Today, I had some time to walk around my old old stomping grounds. I went for a brief stroll around my old home on Fort Greene Place. That’s right, Brooklyn Tech, home of the Engineers (and Enginettes, yes, Enginettes) located in the heart of Downtown Brooklyn. I was intrigued to see all of the different businesses that have sprung up on that long walk from DeKalb station. There are trendy new stores, gourmet burger joints, and fancy places for my alma mater to blow their disposable income. Even the corner bodegas were shiny and new.
I was on my lunch break, and I went looking for my old favorite haunt. You Techies know what I’m talking about. Kennedy Fried Chicken, a.k.a Crown Fried Chicken, a.k.a. cute-brunch-place-for-middle-class-white-people?!
That’s right, everyone. A moment of silence for the establishment formerly known as Kennedy’s.
I remember discovering my love for cheap vinegar based hot sauce in that place. We would get 4 wings, or sometimes 10, then would douse them with that sweet biting hot sauce (usually 1 packet per wing). We’d shake the box up and eat for the whole train ride. It was our go-to and now it’s another victim to the rebirth of Brooklyn.
R.I.P. Kennedy Fried Chicken. Long live Gentri-fried Chicken.
I get distracted. This isn’t a rant about gentrification (besides, I’m not sure how much I mind a brunch place if it means that less Techies witness/receive beatings, robbings, or stabbings). This is a reflection on home. You see, I walked those Brooklyn Tech hallways and climbed those stairs (oh lawd, the stairs) almost ten years ago. This is my first time back since then and so many things have changed that I hardly recognize it anymore.
Long before those awkward high school days, I started going to my church on 165th st., on the outskirts of Flushing. This year is our 30 year anniversary and I realize that I have been with this church for almost 20 of those years. After all these year, the QTEC of today is the healthiest I’ve ever seen it, and it’s more exciting than I can ever remember it being. People are growing in their faith, learning to trust the God that I love. The church was in a bad way when I started coming at the start of this year, but the people are perseverant and their God is faithful.
If you’ve been around me lately, you know that this time of peace has got me a little bit restless. I’ve been wondering a lot about my future. After taking some steps to pursue my God, even down the rabbithole of seminary and full-time ministry, I’m curious about where to go next. With the hiring of a new full-time pastor at QTEC, I’m forced to think about if or how I fit into the future of this church. Will I end up serving here in my hometown, or will I go off elsewhere?
These thoughts swirl through my head as I walk through Brooklyn in search of dirty fried chicken.
Later, I walked past a couple of guys without shoes, sitting on the floor on the corner of Fulton and Flatbush. I kept going like I always do. Then, like I always do, I stopped to think for a moment. Then I turned around and approach the guys. The interaction kind of went like this.
Me: “Hey guys, you guys eat lunch yet?”
Guy 2: “No”
Me: “Can I buy you guys lunch?”
Guy 2: “Yea, of course. We’ll take it.”
Guy 1: “We’re here on a mission for Christ.”
Me: “Oh dude! I’m buying you guys lunch on behalf of Jesus!”
Guy 1: “Praise God!”
Me: “What’s up, brothers!”
I went around giving handshakes and dap, and I realized they’re all holding bibles open as they sit on the pavement. Before I head to a restaurant around the corner to pick up some lunch, they insisted that I sit with them for a little bit, and I told them that I was about to ask them the same thing!
When I brought the food back, Guy 1 introduced himself as “I Cry.” He said he is a prophet from God and the two other guys with him are his disciples. I told him my name and he stumbled with it a bit before he got it. Then he extended his hand and held mine as he prayed for the food and prayed for me. I was blessed by his prayer, I still am. It was a good one.
I Cry told me that he knew that I’m used to sharing the Word, but he’s going to try to bless me today, so I can just eat and listen. I’m stoked at this point, and I shut my trap and complied. I Cry began to take me on a journey through the first five Psalms as I sat on the concrete sidewalk on in Downtown Brooklyn with my bible open. The fried chicken I got wasn’t any good, but my brother I Cry is feeding me with some good old fashioned Word.
He might have started in Psalms but he kept going back to 1 Corinthians 3. In fact, the first thing he asked me when I sat down was “Do you not know that you are a temple for the Lord?” I nodded, and I didn’t talk about being made in God’s image–a topic I’ve been reading up on for the past few days.
1 Corinthians was the focus when I asked him about his mission–about why he’s out here. He talked about the church being beyond a building. People need the physical church building when they start out, but when they are ready for the solid food, they go out on a pilgrimage. Too many people rely on the comfort and protection of a physical building. They don’t know what it’s like to venture out. I Cry has been out on the streets for five years now, experiencing the provision and blessings of God beyond convention and safety.
In my mind, I was processing. I filtered out some of the random crazy talk, listened to him with an open mind, and focused when he quoted the Word. The Word is good, whoever the vessel and I’m catching a hint from God. Ministry isn’t about serving at a certain building, it’s about serving at the footstool of God. Obey Him, even if it takes you on a pilgrimage, even if you have to leave everything behind. I Cry quotes the parable of the rich young ruler, and I think I’m catching the hint.
As I sat, I thought of yesterday, when I was driving home with a seminary classmate and we were talking about a decision he made. In order to focus on seminary full-time, he had recently quit his day job. He is a good student and a diligent seminarian so it wasn’t a shock but I was curious about this step, given his circumstances.
He’s taking a step of faith, trusting God to provide for him, whether for this ATS tuition or his upcoming wedding. I appreciate and admire the courage it takes for him to do this, and I’m proud to know him and have him as a friend. I’m also encouraged to know that our God is faithful to my brother, even now, giving him a chance to leave his old company on good terms and share his testimony.
Eventually, I have to go (lunch breaks don’t last forever). I shook the hands of I Cry and his disciples and left with his blessing. I was mulling this conversation over in my head and wondering what God was getting at when I check my phone. I saw that I’ve been CC’ed in an email. A friend of mine has sent my resume to her pastor in regards to a Youth Pastor position.
Maybe these are coincidences and I shouldn’t be guessing at God’s plans. Or maybe God is beating me over the head with evidence.