woman tugged on the sleeve of one of Graffitis
pastors as he prayed with a homeless man in the park. The minister looked up,
and the woman, an alcoholic, asked him to help her too. He told her about
Christ, and she prayed to receive Him. She quit drinking, and God turned her
life around. She brought her husbanda man whose alcohol problem had resulted in
30 years of homelessnessand he prayed to receive Christ. But he was less
successful than his wife at staying sober. In desperation, he admitted he
couldnt read and thus had no prospects for self-improvement. When this man,
with the help of Graffitis literacy program, read his first words, he bowed his
head and wept.
"I cant believe I am finally somebody," he whispered through his tears.
"Thats the spirit of Graffiti Church," explains Taylor Field, pastor of the
church in Manhattans Lower East Side, where such anecdotes are common.
Taylor, 45, discovered soon after he arrived in New York that he was dealing
with people whose lives had been swallowed up by the drug culture for at least
three generations. He cites cases of grandmothers advising their teenage
grandchildren to get involved in the drug trade because they can make $1,000 in
one weekend. A teen would have to flip a lot of burgers to make that much
Engaged in a struggle for the hearts and souls of a
generation, Taylor says he can relate to Moses as he led the children of Israel
to the Promised Land. Only the children of the Israelites were allowed to
enter. His hope for the neighborhoodhis mission fieldis that each succeeding
generation will see greater things accomplished for the Lord.
Taylor has a passion for souls. In 1986 when he was completing his Ph.D. in
biblical studies, Taylor heard a chapel message that changed the course of his
"Do the thing that makes your heart sing," said the speaker, addressing the
question of finding ones place of ministry.
"Expressing Gods love in physical and tangible ways makes my heart sing,"
Taylor said. He completed his studies and moved to Manhattan.
When Taylor arrived in New York to be the director of East 7th Baptist
Ministries, he realized the most effective way to reach non-Christians,
disciple them and equip them was to plant a church.
Taylor knew from the start that he wouldnt succeed by doing things the way
they were done in his home state of Oklahoma. So he immersed himself in the
culture in order to see through the eyes of his neighbors.
Part of the reality of living in the inner city is
getting used to cramped spaces. Taylor discovered Graffiti would have to be a
"go" churchtaking the church to the people instead of the people to the
churchbecause there was no place big enough for everyone to "come."
Taylors family of four lives in an apartment that could fit inside the
family room in some modern homes. After having their car stolen a few times,
they got rid of that too. Now they use public transit or walk.
When Taylor arrived in the Lower East Side in 1986, he was overwhelmed by
the need. The streets are teeming with criminals, drunks, addicts and
prostitutesmany of them homeless. Turning to Gods Word for guidance, Taylor
read in Isaiah 61:4: They will renew the ruined cities that have been
devastated for generations.
"And that became our prayer," Taylor said. "We have
had great victories and terrible disappointments. I look to the day when the
victories outnumber the defeats," he said. "But we have seen incredible change
in the last three years. Now is a real time of hope."
A positive was the recent incarceration of the neighborhoods main drug
dealer and his henchmen. Theyll be out of the picture for at least 10 years.
Removing the pushers influence as a role model and main employer has been a
huge victory. And, to top it off, after many Graffiti members witnessed to and
prayed for this criminal for years, Taylor reports the drug overlord has
committed his life to Christ and been baptized in prison.
Graffiti tries to meet the most pressing needs as well as work with
tomorrows leaderstodays youthfor long-term changes. The Lower East Side has a
17 percent high school graduation rate, less than one quarter of the national
average. The average in Taylors neighborhood had been zero percent. In the last
few years, youth from Graffiti Church have been raising the standard as more
and more earn their diplomas.
Graffitis ministry is multi-faceted, but they focus
on two main objectives: outreach and community service. Graffiti members have
come to understand the importance of laying a foundation for sharing the
gospelearning the right to talk about Christ by contributing solutions for
Every week Graffiti tutors hundreds of neighborhood children and youth who
have never learned to read. This is an opportunity to share Christ and another
example of how they are a "go" church.
They utilize young people as tutors under the North American Mission Boards
sojourner program, a short-term, volunteer student missions assignment that
pays travel expenses and insurance. [Sojourners must have completed the 11th or
12th grade in high school. Most assignments last from four to 10 weeks. For
information, please call NAMB at 800-462-8657 or email email@example.com.]
They help homeless people find shelter and food.
Graffiti employs a full-time advocate to go to court to help people save
their apartments. Because of rent controls, longtime tenants rent $2,000 flats
for $200. Landlords find any excuse to evict old residents so they can bring in
new renters at inflated prices.
As an outreach to non-Christians, Graffiti believes in taking the church to
They hold 16 worship services and Bible studies in eight locations, which
minister to 600 people throughout the week.
They sponsor recovery groups, because substance abuse is their biggest
They encourage the 40 neighborhood youth who are Christians to stand for
their faith and aspire to the sexual abstinence goals of True Love Waits. In an
area where marriage is seen as unnecessary, 15 church teen-agers have pledged
to keep themselves sexually pure until after their weddings.
They walk with people step by step through one-on-one discipleship.
Graffiti recently purchased a synagogue, but owning a building wont change
the "go" mentality, Taylor said.
"We wont pull ministries into the church. Well add new ones. Our dream is to
use the building as a launching pad for 50 groups for Bible study, worship and
recovery," Taylor said.
f it werent for Gods grace, DeWayne Rogers would be
one sorry cowboy.
"My rodeo event specialty was team roping," DeWayne said. "In 1987, I came
to the Lord in a roping arena at a showdown [rodeo] in Hermiston, Oregon."
With a monthly bar tab of $800, DeWayne had been
forced to give up competitive team roping because he couldnt afford to do
bothdrink and rope. Although he had a good job and never missed a days work,
DeWayne spent every other minute of his day with a bottle in his hand.
He went to the Hermiston rodeo at the request of a friend, not knowing Who
awaited him there.
DeWayne was already inebriated when a Texas cowboy approached him and said:
"You look like you need to come to the Lord." Just like that. No warm up.
"He explained why I needed Jesus and helped me pray the sinners prayer,"
DeWayne said. Even though DeWayne wasnt sober enough to be serious, God was. "I
know God will accept you as you are, because He took me with my hat on."
As DeWayne traveled the Western states for his job,
he soaked up every resource about Christ he could get his hands on. Hungry for
the meat of the gospel, he didnt care how it was served.
From the beginning, DeWayne wanted to start a cowboy church. But he had a
lot to learn first.
"It took me 11 years to get my act together to start one," DeWayne, 53,
said. He and his wife, Harlene, became members of First Baptist in Hermiston.
During those years DeWayne also took Bible classes and attended John Maxwells
DeWayne is well known among the rodeo crowd. He had won the Oregon State
team-roping championship two years in a row after he gave his life to the
"I won it to the glory of God," DeWayne said, his voice husky. Cowboys dont
like to brag.
He was elected president of the Umatilla Sage Riders,
a rodeo club, in 1998. That position gave him access to the clubhouse, and
thats where Cowboy Church was born and continues to grow.
"Cowboy Church has been in full swing since 1998, and it is growing by leaps
and bounds," DeWayne said. In only 18 months, more than 150 cowboys have heard
the gospel of Jesus Christ. "The concept of Cowboy Church is simple. We accept
people as they areeven if they are living in sin. Look at my background! God
Because of the nature of a cowboys life as he follows the rodeo or works on
a busy ranch, regular church attendance is almost impossible. DeWayne calls his
flock nomadic because he sees about 50 people a week at church but its a
different 50 from those who attended the week before. And every week there are
five or six new people who have heard about this group of cowboys who meet to
sing country gospel and worship.
DeWayne doesnt preach every week. He sees himself more as a pastor/organizer
than a preacher. He has several people who come in to preach and about 10
groups who do music, so that the service has variety.
The atmosphere at the 8 a.m. service is casual and relaxed. Cowboys dont
like to sit in one place for too longtoo many joints stiffened by being thrown
from bucking horses or raging bullsso it is quite common for people to get up
and refill their coffee cup during the one-hour service.
The Rogers are still active members of First Baptist, Hermiston. One of the
reasons Cowboy Church meets at 8 a.m. on Sundays is so they can also attend the
churchs 10:30 worship.
Why doesnt DeWayne simply invite the cowboys to "come" to his home church?
Because he believes in the "go" mentality.
"We gotta put the word out there," he said.
Connie Cavanaugh lives in Cochrane, Alberta.
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