With more than eight million people from more than 700 different language/culture groups, New York City is one of America’s most diverse cities. And it is estimated that only about 3% of New Yorkers have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Coats for the City, an outreach event in New York City, was started to provide coats to citizens in need while giving new churches the opportunity to meet local residents and share the gospel with them.
Last year marked the 10th annual Coats for the City, organized by the Great Commission Partnerships in conjunction with the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association. North Carolina Baptists joined church planters in the MNYBA to distribute new and gently used coats to impact lostness throughout New York City.
After much prayer, Coats for the City organizers felt it was best to cancel the 2020 event due to travel restrictions and quarantine requirements set at the time, along with the possibility of COVID-19 cases rising. The money that would have been used for the event was donated to churches and missionaries in New York City.
The need in New York City is great, especially with how hard the city was hit by the pandemic, and churches have the unique opportunity of reaching New Yorkers each winter.
Danny Torres, founder and lead pastor of Swerve Church in Bushwick, Brooklyn, has participated in Coats for the City since 2016.
“There are a lot of people who don’t trust the church. They don’t perceive it in a positive light,” Torres said. “Coats for the City gives us the opportunity to show the love of God. It’s not just handing out a coat. It is helping people see themselves with dignity, as people bearing the Imago Dei.”
During the past year, teams have handed out an estimated 4,000 coats at 18 distribution sites in all five boroughs of New York City.
There were 97 volunteers from 10 North Carolina Baptist churches who traveled to New York, along with 43 volunteers from a new partnership with the South Carolina Baptist Convention. Churches from New York City and Connecticut also participated.
But what about you?
“Coats for the City is the perfect introduction to missions for someone who has never been on a mission trip,” said Bartley Wooten, pastor of Beulaville Baptist Church. “The fact that the world came to New York makes this mission opportunity unique. And the mission work is benevolent. You just use your gifts to reach New York residents.”
This outreach event is a collaborative effort that reveals the unity of the church and shows Christians being the hands and feet of Jesus.
“All these churches coming together to have an impact on all five boroughs at one time is incredible. I don’t know of any mission effort that is quite like this,” Torres said. “It provides a tangible need that people have, and they see Christians meeting that need!”
3 ways you can be involved
Prayers are essential for Coats for the City to have a Kingdom-sized impact.
Pray for North Carolina churches to partner with MNYBA churches.
Pray for volunteers to serve each year.
Pray for New Yorkers to repent and believe in Jesus Christ.
While many may not have the ability to donate coats or travel to New York, people can commit to praying on behalf of every person touched by Coats for the City.
Start with one coat.
It can be that jacket in the back of a closet that is rarely worn, or it may be the one purchased after the holidays (many stores have big sales on winter gear once warmer weather arrives). Those who are interested are encouraged to talk with their church family and start collecting new and gently used coats.
Coats are not the only thing that can be donated to New York City. An individual’s time and their presence are welcomed. If a person is bilingual, they can communicate and translate in boroughs where English is not spoken well. For those who are nervous to talk, but are hardworking, there are plenty of items to be moved and distributed.
Beyond the coats
Each experience will be unique, whether one is partnering through collecting or by handing out coats in one of the New York City boroughs. But the mission goes beyond the coats.
North Carolina Baptist churches are serving New York churches year round. During the height of the pandemic, Buies Creek Baptist sent hand sewn masks and backpacks with school supplies.
“Our hope is that Coats for the City will create biblical partnerships with brothers and sisters in NYC throughout the year,” said Lauren McCall, executive assistant of the mission catalysts group at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. “If you are a layperson, pastor or student, there is a place for you.”
EDITOR’S NOTE – This story was written by Hayden Cork and first published by the Biblical Recorder, news service of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.