Paterson, NJ was founded by Alexander Hamilton and it flourished as a frontrunner of silk manufacturing in the industrial age. There’s a lot of seemingly abandoned-looking factory buildings here (reminds you of the shoe factory in jumanji). But ever since the heart of the industry moved to other cities, Paterson became somewhat of an abandoned constellation of the wandering poor and the hopeless, broken immigrants.
Kids and teenagers grow up in a city filled with violence, addiction and sexual sins. Many of these children have multiple fathers; the percentage of teenagers without a father is a heartbreaking 30%.
Going on with numbers, only 20-30% of students pass their grade each year, and 50% drop out of school altogether. When these teenagers fail to make it into college, or drop out of high school, boys resort to gangs, and girls turn to selling their bodies. And looking deeper beyond these “odds,” there appears to be a huge cloud of hopelessness that hangs above the city; that this broken world we see is all there is to life.
We had the chance to visit Eva’s Village, one of the largest outreach centers in the east coast. It was truly marvelous; there are hundreds of homeless being fed every day, housing and all sorts of recovery stations/programs being run, and even dental programs for those who need it. But as I was listening to the tour guide, I couldn’t help but to think about one thing: the name of Jesus was not once mentioned.
It’s great that all these people are being fed and are taken of, but what good is bread when they have no hope in life other than coming in for soup every morning? Despite all the good, isn’t this the message that they are sending to the city: That our immediate, temporary needs and hunger outweigh an eternity of riches basking in the glorious love of God for all of our days?
I felt the words of Jesus to the Samaritan woman come alive furiously in my heart: “Everyone who drinks this water will thirst again but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst…”
Our God is bigger, stronger than any statistic, any hopelessness and the chains of sin. He is the peace to the restless, the hope to the hopeless and everything He says He is. Only He can satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts; only He can save souls. There is power unrivaled in the name of Jesus.
There is a huge waterfall here in Paterson, NJ. It’s called The Great Falls of the Passaic River, and it happens to be just 5 blocks away from where we are serving downtown. It was recognized as a National Historic Park in 2009, and it was just a beautiful sight. Where else can you find such a waterfall in the middle of a city? It was mighty. 78ft of falling, crashing water.
I was reminded of Psalm 42 where David describes the love of God as a waterfall, breaking and crashing over his life. His unfailing love is constantly sweeping over this world, whether we realize it or not. And How ironic that this waterfall happens to reside in the heart of such a broken city! If only they would realize the love of God that is invading their lives and find hope in the consistent love of the father! If only they would just taste and see… to never thirst again…