A Day on Long Island surpasses expectations
    March 9 2010 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

    (EDITOR’S NOTE — Melissa Lilley was a part of the Baptist State Convention leadership vision trip in Metropolitan New York. She gives her impressions in this first-person story in which you can identify needs to which your church might respond in this new partnership with the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association.)

    I’m not sure what exactly I expected from Long Island. I guess after spending my first day ever in New York City the day before I expected something similar to Manhattan. As we drove farther and farther away from the city the tall buildings became fewer and fewer and the scene started to look like one from back home. Not rural, but less “city” than the day before.

    My group’s first stop was in Farmingdale at Crossroads Church.

    BSC photo

    Mike Sowers, center right, joins with North Carolina vision team members and leaders in Metro New York Baptist Association. The team was pursuing ideas for partnership ministries and mission trips.

    So we could meet as many pastors as possible on the vision trip, our vision team of 11 toured in three groups: one in New Jersey, one in Brooklyn and Queens, and my team headed to Long Island.

    Dan Haughey and his wife Jean met us at LaGuardia. They were to take us to meet Sterling Edwards, pastor of Crossroads Church of Long Island; Kurt Wesolowski, pastor of Trinity Baptist; and then on to Dan’s church, Victory Chapel Baptist in Patchogue. Dan, who is soft-spoken and small in stature, retired about seven years ago from life as an electrician. Dan and Jean both came to know Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Savior later in life.

    Dan was raised a Catholic and Jean grew up not going to church. He has no formal seminary training and never intended to pastor a church. He was good friends with the pastor of Victory Chapel and when the pastor died seven years ago, Dan began shepherding the flock. Now they serve a church that includes former drug addicts and adults with disabilities.  

    Reviving Crossroads
    On the way home from a retreat with his youth group in Colorado, Sterling sensed something wasn’t right — not in the youth group, but in his own heart.

    “We were way too comfortable. I don’t even know how to explain it,” he said. “We were clocking in and clocking out.” Sterling prayed for six months about what the Lord wanted him to do and not long after, this family from Houston, Texas, moved to a Long Island assignment that would be anything but comfortable.

    Five or six Southern Baptist churches serve the three million people in Suffolk and Nassau counties on Long Island. More than just the lack of Baptists, evangelical churches of any kind are hard to find on Long Island and most people who go to church go to a Catholic church.

    Since July 2006, Sterling has served Crossroads Church, which is the first Southern Baptist work on Long Island. The church began strong in the 1960s, but declined over time. In four years the church of about 30 has grown to more than 100. Twenty percent of those coming to Crossroads are not Christians and many who come are skeptical and come with lots of questions about the church. That’s OK with Sterling, because week after week he watches the gospel changes lives.

    Sterling came to New York with much to learn. After two weeks on the job a team came to help with a Backyard Bible Club. The town issued Sterling a citation warning because the Backyard Bible Club was mistaken for a daycare center.

    Sterling also learned that door-to-door visitation is not the best ministry option in his community. On one occasion a woman recited the sinner’s prayer because she wanted to end the conversation with the people on her doorstep. After that, it took Sterling three months of reaching out to her before she even responded to his efforts to contact her, and then she only responded to e-mail.

    Sterling explained that one reason door-to-door visitation is not effective is because of the commuter life. He said people “fight for time,” often meeting at places like Panera or Starbucks because it’s more convenient than home. As a pastor, Sterling is rarely invited into a family’s home to visit; this simply is not part of the culture.

    People on Long Island do want relationships and they want to hear about God, but in that order. “They want to know you guys,” Sterling told our group. “Then you can tell them about God.”  

    Faithful few
    After our time with Sterling, Dan and Jean took us to Royal Oak Diner where we met Kurt for lunch. Kurt is a bivocational pastor of a church averaging 30-35 Sunday mornings. That number seemed small to me at first, and the Lord convicted my heart for doubting what He can do in His church regardless of quantity.

    Trinity Baptist is farther out on the 125-mile Long Island, where the commuter life is much less prevalent. Kurt needs teams to help his church with Vacation Bible School and Backyard Bible Clubs, but does not want to be dependent on the teams. Kurt prays that in a few years, “we can be sending teams to other places.”

    He does not want teams to come do ministry for them. Instead, he wants teams to work with his church and teach them how to effectively carry on the ministry once they leave. Trinity is a church ready to be equipped for ministry and ready to go and share what they learn.

    Kurt is also praying for the church to “bridge the gap between activity and church participation.” Hosting an event such as a sports clinic is a good thing, but Kurt wants more.

    He wants to do more to follow up and reconnect with people in the community who attend events hosted by the church.  

    Victory at home
    Dan told us he remembered living across from the church building where his congregation meets, just across the railroad tracks, and watching this building being built as a bar.

    Another congregation then converted the building from a bar and grill into a church.


    When we arrived at Victory Chapel Dan and Jean turned into proud grandparents. Not the overzealous kind with pictures practically falling out of the wallet, but the kind who do not have to say much because a picture speaks for itself.

    The facility will seat maybe 100 people and includes an upstairs area for the children. It’s not a large building, but considering they were meeting in an old office building about one fourth the size of the new building, this must seem like a mansion.

    Dan and Jean tried to leave Long Island.

    They moved to Maine but came home because they knew this is where they needed to serve. In their neighborhood “the major economy is dealing drugs,” Jean said.

    Most parents are not married and cops pay youth to help them find drug dealers.

    What sticks in my mind about the Haugheys is their gratitude.

    They are thankful for everything and they know from whom all blessings flow. They shared about their desire for basketball equipment so they can start using sports as an outreach. On the spot Sterling donated a basketball goal. Judging from the look on Dan and Jean’s faces it was Christmas in February.

    I did not expect to meet Long Island pastors like Dan with such a positive outlook considering the seemingly impossible task before them. Nor did I expect to leave so encouraged by men and women passionate about sharing the gospel to a lost world. Long Island is certainly not what I expected. It was even better.

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    3/9/2010 5:25:00 AM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

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