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It's Christmas Time in the City

 ”City sidewalks, busy sidewalks Dressed in holiday style In the air there’s a feeling Of Christmas.”

Christmas time is here! It appears that all of NYC is in the Holiday spirit. Everywhere you look, there are decorations and Christmas lights. The Christmas tree in Rockefeller center still draws thousands.

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People race to such landmarks as the “Radio City Music Hall” to be part of a Christmas tradition that they have heard about since their youth. But the Holiday spirit doesn’t apply solely to tourist sites. Each neighborhood is decorated with their own peculiar flare. From Washington Heights to the Financial District, Manhattan is aglow.

As I braved 34th street yesterday, I was amazed to see the myriads of shoppers going to buy their last minute gifts. Here excitement is the norm. No one appears to be focusing on the negative, as they gleefully go from store to store. As I walk, I look up toward Macy’s and see one word scrolled on the side of the famous landmark: “Believe.”

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Could Macy’s have accidentally gotten the true meaning of Christmas?! If so then this is truly a “Miracle on 34th Street.”

“Believe.”

As I continue to walk the streets, I begin to notice some other things. On 20th street in lower Manhattan, I see a drunken man at a bus stop slumped over sitting next to a pool of vomit.  “It’s Christmas time in the city.“   I walk past a young girl at Lincoln Center on the Upper West side. She is sitting in the cold with a small sign that reads “I’m a good girl in a bad spot, please help.” I think about the many kids that will be sold into sex slavery on this Island that I call my home. “Soon it will be Christmas day.”

My heart is heavy as I try to balance the “Christmas Cheer” with the brokenness that is all around me. I pray as I think about how I can meet the needs of those hurting around me. “Silver bells” misses the fact that there are many this Christmas that are suffering and vulnerable in this great city. This brokeness is the result of sin. When Adam and Eve defied God’s kingship, the world was broken. With the introduction of sin came suffering and exploitation.

But there is hope. Christ came as a baby. Born as a fully human baby, the Creator became like his creation in every way, but sin. He lived for us perfectly. He obeyed God in every way that we have failed him. As a grown man in his 30s, Jesus suffered the wrath of God in our place. He took our punishment. In essence, He endured “hell” on the cross for you and I. But that is not all. Jesus rose to represent us before the Father. His life and death counts for those that believe in Him. Macy’s is correct. We must “believe.” But the most beautiful thing about Christmas to me is that it is a reminder that this world will not be broken forever. The King that was defied by our ancestors is coming back! The prophet Isaiah carefully wrote these words:

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace, there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

So what are we supposed to believe? Believe that the pain and suffering that you see this Christmas will not always be. The King is coming. Every tear will be wiped away. The hurt that plagues you will cease.

Christmas day is not simply about a cute baby that was born in a manger in the Ancient Near East. Christmas is about the fact that the “baby” grew up, lived, died and rose for us. Jesus, who saves us from the penalty of our sin, will one day save us from the effects of sin. This is why I can smile. The King is coming and He alone can fix this broken world. Take Macy’s advice and “believe…” because soon it will be Christmas day.

It’s Christmas time in the city Ring-a-ling, hear them ring Soon it will be Christmas Day Soon it will be Christmas Day

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How did I get to NYC?

Two years ago I made it known publicly that I would NEVER do two things: 1) I would never visit NYC or 2) raise support. So how did I end up raising support to serve as a Collegiate Missionary in NYC? The quick answer would be that one of my best friends, Davin Henrickson paved the way for me. Davin was the first person that I met at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2003. Soon, we became friends and then roommates. Davin and I consistently challenged each other to grow closer to Christ.

Davin at my 29th Birthday dinner. He was not expecting the sudden Papparazi style camera action!

Davin was a renaissance man of sorts. I mean – the guy could do anything that he put his mind to. For instance, at my 30th birthday party, we forgot the spatula. By "we," I really mean "I." Regardless, here we are at the park: raw hamburger meat, a grill, and people, but NO spatula. I paced around for about ten minutes and then returned to find Davin holding a spatula. But this was not an ordinary kitchen utensil. No, Davin had built it out of a few twigs and a red bull can; that was Davin! Also, I remember one evening, he and I were talking through a struggle that I was going through and "blessed be your name" by Matt Redman came on the radio. As these words played:

"Blessed be Your name, on the road marked with suffering; Though there's pain in the offering, blessed be Your name . . ."

He stopped and looked at me and said "this is what it’s about." He understood that suffering pushes us to depend more and more on the Gospel and he challenged me with those lyrics. That was my friend, “MacGuyver the Theologian.”

Following our graduation from Seminary, we all took different directions, but that didn't keep us from keeping up with each other. While I was serving as a College minister in West Virginia in 2011, he came up for my ordination. This was an emotional time, because not only had I just been ordained to Christian ministry, but Davin told me that he was finally going to Idaho to serve as a minister. He was finally pursuing his dream and his calling!

A week later, however, Davin called me and told me that he felt a mass in his abdomen during his trip and that he was going to the doctor to have it checked out. The doctor confirmed that it was beta cell lymphoma. The chemotherapy regimen was launched immediately. I just knew that God had led Davin into this season of life, so that God could be glorified through his healing. But the days turned to weeks and the weeks turned to months without any marked improvement in his condition.

Davin and I at Baptist Hospital following his first Chemo treatment.

The treatments began to take their toll on Davin's body, as he continued to try new treatments at various hospitals. Our conversations began to change. No longer were they light and jovial. Now, we talked about "dying well." I'll never forget one day as we were headed to lunch, Davin looked at me with a face of solemn bewilderment and simply stated, "If God decides to heal me for his glory . . . I understand that, but what if His plan is for me to die. I don't understand." I tried to respond with a deep theological answer that would satisfy his question. But I struggled to find the words. All I could do was to point to the Cross.

During this time, I found that my position at the West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists was being phased out across the board. So I was traveling, praying, and looking for a new position where I could serve in ministry. On April 24th, I was on my way back from meeting with a friend who was encouraging me to look into starting a church, when I read this email from Davin's wife, Lauren:

“We received the results of Davin's CT scan yesterday, and the cancer has spread throughout his abdomen. Any future treatments (chemo, radiation, etc.) are more likely to cause discomfort than to help, so now our treatment focus is on pain management. We are meeting with some staff from Hosparus (http://www.hosparus.org) tonight, to help Davin decide if he wants to try to remain at home for this time of waiting or if the hospital would be better. The doc said he isn't in the business of guessing, so we don't really have a guess as to how soon God will take Davin to be with Him. For now, we wait. It is bittersweet, but we can rejoice that Davin will be free from suffering soon. Praise God for the perfect healing to come! ‘For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.’ -Philippians 1:21”

I was speechless. Paralyzed by grief, I sat there trying to gather my thoughts. Trying to think of the next step, while simultaneously being rendered immobile. I tried to pull myself together enough to drive home so that I could make plans to visit Davin in Louisville.

The night before I went to visit Davin for the last time, I preached Philippians 4:13. "I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength" was no longer a pithy saying from a Christian T-shirt. It was a promise that I needed. I knew that I needed to challenge one of my best friends to die well and I didn't want to. I didn't want to face the fact that my friend was no longer going to be here. Actually, I wanted to turn my car around and pretend that this wasn't happening. But God gave me the courage to walk into the house where I sat with Davin. I grabbed a Bible and began reading Philippians 3:8-11: "Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ
and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith-
that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,
 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead."

 I reminded him that the Gospel not only saves us  but also motivates us to live in such a way that we desire to know Him in an intimate way through our sufferings. Looking into his eyes, I told him, "Davin, I don't know what's coming around the corner, but I do know that this is when you seek to glorify God like you have never done before." He agreed.

I stayed with my friend for the next 5 days. During this time, I wrestled with God. I realized that I wanted to be in control of my life, but I wasn't. I discovered that I was afraid to die. I could now see clearly how easy it has been for me to coast spiritually rather than learning to truly walk by faith. Davin was about to die, without ever fulfilling his dream to do ministry. How would I respond to that?! I realized that I have an expiration date and that I need to do what God has called me to do. So, I purposed to trust God even if the next step would be an uncomfortable one.

Despite my fears, God has led me to the NYC and called me to raise support. He called me to a renewed life of faith.

Ultimately, all of us have been called to cling to the Gospel and to live our lives in light of that truth. We have been called to live by Faith, even if it is uncomfortable. That is what Davin did.

Three days before Davin passed, his family and friends sat in the living room and sang together. Though Davin could barely speak, he sang these words from  Matt Redman's "10,000 Reasons:"

And on that day when my strength is failing The end draws near and my time has come Still my soul will sing Your praise unending Ten thousand years and then forevermore

As I saw my friend in his last moments, I was reminded just how short life is. Each one of us has an expiration date. We are called to live by faith. What will we do with the life that God has given us?

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After The Storm

Hey everyone! Thanks for you all of your texts, calls, emails and Facebook messages. Here is a quick update of what has been happening here in NYC in the past week and a half.At this moment, I am sitting at JFK airport, where I have been for the last 24 hours. Long story short, though I had plans to return to Florida to spread the word about collegiate missions in NYC, the Nor’Easter had different plans for me. But I did finally get to spend a night in an airport, which for some strange reason has always been on my bucket list... so that was good. It was kind of like a church lock-in except not as scary. ;) But honestly, this is a trivial problem compared to what many in my city are dealing with at the moment!

As you know from watching the news, life has been tough for those that live in NYC and Jersey City recently. There are so many without power, access to food, clothing, and shelter. Many have lost EVERYTHING in the floods that have ravaged our coast line. Now they are facing the punishing coldness brought by the Nor’Easter. The fact that CNN and other news agencies are no longer covering Sandy does not mean that everything is over. The relief efforts are just beginning.

Whether it is the cab driver that drove me to the airport, who complained consistently about the fact that he was unable to find gas anywhere, the lack of access to the subway system or the family in a high rise apartment in lower Manhattan that JUST received power and access to their elevator, everyone in NYC has been touched by this disaster. Before the Sandy visited us, I gathered with my small group from the Gallery church at an apartment in Harlem. This was by far one of the safest places in the city. There, we played games and hung out as we waited for the worst. Thankfully, God protected us. During this time, my small group realized that the storm changed my birthday plans so they threw me an impromptu birthday party complete with an amazing pumpkin pie!

Three days later on October 31st, we emerged from the apartment and were thankfully to step on to dry ground. As we looked outside, we could see that Mcdonald’s was open. This was a sign to us that the world was getting back to normal. But things are far from over... In the days that followed, the MNYBA and the Gallery church have been coordinating relief efforts all over the city. We are mobilizing volunteers to serve our community and be a Gospel light to those that are hurting. I arrived at the Gallery church on 27th and Broadway to help in any way I could. I was quickly directed to a room full of documents and hair dryers that were laying on the floor. “Raleigh, could you start drying the most important documents first?” In the next few hours, I helped to dry out birth certificates, ordination certificates, and tax forms that belonged to the Burton family.

The Burtons go to Gallery and live in Jersey city. Last year, their apartment was flooded by Irene and though they prepared for it Sandy flooded their apartment again. They lost everything!!!

But God is providing. Recently, I assisted several students from Westpoint that were providing for the Burton family, as well as other families that had lost everything in Jersey City. They brought baby clothes, shoes, shirts, towels etc.

We have also been going to the High rise apartments that have been without power and have climbed the stairs with flashlights in hand (many times at least 25 flights)to deliver much needed food and supplies to those that were stranded. One  such man told one of our team that he needed Kidney Dialysis and he didn’t know how he would get there; a ride was provided for him the next day by the NYPD. If you are interested in reading more, please click here...

Thank you so much for praying and caring for us. I also ask you that as you think about us that you would provide financially. As I am a self-funded collegiate missionary in NYC, it is YOUR monthly gifts that enable me to serve those that are helpless. Please go to the “Why Donate?” tab and give as the Lord leads. Thank you so much for your concern. Also, during the month of November, if you live in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, or Kentucky, I would love to schedule time to meet with you and/or your church, as I will be traveling through the South to raise up a ministry support team. Contact me at Raleigh.sadler@gmail.com.  Thank you and God Bless!!!

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I live in NYC!

New York City The arabic music playing in the cab reminded me that I was no longer in West Virginia. With each passing moment, the city became closer and my past adventures seemed further away. God had brought me to a new place, a different place: Manhattan!

The months of wrestling with questions of the will of God had led me to this moment. I was now no longer the WV Collegiate Evangelism Director. I had moved to pursue Gospel ministry with college students in the "Big Apple." The 594,000 college students in NYC warranted it. "How can there be only a handful of college ministers in a city so big?" What will it take for them to hear the Gospel?

It takes faith in the goodness and faithfulness of God.

Trusting that God is my provider, I will raise my own financial support and work with College Students and Human Trafficking abolition. For me to get to this point, one must know that God has stretched me more than ever. 2 years ago, I said that I would NEVER do two things: 1) Visit NYC and 2) raise my own financial support for ministry. The blog posts that follow will showcase the adventures that I have as I pursue God in the city.

If you desire to be a ministry partner, please click here mscsupport.namb.net . Type "Raleigh Sadler." This will lead you to my support page. Thanks for your partnership in the Gospel!!!

Enjoy!

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