Savannah Hutto remembers vividly the day she stood at 15 years old on the Brooklyn Bridge and cried because she didn’t want to leave.
“At the time, only 3% of New York City knew Christ, and as I stood on the bridge and thought about the millions of people that the city’s skyline represented, it gripped me how many were going to die and go to hell,” she said. “I prayed God would use me somehow in New York City.”
That was Hutto’s first missions trip, but she had been preparing for it for years.
“I grew up in Auburn going to Lakeview Baptist Church. It’s a very missions-minded church, and my earliest memories from there involve hearing from missionaries and the importance of living your life on mission,” she said.
And after that trip to New York City, she couldn’t shake the feeling that she might be meant to invest her life there. She stayed in touch with the family her team had worked with, and the following summer, they asked her to spend a month with them and get to know more about church planting.
“I did, and I loved it so much I went back the following summer too,” Hutto said.
Then she went to Auburn University and continued to have opportunities to serve.
One summer, she went to Mozambique, lived in a mud hut and “solidified a passion for church planting and to make the gospel known.”
The following summer, she led a team of college students to New York City for the North American Mission Board.
“Our college minister was constantly telling us to use our summers on mission,” she said.
That college minister was Michael Hill, and although Hutto didn’t know it, God was working in his heart and his wife Shannon’s about the possibility of serving in New York City too.
They hadn’t said it out loud yet, and Hutto hadn’t fully given in to that call yet either — even though she knew she was meant to live on mission, she didn’t want to assume God wanted her in New York City.
Prompted by God
But around the time she felt certain about it, the Hills told her they were moving too.
Over time, it became clear to Michael Hill that God was prompting him to plant a church in Queens called Bridge Community Church.
“We started investing in this community, meeting people, having conversations with people and figuring out what the spiritual climate was like,” Hutto said.
“We found that many people there had been hurt by experiences with church before, and we wanted to redefine for them what church is.”
They launched Bridge Community Church on Easter in 2019 and were “trucking right along,” adding people to their number — until the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
“We were starting new programs and there were new people being baptized, and all that was put on pause,” said Hutto, who serves in administration and as director of missions and outreach for the church.
New York City was hit hard by the virus, and things are just beginning to open back up there. In the time since things shut down, many of the city’s residents moved away — one in five apartments are vacant right now, Hutto said.
Some church planters in the city have been among those who left.
“Around 60% of our congregation have moved out of the city since COVID started,” she said. “We’re going to have to rebuild. It makes a unique challenge.”
But during the pandemic, God has strengthened Hutto and others at Bridge Community Church.
“We have a Tuesday night prayer gathering, and that is at the heart of what we’re doing,” she said.
“We have a small number, but God is working.”
Hutto asked for prayer for church leadership to have wisdom in how to best serve the community at this time.
“Pray for our leadership and our staff to know how we can rebuild and move forward,” she said. “In a lot of ways, we’re still in a holding period.”