In 2014 I was participating as a core team member for a new church plant, and through that process, my daughter and I decided to accept Jesus and become baptized. So I am the fruit of a church plant. After some time, God began opening doors for me to learn about following Jesus into areas of social justice. I attended trainings on human trafficking, gang issues, domestic violence, and so many other areas and I wasn’t even sure why I was learning about all these things. Then in 2015, I was invited to a Young Life leadership retreat where the topic for one of the workshops was hearing from God. When the speaker finished explaining how we hear from God, she said:”Now let’s pray and see if we hear anything from God.” I closed my eyes and heard these words: ”You will plant a church in Yonkers.” My response was being completely upset at the thought of being called away from the church community where my daughter and I had accepted Christ. For months I just cried and cried.
Over time, God kept saying that the church plant was going to be for the homeless, gang members, drug dealers, poor, incarcerated, and all of the groups of people that he had sent me to the trainings for. But it wasn’t until September 2016 that the founder of a homeless shelter in Yonkers posted on social media that he needed help and asked if someone could come to the shelter. Immediately after seeing the post, I got dressed and went to the shelter at 9:00pm that night. I listened to the stories of the men staying at the shelter and cared for them. Without me saying anything, they realized that I was a Christian and at 5:00am that morning I realized that this was God’s call and I surrendered to that call.
Before this, I was not a public speaker and had never prepared a lesson or taught the Bible. I would get so flustered if I was simply asked to read at the pulpit. But God spoke to me again, this time through a friend who sent 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 to encourage me:
“Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things– the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.” (NIV)
God reminded me that what ultimately mattered was that he had equipped me to do what he needed done in this city for his children. So I started going to the places where God called me, building relationships and recognizing why God loved each person so much. People began surrendering to Jesus and reading the Bible. Some recovered from addictions and families were restored. After a couple months, the local library gave us space to do Bible study together. Then God opened the doors for us to meet in a beautiful room at our local YMCA.
As the ministry became overwhelming, I asked God to give me have a healthy balance between my ministry and my family life. He led our church to gather together on Mondays, and then on Wednesdays and Fridays I would visit various neighborhoods, share the gospel, and connect people to resources in the community. God used those experiences to open a door for me to be part of the Yonkers Re-entry panel, which works to integrate formerly incarcerated people back into society.
It has been a challenging time as the spiritual attacks are real and the lamenting for his children is real. Every time I go to the streets to pray with people and share his Good News, I feel the pain and sadness of the people’s suffering, but at the same time it is amazing to see Jesus so alive in each of his children, to see how the homeless people rush to take a shower so they can come and hear the word, how community is developing among us, and how people are bringing one another to Christ and to our church plant, which is called Hope and Love.
We see signs of God’s kingdom in our city. Our neighborhood is coming together after being very violent and unsafe, and people are becoming more involved in the real issues of the city. I am living and walking by faith and learning how real God is and how much he loves his creation.
Lourdes Delacruz is a servant of Jesus and started Hope and Love, a non-denominational church plant in Yonkers, NY.