Hello, Woo Ho! Please introduce yourself to Crosswalk members! How long have you been at IN2, and what do you do for work and leisure?
Hello! I’ve been at IN2 for 5 years and attend the KM (Korean Ministry) service. I am a user experience designer for smartphone apps. I like to travel and go on adventures (my favorite place to venture is Northern Europe; I loved Sweden and Norway). Before I came to the U.S. for college, I lived in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Korea. I also like to hike, play tennis and badminton, and I love to eat great food!
Please introduce the Better Day Homeless Ministry ("Better Day") and how it works.
This ministry began in 2014. Its main goal is to build relationships with the homeless in Manhattan.
We meet every other Saturday, break up into teams, and walk around frequented areas in Manhattan neighborhoods (i.e., Grand Central Terminal, Times Square, Port Authority, and Bryant Park) to look for homeless individuals. We provide the homeless with food and water, along with essential items such as aspirin, diapers, baby formula, shoes, socks, and underwear. It’s important that we strike up conversations with them, so that we can pray for them and share the gospel.
10 to 20% of the homeless we encounter are always found at the same spot. So we let them know that we will come back, and we also provide them with Better Day's phone number so that they can reach us if needed.
Why did you get involved with Better Day and what was your role?
Ever since I was young, I had a heart for the homeless and wanted to help those in need.
I have served in this ministry from 2014 to 2018. I started out as a “team member” for 6 months, then served as the leader for 3 years.
What transition is Better Day going through?
Since 2014, members of KM (Korean ministry) have served in this ministry. However, Crosswalk will now continue this ministry. We thought this transition makes sense because Crosswalk consists of English-speaking members who are rooted in NYC, and would not have language or cultural barriers when engaging with the homeless.
Are there any memorable individuals that Better Day has befriended and helped?
There was an older homeless couple, Bill and Gina.** Gina was recovering from cancer and needed to take medication but did not have money or insurance. Better Day members came out to meet with this couple, not just during the scheduled Saturdays, but also during the week in order to offer support, and the members obtained funding from our church to pay for Gina’s medication. It was great to see the ministry members work for a common cause and become closer together through that cause.
**Names have been changed.
What do you think is the biggest challenge of serving in this ministry?
It is always a challenge to start conversations with the homeless. It is difficult for both the ministry members and the homeless to open up their hearts to each other. Not everyone is receptive to us. In those moments I realize that there is nothing we can do but to pray and leave it to God to work among us.
How have you changed as a person from serving in Better Day?
My perspective on the homeless has changed. Before serving in this ministry, I viewed the homeless as people who are completely different from me. But I realized they are just regular people like you and me. It is pompous to think that the homeless are just lazy. I have learned that people become homeless for a multitude of reasons: some have physical or mental issues; and some have witnessed murders being committed in homeless shelters, thus they find it safer to sleep out on the streets.
Some people are homeless simply because they are going through transitions in their lives. For example, we got to know two homeless men in their late twenties (who happened to be friends). They had lost their jobs before becoming homeless. In less than 1 year since we began meeting with them, we saw these men rise from their homeless state to finding jobs and housing. They later called us at Better Day's phone number to share the good news, and we couldn’t be happier for them.
Hearing the stories of the homeless was always eye-opening and moving. They helped me to reflect on how much God has blessed me. My view on people, life, and New York City has broadened through this ministry and I have become more mature. Serving in this ministry has helped me to feel the heart of God for this city.
If you happen to be an introvert and find it difficult to strike up conversations with strangers, can you still serve in this ministry?
Yes, of course! We always need people to take pictures or write down notes about the conversations with the homeless. We also need people to help prepare goodie bags that we provide to the homeless. There is something for everyone in this ministry. I encourage everyone to volunteer even just once to get the experience!
--Interviewed by Ian Park