Making disciples of all nations can be just one subway stop away in New York City’s five boroughs, which present turbocharged opportunities for world missions. Of the 8.5 million people calling the Big Apple home, 37 percent are foreign born.
Steve Kulish, U.S. missionary with Intercultural Ministries missionary and his wife, Deborah, a nurse, served small churches in the greater Pittsburgh area before answering the Great Commission’s call to New York City.
“God kept breaking my heart for New York,” Kulish says. “Every time I saw or heard the city’s name, I wept. Even when hearing Frank Sinatra singing his big hit ‘New York, New York,’ I was a mess.”
The couple moved from Pittsburgh to New York in 1997 and Kulish initially partnered with a parachurch organization. Learning the needs of New York’s many ethnic communities shaped his ministry. He established Intensive Care Urban Ministry, coaching pastors, providing resources, training leaders, planting churches, and assisting street outreaches for nearly 100 growing multiethnic churches. He also encourages corporate fasting and prayer walks through neighborhoods.
“Steve has arranged teams from Assemblies of God churches in Pennsylvania and New York state to help our youth and kid’s crusades for 15 years,” says Jatinder Gill, pastor of Bethlehem Punjabi Church in Richmond Hill, Queens. Originally from India, Gill ministers to immigrants from Hindu, Sikh, and Muslim backgrounds and translates sermons into Punjabi, Hindi, Urdu, and English. During summers, the church conducts festivals of light to attract Sikhs with games and plastic kiddie pools brimming with ice, watermelons, and bottles of water. These events build bridges for sharing Christ and inviting people to services.
Kulish and his teams use creative tactics for reaching people. For example, the colorful gospel glove, a natural conversation starter, displays easy-to-read Scriptures.
During a kid’s crusade in Brooklyn, a visiting AG pastor sat on a curb under a tree and befriended a 9-year-old Muslim boy. The pastor encouraged the youngster to read Bible verses about Jesus from the gospel glove. Weeping as he read, the boy asked Jesus into his heart. Within minutes, his burka-wearing mother appeared. Instead of seething with anger, she moved close to the pastor, her eyes shrouded by her veil. “I love Jesus with all my heart, but I can’t take my burka off,” she whispered.
“God does amazing things and it doesn’t matter what people look like,” Kulish says.
While helping Holy Family Assembly in Jamaica, Queens, prepare for a kid’s crusade, Kulish witnessed a scary police scene. A Special Weapons and Tactics team rushed into a home across the street from the Guyanese church, breaking down the front door with a battering ram. Within minutes, officers herded two handcuffed young men out of the building, a crack house.
Two weeks later during the sidewalk crusade, Kulish noticed the two men looking over from their roof. They eventually climbed down and walked across the street and accepted hamburgers. After listening to a sermon, they surrendered their lives to Christ and attend the church now.
Above all, Kulish encourages Christians, whether native-born Americans or immigrants, to engage with those who look different.
“Put churchy language aside,” he says. “Show sensitivity and love and earn the right to walk with them as a friend and rely on the Holy Spirit to unlock their hearts.”
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