Christ in the Capital of the World
In 2006, Oyesile and Abby's pastor, Nimi Wariboko, sensed it was time to start a new church. With money for a few months' rent and musical equipment, some Bibles and folding chairs, and a few family and church members, they were off. Next stop: Bedford-Stuyvesant, the very neighborhood where Oyesile nearly lost his life some 25 years earlier.
Oyesile juggles multiple jobs and ministers in a variety of worlds. He is a pastor with two doctorates who works at a Wall Street insurance firm. Every available hour, evening and weekend, he devotes to his church. He is also on faculty at City Seminary. And he is a father of five.
Oyesile is one example of the entrepreneurial energy and passion that has taken root in New York City for the kingdom. "How do you implement your vision?" Oyesile asks. "Not me," he says, "but the power of the Holy Spirit."
At the end of the service, the doctors, taxi drivers, lawyers, nurses, security guards, students, musicians, and parents at Chapel of Hope spill out onto the streets of Brooklyn. As Oyesile reminds them, "This is your city. God is with you. Go out. You are filled with hope."
Lives of Testimony
Priscilla Walton and her younger sister, Kat Pan, hail from Queens. They are committed to living and working in the city long-term, sharing the gospel in the everyday.
Their parents, from Taiwan and South Korea, worship at Christian Testimony, an immigrant Chinese church in Elmhurst in western Queens. Members for years, they brought their daughters and the girls' two cousins each week (one of the cousins now plants churches in Queens).
Pan, a recent college graduate, carries on the family legacy by leading the Christian Testimony youth group. "I want them to see more than what is in front of them and to help them think through what it will be like in college as a believer." Each Friday night and Sunday afternoon, she and co-leader Jonathan Zee challenge the youth to take their faith seriously, even recruiting them to attend seminary for urban youth leadership development. "I want to invest in New York City," she says.
"They helped me understand the gospel was not isolated," says Walton of her parents and church. "I grew up with a strong understanding of myself as a Chinese American Christian."
At age 9, Walton helped her mother, a retired educator with the NYC Department of Education, prepare and perform skits for children's Sunday school. Later she helped with the youth ministry, which took a missions trip to Trinidad. She was surprised and encouraged to see 17-year-olds serving as deacons in the Trinidad church; they were involved as leaders, getting up as early as 5 a.m. to serve. She realized that she could do something now.
After graduating from Goucher College in Maryland, Walton's passion for justice led her to become an elementary teacher in inner-city Baltimore. One day a second-grade student asked her, "Why are the teachers always angry, the hot lunch always cold, and the boys' bathroom floor always wet?" This prompted her to think more creatively about what it meant to love her neighbor. When she returned to New York City, she arrived with a renewed vision as a teacher and leader in a charter school network, first in Harlem and now in Elmhurst.