Nehemiah 2 Meets New York City

by DanWolgemuth on January 9, 2012

In the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was before him, I took up the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had not been sad in his presence. And the king said to me, “Why is your face sad, seeing you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness in your heart.”

“Why should not my face be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ graves, lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire.”

The interaction above is extracted from the book of Nehemiah. It describes the depth of the burden that Nehemiah felt for “his city.” His expression of sadness in the presence of the king was risky; but his resolve for restoration and his belief that leading this charge was his calling propelled him into harms ways, and into historic respect.

Nehemiah acted.

This text has come to life this week as I have tracked with my friend and brother in New York City. Dimas Salaberrios is our Youth for Christ Executive Director in the Bronx, and a Pastor of the Infinity Church in the same location. He’s passionate about his walk with Christ, the mission of YFC, and the power and presence of the Church.

In the eight years that Dimas, his wife Tiffany, and his team have been engaged in the redemptive work of God in the Bronx River Projects there has been a powerful shift in social norms and personal hope in the community. Not one reported murder has taken place in this time. Eight young people have gone to college, and the community has embraced the message and commitment that Dimas and his team deliver. The Gospel has come to the Bronx.

On December 17 the New York City Law Department delivered a message that any and every church that presently rents space from a public institution will be evicted in February 2012. With the sweep of a public pen nearly 100 churches and over 17,000 attendees have been profoundly impacted. For Dimas this is not an inconvenience, it’s an outrage. His community is not mobile and it’s deeply constrained financially; and so this places a suffocating burden on a community in need.

Dimas won’t simply stand by. He has a flock to guard, a community to restore, a message to deliver. January 1, Dimas began a hunger strike – a fast for justice. This is not political to Dimas, it’s personal. He knows names, he sees faces, he helped write stories of redemption and he won’t simply let injustice trump convenience. He has a calling.

And so I will do my part, to amplify, to spotlight, to stand in solidarity and support as Dimas lives the pain of Nehemiah.

We honor and respect you, my brother. You are not alone. Thank you for living out the admonition of Jesus to Peter in John 21 – “feed my sheep” – “tend my lambs.”

Dimas acted.

For Christ and His Kingdom.

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