Many of my neighbors have moved in and moved out over these past 30 years and, while I’ve prayed for them, most relationships remained superficial. I really understand – at the end of the day, everyone wants privacy and rest after bustling through the city. But at the same time, I believe that “the times and places for man to live are ordained by God” and don’t want to neglect any opportunity to show God’s love.
Showing some kindness isn’t hard – helping carry bundles (we have no elevator), being a listening ear when someone needs to unburden, or even an occasional hospital visit. But I kept praying, was there more?
THEN I happened to see a flyer posted, announcing a plan by Columbia University to build a ‘public plaza’ on our small residential street, eliminating two blocks and much needed residential parking. They already demolished housing for a conference center – the flyer urged residents to get involved.
(After the city itself, Columbia University is the largest land owner in the City of New York. They have displaced more residents and dismantled more neighborhoods than anyone else.)
I really felt a stirring but feelings can deceive….does the Lord really care about our street per se? Are these concerns worldly? Temporal? Of no consequence in view of eternity?
But the stirring continued. I attended this open meeting where C.U. presented their illustrious “plaza plan”. But something was wrong, I sensed something devious and underhanded in their overture, “This is a plaza for you to enjoy!”
Their plan must be approved by the Community Board and that meeting would be held on November 5th. My husband and I felt compelled to notify our neighbors over a two block radius. We distributed flyers to many, especially to weary drivers, urging them to attend this meeting and stand up for their neighborhood. I continued to pray, hoping that my zeal is from God and not my own unction.
On November 5th, during my morning prayer and devotion, Deuteronomy 20:1-8 was the scripture topic twice! One inspirational blog I read, A Mountain of Faith, posted “Is Your Tank Full?” (https://amountainoffaith.com/2017/11/05/is-your-faith-tank-full/) I truly felt covered by God for this meeting, that no ‘chariots’ ‘horses’ or ‘armies’…even big businesses…can come against the purposes of God.
For the LORD your God is going with you! He will fight for you against your enemies, and he will give you victory!’ Deuteronomy 20:4
There were many empty places as the meeting was about to begin. However, shortly thereafter my husband and I turned around and saw behind us dozens of people who came from work and from their homes. Standing room only!
C.U. presented a slide show of their ‘plaza plans’. Their P.R. reps tried to present how this will ‘benefit’ the neighborhood, a fancy but hollow attempt to patronize while ruining and taking our street.
My inward ‘stirring’ turned into a ‘churning’. I stood and challenged C.U. with unexpected fervor…which passed the torch to others. They thought their plan was a slam dunk in this Spanish speaking, working class neighborhood. And why not? They have never lost an endeavor, especially when displacing families, the elderly and small businesses…those with no clout. They did not get approved on this night though, the board ended up divided and could not vote.
Digging into rumors uncovered the truth. C.U. really needs this plaza in order to change the zoning law on our small residential street and proceed with building plans. The plaza is their platform to build upon and expand their campus, architectural plans are are already established, waiting in the wings!
I privately prayed more though for God’s guidance, “Lord, should I take this farther? Should I see an Assemblyman or Councilman?” Shortly afterwards my husband came and suggested, “Maybe you try and see our Congressman or Councilman…”
So I met with the City Councilman’s intermediary, who happens to be a pastor. He aligned with the neighborhood concern and added, “God bless you!” He strongly urged me to contact the Chief of Staff…whose name is Jose Espiritusanto! (which from Spanish translates Holy Spirit!)
This week my husband and I had opportunity to address a larger general meeting and present the truths behind the ‘plan’. The next Community Board meeting is Dec 4th.
So far I testify:
- God is “training my hands to battle” (Psalm 144:1) strengthening us toward a spiritual calling. I never addressed a public gathering before, but the Lord is breaking new ground within me, teaching me that through Him I am able to do this.
- After praying for my neighbors, we’re getting to know them, perhaps they’ll see we care. Already some have shared personal struggles and know, “We’re praying for you!” Might we remember each other when this battle is over, when hardships or calamities strike?
- I believe that the Lord is revealing Himself, teaching us greater dependence upon Him and His unmatched sovereignty….strengths we will need for future spiritual battles.
“No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.” II Timothy 2:4
This is scripture to live by. But somehow God has put us in the middle of a neighborhood issue and has stirred us within. Sometimes our prayers for people don’t supernaturally create home Bible studies and prayer meetings. Sometimes God positions His Body alongside the lost and hopefully upon that road, fulfills divine appointments.
Would you pray for us?