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House of Prayer in Brooklyn, New York

There are many characteristics associated with New York City and New Yorkers.  It is a city of toughness and resilience.  It is a place of plentiful opportunities and at the same time abundant challenges.  As the saying goes, “If you make it in New York, you can make it anywhere.”  New York Church’s Brooklyn members are a true representation of these NYC characteristics.  The majority of Brooklyn members are new immigrants from China.  As typical newcomers in a foreign land, Brooklyn members face many trials and work very hard to make a living and to provide for their children and their future.  Even though they encounter many hardships and work long hours to make a living, thank God they are still able to observe the Sabbath and come to church for an entire day of services.  More remarkably, they have had to endure 1.5 hours each way (3 hour round trip) in the subway system and make 3 transfers of trains, with many leaving their homes before 8:30am in order to attend the morning prayers and services.  Their dedication is exemplary to other members and their devotion is remembered by God.

God did not forget their labor of love (Heb 6:10) but blessed the Brooklyn members by adding to their numbers. Since then, more TJC families have immigrated to New York, and more members who had lived in Brooklyn without knowing our church’s presence in NY have reconnected once again.  With the number of members increasing in the concentrated area of Sunset Park (8th Ave) in Brooklyn, they began to organize local family services, starting with Monday night family Bible Study services. Later on, Sunday night prayers were started.  The joy of fellowship with God, in addition to the Sabbath day, had moved more and more members to join the gatherings (some members had to request permission from work to leave early to attend the night services) and the attendance soon grew from 5-6 people in the beginning to the higher teens and sometimes over 20.  God also blessed the Monday night Brooklyn family service with longevity to be held every week of the year.

Our gracious Lord not only blessed the Brooklyn congregation by adding family services in the area.  But seeing the trouble in getting to the Ozone Park church from Brooklyn, God had guided the Brooklyn brethren to establish their own Sabbath services in the area.  This began in earnest in 2008 when the first ever Sabbath was held in a family’s apartment with 30 members gathered in a living room (see pic below).  God’s guidance is visibly seen as He helped the Brooklyn members find more suitable locations for services, from a martial art dojo a few months later where a gracious sensei and owner rented the space to us for three years, to our current chapel (which can seat 150) in a prime location.


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Looking back at the last five years, there have many wonderful memories cherished in our hearts, but also many trials encountered, many breakthroughs celebrated, and many blessings remembered.  And not unlike other churches in their growth and struggles, the brothers and sisters in Brooklyn also had their ups and downs.   We had to endure tempests and roadblocks, however during those times of storms and immobility we thank God for having implanted that constant and perpetual pilot light steadily burning deep inside our hearts.  Just a bit more patience, just a bit more perseverance, and just a little bit more of seeing by faith, not by sight, and the wait is suddenly over. Our despair and fears are gone; hope sets in and follows with blessings that far exceed our imagination.  Hallelujah!  Praise God. 

Finding a rental space for Brooklyn’s Sabbath services was certainly one of our trial-turned-triumph moments which was full of pleasant surprises, leaving us amazed and overwhelmed by joy and God’s tender care.   As you can see in the photograph, Brooklyn’s first ever Sabbath service took place in a family’s apartment.  It was a wonderful occasion when 30 of us worshipped God together joyously and almost overflowed outside of the apartment.  It was apparent that we needed a larger space to congregate.  As the majority of Brooklyn members reside in the Sunset Park area of Brooklyn, a small informal team was formed to scout out local churches of other denominations and to make requests to rent their facilities for Sabbath services. 

Although there is an abundance of Christian churches in close proximity and all of them have their services on Sundays, the team faced one rejection after another.  There had been a few initially fruitful discussions with some churches, however they all fell apart in the end either because the cost became unaffordable or the landlord church could accept our doctrinal differences.  In one instance the negotiation ended after four months of dialogue.  The team even tried unconventional places like dance studios and community centers, but to no avail.  

After being turned down numerous times, frustration started mounting in on the task to find a suitable service location for Brooklyn Sabbath services.  Nevertheless, if it was God’s will for Queens church to branch out to Brooklyn, they would carry on with that work and ignore the setbacks.  Besides, with God everything is possible (Mt 19:26).  Finally, the day arrived and became a joyous and important chapter in becoming the House of Prayer in Brooklyn. 

It was just like any other Sunday evening.  A brother from the Brooklyn team was walking along 8th Avenue in the Sunset Park area, casually browsing the storefronts on the blocks he had passed by hundreds of times, casting marginally extra glances to new specials on the restaurants’ glass windows.  As he walked passed 43rd street, he noticed a group of people gathered outside of a business.  He took a quick look and realized the business was a martial art dojo and the congregants outside were parents waiting to pick their up children after their lessons finished or watching them in practice.  The brother couldn’t have thought less of it and continued on his way.  However, about half a block past the dojo, something stopped him from walking.  Perhaps a feeling of curiosity, or a sense of inquisition which he cannot remember, but what he could recall was a tinkling of anticipation, an unexplainable yearning that turned him around to go back to the dojo to take another look.  And he did. 


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The storefront of the dojo had a brown canopy with white stripes and patio armchairs which lined the sidewalk and supplied comfort to the waiting and likely tired parents.  The dojo had glass storefront window panels but was cloaked with trophies and inside, pictures of martial arts teachers (sifu’s) and tournaments highlights were hung alongside the wall opposite the mirror.  That wall was painted yellow and the floor had red and blue colored paddings.  Continuing to survey the dojo, he discovered that the students, parents, and the instructors were of Hispanic descent.  As the students mimicked the moves demonstrated by their junior instructor (Shihan, a title for the students to address them), a thought came in the brother’s mind that the dojo may be used to hold Sabbath services. 

The square footage was comfortable enough for 30 members to worship together and there would be no need to purchase kneeling pads.  Therefore he waited for the class to end.  A few minutes later, the practice ended (there was a short recess between drills) with students saluting the instructor but interestingly afterward, the instructor gathered his students to form a circle and they recited the Lord’s Prayer. 

The brother took it as a good sign and approached the instructor to inquire about a potential rental.  The conversation however, a rather short one, did not go very well:

[Brooklyn brother smiling and offering a shaking hand] “Hi, how are you?”

[Shihan, reciprocating the smile but maintaining the respected and warrior-like composure of a martial artist, reached out to shake hands] “Good, thank you.  How can I help you?”

[Brooklyn brother, now silently praying in his heart] “Yes, I have a question.  Are you the owner of the dojo? Or if not, is the owner here or around?”

[Shihan squinting his eyebrows a bit, displaying a bit of annoyance] “No, I am not.  And the owner is not here.  What do you need?”

[Brooklyn brother, somewhat nervous now] “I was wondering if it’s possible to rent the space in the dojo.”

[Shihan, more stern than ever] “NO, we don’t do that.”

[Brooklyn brother] “Um, it’s only once a month.”

[Shihan, no longer hiding any of his annoyance] “Nope, Goodbye” and turned away from the brother to non-verbally communicate the finality of the conversation.

The brother stood stone-footed for a couple of seconds, not fully comprehending the abruptness to the ending of their conversation and the suddenness of yet another rejection.  Then the Shihan turned his head and sternly stared at the brother to signal that the brother’s departure was in order.  The brother had no choice but to leave, sensing that he had already overstayed his welcome and knowing it was in his best interest to do so, having absolutely no prior martial art training himself.

As the brother walked out, he uttered, “It’s for church services, though.”  Then the Shihan’s agitated face suddenly relaxed, his eyes widened, his half frown retrieved and he said, “Then, it’s different!” He scurried to the front of the store space where the cash register was, picked up the phone and said to him, “Don’t go, let me call the owner.”  The call got through and the Shihan spoke into the receiver, “There’s a gentleman here from a church and would like to use our space for church services and would like to talk to you,” and handed over the receiver to the brother with a smile from ear to ear.  The brother stood incredulously, took the receiver and explained the situation to Sensei (Master) Luis Ferrer, who was also a Christian. He said that the Brooklyn brothers and sisters belonging True Jesus Church were looking for a rental space to alleviate the long commute time and their desire to grow as a congregation. 

In that conversation, Sensei Lou’s responses were few, either “That’s wonderful,” or “Anything for God” when told the request details for the Sabbath services.  That phone conversation could not have gone any better, and the two agreed to talk over the details in person on Monday night.  The brother returned to speak with the owner the following evening, still a tad bit trembling with excitement but also amazed and grateful of God’s wonderful guidance.  In that evening’s dialogue, whatever the brother mentioned, the Sensei invariably answered, “Sure,” or “We’ll make it happen.”  And when the question came to rent cost, Sensei Lou being Sensei Lou said, “Anything for God, whatever amount you feel is right, because I would do it for free anyway.”  Praise God, the second Brooklyn Sabbath service started two weeks later. 


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It was blessings upon blessings and grace upon grace with the new service location in Brooklyn.  Each time we had services in the dojo we discovered more of God’s love and His care down to every detail.  To start, the owner Sensei Lou treated us like family from the beginning.  “Whatever is here is yours” was his favorite saying.  And to make it more convenient for us to set up, he soon entrusted us with the key to his dojo, bought new chairs and space heaters for us to make sure the heating was adequate.  We were greatly moved by God’s love and the Sensei’s generosity when we found out that the Saturday we held services at his dojo was originally filled with scheduled lessons from 9:30am to 8:00pm.  He had cancelled all the classes up to 4:00pm for us, foregoing a major part of the tuition income that day.  The richness of our Lord’s love and His wonderful providence are difficult to describe in words, and so is our thanksgiving. 

Our Lord is gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy (Ps 103:8). He remembers all the good deeds that man does for Him.  Sensei Lou’s sacrifices for the propagation of the gospel are certainly not forgotten.  As the Lord has blessed us with Sensei Lou’s hospitality, God has also blessed the Sensei for his giving spirit.  In the beginning, most of the dojo’s students were of Hispanic descent.  Interestingly, ever since we started holding services there, 80% of new students have been Asian (one of them is our Brooklyn RE student, see bottom left pic).  God has blessed Sensei Lou with a steady stream of new students and reaffirmed his usual saying, “God is great!”


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Throughout the past five years, our Lord Jesus Christ increased the number of attending members in Brooklyn.  Services at the dojo became livelier and more intimate.  In 2008, the beginning average of Sabbath service attendees was 30.  It doubled to 60 in 2012 and soon overgrew the square footage of the dojo.  The Lord blessed us immensely with His growing household as we reconnected with lost members and as more newly immigrated families in Christ joined us.  At the same time, the Brooklyn congregation once again faced the challenge of looking for a new location for service.  And this time, the stakes were higher because we had to contend with the possibility of Sabbath service interruption if the new place did not work out. 

Thank God for His guidance, we soon found a new rental in the prime and convenient section of Sunset Park with a chapel area large enough to sit 150 people comfortably, equipped with a sound system and central air, and a spacious basement for meal times and fellowship that can double as an RE classroom.  What is more miraculous is that this chapel was among one of the churches that rejected us 4 years ago, but now became available because they recently discontinued their Saturday activities.  And we didn’t have to worry about service interruption because Sensei Lou assured us that we were always welcomed back if the new place did not work out. 


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We praise and thank God for giving the Brooklyn members a new and wonderful place for worship and fellowship, and present Him our sincere thanksgiving for establishing the Brooklyn House of Prayer since January 2013.

We miss the dojo and Sensei Lou dearly, as our services there was truly an amazing journey filled with God’s love and power and will always have a special place in our hearts.  It will also remain as an important testament in our lives that God is always gracious, faithful, and our constant help. 

Dear beloved brothers and sisters, please join us, your servants in Christ, to exalt our Lord Jesus Christ and give glory to our wonderful Savior for all His wondrous works in Brooklyn, New York.   Please keep us in your prayers in our future journey.


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Publisher: USGA
Date: 07/16/2013