Day in the life: Charity worker
Paul Beaton, volunteer in the Missions Department (three months), Times Square Church, New York
I’d wake up at 6am with my mobile phone alarm buzzing in my ear. I need to start every day with some alone time with God so, as I shared a room with five other guys, I’d find a quiet spot in the building to sit, pray, read my Bible and get myself geared up for all that lay ahead in Manhattan.
I’d then grab a quick shower, get dressed and make my way to the subway station, picking up some fruit at a market stall on the way.
We lived in Queens and so caught the ‘R’ train at 46th street in Astoria for a 25-minute journey to Times Square. I was usually early, so once in Manhattan I liked to grab myself a coffee, put some music on my headphones and just wander around, soaking up the sights and sounds of NYC.
The city is a total assault on the senses but I love it. There’s a spark, drive and energy about the place that gets in your blood.
At work, I was able to get involved with ChildCry – a Times Square Church charity that feeds hungry kids all across the world.
The church launched the non-profit-making charity following a mission trip to Zambia, where its team encountered heartbreaking scenes of young kids living on the streets. Five-year-olds were taking care of two-year-olds, rummaging around for scraps of food to eat.
Compelled to help as many children as possible, the church then established ChildCry, which today feeds more than 4,000 kids through 22 global programmes – one of which is back ‘home’ in Bushwick, Brooklyn.
And, as part of ChildCry, on Friday mornings we’d head to Brooklyn to deliver snack bags to needy children. We’d drive all over the Bushwick area, visiting nurseries and dropping off food parcels to some of cutest kids I’ve seen.
I quickly discovered these amazing cinnamon bagels and $1 slices of pizza (surprisingly tasty pizza). You could buy two slices and a can of ‘soda’ for $2.75 – so I pretty much lived on pizza for three months!
I’d either take my food back to the church and hang out with the guys in the kitchen, go for a walk or, if I wanted some peace and quiet, spend some time in the main sanctuary; a stunning room, which seats 1,800. To sit in this huge hall which is usually packed with people, and sit in complete silence (you could hear yourself breathe) was powerful.
My afternoons were very varied. In one day, I could be helping out with ChildCry marketing, filming video announcements, giving a guest a tour around the church and praying with people who had come by looking for support.
Everything involved getting to know a lot of people, particularly New Yorkers, whom I find fascinating and just downright cool. They definitely have a reputation for being tough but, while they'll not take any nonsense, I think they’re actually really friendly and helpful. Just don’t mess with them!
Most nights I liked to take to my feet and explore the city. One evening, I had the honour of sharing my story on how I became a Christian and the journey I’ve been on, at a Times Square Church service, which was a huge privilege and a real buzz.
On Mondays, I was part of the church’s homeless ministry, Raven Feed New York, which reaches out to people in need across NYC.
We made up food parcels – packed with sandwiches, crisps, juice and biscuits – and drove downtown to the likes of Tomkins Square Park and the streets around Penn Station, where you’d see some desperate situations. I found out that there are plenty of homeless shelters but these people would rather rough it out on the streets because, in the words of one guy I spoke to, the shelters are ‘worse than jail’ for getting robbed and assaulted.
The Raven Feed New York team does incredible work, not only providing food but help, love and encouragement for broken people who have fallen on hard times.
Overall, my three months in NYC were phenomenal. The things I saw, the people I met and the conversations I had were life-changing. It can be best summed up with one Bible verse – ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has imagined what the Lord has planned for those who love Him’. (1 Cor 2:9).
For further information on the charities, visit www.tscnyc.org and www.childcrynyc.org