REACHING THE 94 PERCENT IN NYC

By Connie Davis Bushey
News Editor, Baptist and Reflector

Members of Belmont Heights Baptist Church, Knoxville, and Swerve Church in NYC pause this summer during their missions work painting over graffiti on a building. Tennesseans include, from left, first row, Karen Foy and Breanna Foy; and Abigail Lethgo, second from right; and Barry Lethgo, right; back row, Mike Foy, second from left; and Andy Minton, third from left.

Members of Belmont Heights Baptist Church, Knoxville, and Swerve Church in NYC pause this summer during their missions work painting over graffiti on a building. Tennesseans include, from left, first row, Karen Foy and Breanna Foy; and Abigail Lethgo, second from right; and Barry Lethgo, right; back row, Mike Foy, second from left; and Andy Minton, third from left.

NEW YORK CITY, N.Y. -— “If you reach somebody in New York City you have the potential of reaching the world,” said Kevin Cabe, former Knoxvillian who is now a Baptist missionary in New York City.

“People move here for fame, fortune, film, finance, food, and everything in between. Many Tennesseans are moving here too as we speak. … Then people often move on,” he explained, adding that though 22 million people live within 75 miles of Times Square, the population is transient. Eight and a half million people live in the city. Many are originally from other countries.

Only 6 percent of New Yorkers are evangelical Christians, which leaves 94 percent unreached, noted Cabe, who has served in New York City for four years.

Kristi & Kevin Cabe

Kristi & Kevin Cabe

There are multiple ways to serve here, he noted, including church planting and “an international missions experience without ever leaving the country” because of the many people from other countries who live here.

Assisting Cabe and his wife, Kristi, in their daunting missions work recently have been many Tennesseans from the Knoxville area including members of First Baptist Church, Fountain City; Belmont Heights Baptist Church; Callahan Road Baptist Church; Beaver Dam Baptist Church; Sharon Baptist Church; and West Lonsdale Baptist Church. Kevin is partnership coordinator for Metropolitan New York Baptist Association, based in New York City.

At least one Tennessee team saw a New Yorker make a profession of faith. That is a feat in this city, explained Cabe.

“New York is a very open place to all peoples and thought. There are a lot of religious people here but … most are putting their hope in other things besides Jesus,” he explained.

To provide some focus to Baptists coming here to minister, he pairs missions teams with a church planter and/or a church in a neighborhood community, he explained. It’s not difficult to choose a neighborhood community because there are 400 in the city and its boroughs.

Young men of Callahan Road Baptist Church, Knoxville, work in a park in New York City this summer. From left are Cooper Jenkins, Riley Pitts, Trent Webber, and Garret Williams (partially seen).

Young men of Callahan Road Baptist Church, Knoxville, work in a park in New York City this summer. From left are Cooper Jenkins, Riley Pitts, Trent Webber, and Garret Williams (partially seen).

Cabe knows how valuable this work can be to a church planter and congregation. He himself was a church planter on Long Island, N.Y., for the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board, and in North Carolina. He also was youth pastor, Belmont Heights Baptist Church, from 2007-08, where he met and married Kristi Breeden. Kristi also was experiencing a call to missions. The couple was married for only 11 months when they responded to the call to New York City.

Thankfully now they are being supported by their friends and family. In 2015 Knox County Baptist Association adopted a partnership with New York City and the Cabes.

Phil Young, director of missions, Knox County Association, reported by writing, “God began building this partnership before I came to Knox County as the DOM. At a SEND Conference in Atlanta, I met Kevin and Kristi over lunch at a food truck. I heard the heart and vision God had given them for New York. They captured my heart as well.

“Because of their established relationship with Knoxville, it seemed like a natural partnership to help Knox County churches reach the world through the people in New York City,” he explained.

The ministry of Knoxvillians and others here will not usually result in a “touchdown,” Cabe explains to missions teams using a football analogy. Instead missions volunteers will help their fellow Christians here “gain yardage.” They can certainly start relationships which can be developed by resident Christians after they must leave, he added.

Lili Decanio left, and Sydney Walls of Callahan Road Baptist Church, Knoxville, clean a community park this summer in New York City.

Lili Decanio left, and Sydney Walls of Callahan Road Baptist Church, Knoxville, clean a community park this summer in New York City.

Missions workers in NYC certainly “help or hurt what we’re doing,” reported Cabe, because the groups “stand out.”

There are many ways to help churches here, he said.

The Tennessee team which saw a person make a profession of faith included about six female basketball players who played on a neighborhood court here and engaged folks watching them.

“People, especially kids, were blown away with the college athletes,” reported Cabe. The team was from West Lonsdale Baptist. The church, which has sent teams to NYC for five years, is bringing two more teams to serve here this year.

The missions team of Sharon Baptist had an unusual experience, recalled Cabe. They provided a free day care for Hispanic parents by offering a day-long Vacation Bible School which saved their working parents day care costs.

One of the efforts of the Belmont Heights Baptist team this summer was working with the police department in Bushwick, an inner-city neighborhood, to paint over graffiti on a building.

Teams from Callahan Road Baptist and Beaver Dam Baptist served a neighborhood by working in a park but got to know the Caribbean and Jewish residents. Thankfully, a multicultural church is being started there, Cabe noted.

More help is needed, said Cabe.

What happened to him can happen to others, he said. He was on his way home from a missions trip to Poland and had a layover in New York City.

“While there God gripped my heart for New York. …

“We need people from Tennessee who have a heart for New York to come and serve.”

For more information, contact Cabe at kcabe@mnyba.org or 212-580-0655.

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