From the beginning, our vision has been to develop a mission network in several global cities beginning in New York City. So far, we have a Mission Catalyst in Los Angeles, and we have both a team and an internship advancing the mission in New York, and now we are stepping into Tampa. Perhaps less obvious than NYC or LA, some may ask, "Why Tampa?" Tampa Bay definitely represents an emerging global crossroads. The city hosts Colombians, Arabs, refugees, and a growing multi-ethnic mosaic representing the Caribbean, Africa, Central America, and beyond. We are excited to step into a third global city and explore how Global City Mission might make an impact. It's an exciting step. Pray for the Tampa Bay region. Pray for workers in the harvest. Pray for open hearts to the good news of God's Kingdom. Our ministry in Tampa will be a gradual start, so also pray for wisdom and patience as we take our first steps into a new city and begin to learn a new urban culture.
Meeting Our Neighbors: Albanians in NYC
One of the better coffees in my area is the Parisienne Cafe over on Arthur Ave. The first time I visited, there was only one employee, a mid-30ish man serving at the bar. "Where are you from?' he asked. I told him I'm originally from Amarillo, Texas. "Oh, Texas. I like Texas. Dallas, San Antonio. They're clean. I like clean. But I've never been to Amarillo [no shocker there]." "Where are you from?" I asked him. "Kosovo, it's in eastern Europe..."
It wasn't until preparing for our work in NYC that I started paying attention to least reached people groups. My new acquaintance, you see, is Albanian--which is an ethnic as well as national identity. Albanians, as you might expect, hail from Albania as well as Macedonia (25% Albanian), Kosovo (which is majority Albanian), and Montenegro (6% Albanian). There are appx. 200,000 Albanians in the NYC metro-area, and they represent a global population which is estimated at less than 2% practicing Christian.
The Balkans have been an area of constant strife and ethnic tensions for several centuries. Three massive waves of immigration help account for the over 50% of Albanians who actually live outside of Albania. With several thousands in the Central Bronx, our ministry regularly seeks to find ways to reach out to Albanians in our communities. As in my new favorite coffee shop on Arthur Ave, lots of Albanians choose to settle in traditionally Italian neighborhoods, often taking over formerly Italian owned restaurants and businesses. This prominence in the service industry has provided a healthy network of employment for those who continue to migrate to the U.S.
Pray that we find people of peace who are receptive to us as cultural outsiders. Pray that the gospel will bring about reconciliation as it is spread among a people with a long history of tribalism and violence. You can also pray for several existing relationships that our co-workers have already made in the Albanian community; we ask that those relationships continue to grow and that God would raise up leaders in the community who would be willing to start churches and share their faith with their neighbors.
New City, New Mission Field
One of the exciting steps taking place right now for Global City Mission is the opportunity to expand our network to new global cities. Just a few days ago, my family relocated to Tampa, an emerging global city. We will be learning a new urban culture and seeking how Global City Mission may best contribute to advancing the gospel in this metro region. In addition, we also hope to develop inroads for outreach & mission training in Orlando -- known best for Disney but actually a growing multicultural city as well -- just a seventy-five minute drive from Tampa. Pray for our personal transitions. Pray for receptivity among our new neighbors. And pray for workers to multiply our efforts in this urban harvest.