children. So in the summer of 2014, just as the World Cup begins, I will head back to Brazil to be a part of God’s rescue mission for the vulnerable.”

 (An excerpt from my support letter that perfectly articulates the need, & my heart to serve this summer.)

I am taking a huge risk; I resigned from my job, I am moving out of my apartment anbrokem by God's loved I bought an airline ticket believing that on the streets of Brazil loving those women and children is EXACTLY where I am meant to be. The center of God’s will for me this summer will be in a place of vulnerability to the unknown, of risk and of deep trust, as I count on Him to be everything I need to survive.

To say that I am excited is an understatement. This is a thrilling adventure into the unknown, may it be the first of many!!  In the moments of fear and discouragement (because they have come) I am holding on to those memories of last summer in Brazil, when God broke my heart and put his love in me for that beautiful nation and its people.

As a graduate student in Intercultural Studies, I have the opportunity to use this trip to fulfill degree requirements (2nd continent experience — required of ATS’ MA IC students), and put all I am learning in the classroom into practice, gain experience and hands on training in missions work to the poor, hurting, and marginalized. At the end of my trip I will put together a thesis that I will present to my Intercultural Studies professors.  How awesome it is to be a part of a seminary that sends its students out to do the work of the gospel!!!!!

 I cordially invite YOU into my adventure into the unknown. Please partner with me in this mission! I want to share my experiences, heart breaks, victories and day-to-day moments with you.

Throughout my time in Brazil I will blog weekly, so check-in to get the scoop of all that’s going down on the streets of Recife during the 2014 World Cup.

Also please, PRAY, PRAY, PRAY! I need prayers for courage, wisdom, and strength as I face these transitions. – If you have a heart for women & children in sex trafficking, but cannot physically go, you can still join in this mission by partnering with me. Your support will make a lasting impact in the life of someone who needs YOU.


Thank you for partnering with me, believing in this mission and praying as I go into an “adventure into the unknown”.




Online Courses: An Insider Interview with Anna


At Nyack’s Memorial Park

The following is an online interview I held with current Master of Arts in Biblical Literature student Anna Bailey Shuman. Anna is now in her second semester of her first year of study at the Alliance Theological Seminary. Having graduated from Nyack College May of 2013, Anna knew her next step would be to complete a seminary degree. However her busy schedule; coaching volleyball, playing softball for Nyack College and working in ministry prevented her from starting her degree within the classroom but that didn’t stop her… Read the interview below!


Q- Why did you choose to begin    softballseminary with online classes?
A- I chose to begin seminary with online classes because my schedule was too crazy to find an empty three hour block, but I didn’t want to put off my education.

Q-What was your online experience like?


Anna and her husband David(also a Nyack grad) at Nyack College’s chapel, in which she was given the opportunity to preach.

A-My first semester online experience was wonderful!  At first I was worried that I would feel disconnected from my classmates and professors, but that fear was proven false.  Everyone was super intentional about building a class community through the online discussions, email, and review sessions we held.  It was definitely interesting adjusting back into a physical classroom assignment this semester.   I grew accustomed to having time to research my responses to classmates questions or statements; a luxury I actually miss within the classroom.

Q-Are there any highlights you’d like to share?

A- I think my favorite part of the online courses was the structure and routine that accompanied it.  The level of organization made it easier for me to balance school, sports, work, and family at the same time.

Q-What is your advice for any prospective seminary students seeking to do an online program?
A-If anyone is considering partaking in an online program my advice is this:
1) Set a weekly schedule for yourself and adhere to it.  Find different sets of time to block off specifically for your class work and do not compromise.   It can be very easy to fall behind without the physical reminder of going to class.
2)  You will receive what you work for.  If you slack off and settle for doing only what is required of you, you will not have the best experience in the class.  Read the notes, do the entire reading assignment, ask the extra questions, and most importantly,  push your classmates towards excellence. pierparkPictured left to right: Amelia, Michelle and Anna.
Some of Nyack’s and ATS’ best at Memorial Park in Nyack.

         Thank you Anna! Great advice from someone who’s experienced both the classroom and online learning experience.  If you’re interested in pursuing a seminary degree, contact me ( and let’s see if perhaps an online program would work for you!

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