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.
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.
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.
THE MARTIAL ART DOJO TESTIMONY
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
[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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.