Index Magazine: Baptists collaborate to distribute 10,000 coats in New York City


James Howell, the son of a Welsh clergyman in the 17th century, was a writer and historian; and he is the one to whom the quote, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” It is also true that for those in ministry “all work and no play” can create burnout and exhaustion.

Grace Harris, a native of Georgia and former member of Burnt Hickory Baptist Church in Powder Springs, is on the staff of the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association. She admits to being extraordinarily busy this time of year and decided to get a ticket to go to the Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon.

As fate would have it, Grace sat next to the aisle and when Fallon walked into the audience to banter with the guests, he selected Grace as the first individual he would engage in conversation. He asked her, “What would you consider to be a romantic gift?"

Grace responded, “That is a difficult question, because I have been single since birth.”

Fallon bent over with laughter, but ended up giving Grace a bouquet of flowers, albeit artificial ones.

The Tonight Show visit was a diversion to an extremely busy season for the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association, because they had collected over 10,000 coats to distribute to needy people in the Greater New York area.

The Metropolitan New York Baptist Association is a family of churches of diverse sizes, ethnicities, and languages that cooperate to make disciples of all people. The churches meet in apartments, public schools, warehouses, renovated office space, rented facilities and various church buildings in a 75-mile radius from Times Square. It may be the most diverse Baptist association in the nation, but it is an active coalition of churches committed to meet the spiritual, physical, social needs of people across the great metropolis.

The winter weather in Metropolitan New York can be extremely cold with average temperatures in January ranging from 27 to 39 degrees Fahrenheit. The average snowfall for January and February averages 7 inches each month.

For many of us the most comfortable place in cold weather is a fireplace with a warm cup of Wassel or hot chocolate, but not everyone has the luxury of enjoying the snug and cozy cordiality of a flickering fire on a wintry night. In fact, in some cases a warm coat can make the difference between life and death.

Harris commented, “Baptist churches in North Carolina and South Carolina gathered coats by the thousands; and nearly 500 mission volunteers from those two states and others traveled to New York City to help with the coat distribution. In most cases, those distributing the coats presented the recipient with a Gospel tract and in many cases a personal testimony of God’s saving grace. Prayer stations were set up at many of the distribution points staffed with people to counsel and pray for those who received the coats.”

Harris continued, “Each location was represented by a church in the MNYBA. Some of the distribution points were at well-established churches and some were in church plants. There were 30 distribution points all over the metro area including Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, the Bronx, and even New Jersey."

Reports from the MNYBA indicated that most of the mission teams came from churches in the Southeastern part of the nation, including churches in Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. The latest report indicated that there were more than 50 salvations recorded from the distribution of the coats.

Interestingly, a mission team from North Carolina had just reached the MNYBA building one night and one of the associational staffers had ordered something from Amazon. The delivery man knocked on the door to deliver the package and someone from the North Carolina mission team witnessed to him and he trusted in Christ then and there to the delight of all who witnessed the blessed event.

George Russ, the director of the NYMBA, was unable to assist with the coat distribution project, because his wife, Donna, is experiencing a serious medical condition and the director is taking some time away from the Association to care for his wife. Please join New York Baptists in praying for Donna Russ during these challenging days.

Incidentally, Grace Harris explained that it was very nice to receive flowers from Jimmy Fallon, but the salvation of those who received coats was a far greater blessing and exceedingly more fulfilling.


Editor's note: Grace Harris is the granddaughter of Gerald Harris, former editor of The Christian Index.