Once an abandoned storefront tagged with spray paint, the building that originally housed Graffiti Church has become a symbol of hope on New York’s Lower East Side. Send Relief missionaries Taylor and Susan Field strategically positioned the church plant in 1986 amid crack houses and a large homeless population, eventually making this neglected neighborhood their home.
Confronting drug dealers and learning how to care for users and hundreds of homeless men, women and children were part of the weekly challenges.
“The first college missions group would paint our storefront and then someone would tag it again with graffiti,” Taylor Field said. The missions team then painted their own spiritual message on the wall along with the word, “Graffiti.”
Inspiration struck. The ministry workers decided to embrace the form of artistry so familiar to the neighborhood and gave what was then East 7th Baptist Ministry a new moniker: Graffiti, which eventually became a church.
Ministry takes a practical approach
Embedded in the identity of the church is a simple idea: “From small things come great things.”
Taylor Field explained it as an upside-down approach: doing tangible, practical things well. Stories of lives changed testify to the effectiveness.
Recently released from prison and living in a treatment facility for drug rehabilitation, Raul received a court mandate to take a GED class; Graffiti offered one. Raul was skeptical about going to a church, even for a required education class, but he went anyway.
One day after class a church member extended an invitation to visit a service saying, “We would love to have you.”
Something about the “we” stood out to Raul, and he came — six months in a row. He also brought his girlfriend, Siyyida. Leaders in the church helped mentor Raul and Siyyida. They both became followers of Christ, and after more than two and a half years of dating, they decided to get married. Now they attend and serve at Graffiti campuses, which have grown to five meeting sites in the New York City metro area and two affiliates in other cities.
Connections are valued
Change continues on the Lower East Side through daily connections in the diverse community. The church shares Christ’s compassion in practical ways — from after-school tutoring and ESL classes to hip-hop dancing and lunches in the park.
“When we serve a meal, it’s not just about handing over some food; we sit down together at the table and talk while we eat,” Taylor Field said. “It’s about connecting.”
Through consistency and authentic love, the hope of Christ has infiltrated the Lower East Side and surrounding communities. Graffiti continues to pioneer ways to serve the neighborhoods of their respective campuses and they keep in mind the larger goal: to share the good news across the globe.
“Graffiti values a heart for God and hands for work. We have more than 20 ministries and have assisted in some way in helping start 31 new church plants which in turn have started 39 more.
“I think people can learn from what God has done here, that you don’t have to do great things for God, but just things with great love. And you don’t have to have great faith in God but just faith in a great God.”
The Fields are Send Relief missionaries. Learn more at anniearmstrong.com.
See the Fields in action in New York City at TABMedia.