God Said: “REACH Philadelphia”

“All over the world men and women are looking wistfully to heaven. Prayers and tears and inquiries go up from souls longing for light, for grace, for the Holy Spirit. Many are on the verge of the kingdom, waiting only to be gathered in.” Acts of the Apostles p. 110.

In the fall of 2001 my husband and I felt a call to move from our idyllic home in Connecticut to a Philadelphia mission. In December of that year, only months after the trade towers crashed, we drove off with our earthly belongings and never looked back. For three years my husband went from house to house engaging in personal Bible studies. The church asked me to run a small café on its ground floor to supplement that outreach, and I threw myself into it. With the wistful faces of searching souls in our minds, Michael and I poured ourselves into the asphalt cracks of the oldest city in the U.S.

Our mission came to a screeching halt when the café closed in 2004—my blood, sweat and tears flushed away like waste into the bowels of the municipal sewer. Staffing and politics lay at the root of the closing, and I wondered why I’d ever bled and sweat and cried.

Then God sent Tara VinCross to dry my tears. At her pastoral interview she quoted the first chapter of the gospel of John in its entirety, face lit up like a beacon. She’s a soul winner I thought, and the members agreed. She signed on in 2008 and the adventure began.

God worked. First, He inspired the Pennsylvania Youth Challenge, a summer door-to-door bookselling program. Seventy thousand homes have been reached each summer since. Then He raised up a vibrant Friday night vespers for young adults, which has spilled over into a church plant called REACH Philadelphia, staffed by several interns who conduct Bible studies, tutor neighborhood kids, hold exercise classes, host concerts, grow urban gardens, and worship God in their own youth-led service.

The flock has grown, particularly in the area of young people. Bursting at the seams, poor and small but rich in Spirit, we recently began to pray for a place of our own. Certainly one of the thousands of structures in this city could house our hustling, bustling mission. Then God pointed to the intersection of Limekiln and Wyncote.

Tara found it in the dead of the coldest winter I can recall. I went to see it one frigid day and, traipsing the four floors of the unheated building, nearly ended up hypothermic. By the time spring came it was ours. Visions of worship center, café, tutoring center, classes and intern housing danced in our heads. What a heavenly up-cycle! You see, Limekiln and Wyncote had been a club. Neighborhood people upon hearing of our plans remarked with eyebrows raised about, “What used to go on there.” What can I say? Jesus saves.

You’re hearing me right. REACH Philadelphia group of inexperienced young people attempting to bring the everlasting gospel to the fifth largest city in the US. We tend to put hard jobs on others. Oh, that’s for ‘them’ to do! You know, the smart, strong, ‘together’ types. Guess what? If we wait for “them” to come, we wait forever. In fact, that’s what we’ve been doing. We’ve been waiting forever to reach our cities. It’s time for forever to end.

Please, please (hear my earnest tone and see the tears on my cheeks), prayerfully read the statements below and ask God if He would have you help. We need church groups, school groups, and other groups to come build. We need lots and lots of money. I know, I know . . . everyone has palm up for money and free labor. You can’t give to every mission. But I respectfully request just three things of you: 1) Pray; 2) Visit this page and watch the video; 3) Read the quotes below:

“In every city there should be a city mission, that would be a training school for workers. Many of our brethren must stand condemned in the sight of God because they have not done the very work that God would have them do.

“If our brethren will use their God-given ability to warn the cities, angels of God will surely go before them to make the impression upon the hearts of the people for whom they labor. The Lord has many thousands who have never bowed the knee to Baal. Let not our ministers and our physicians fail nor be discouraged.” Medical Ministry, pp. 303, 304. (1910)

“There is means now tied up that should be in use for the unworked cities in Europe, Australia, and America, and in the regions beyond. These cities have been neglected for years. The angels of God are waiting for us to give our labors for their inhabitants. From town to town, from city to city, from country to country, the warning message is to be proclaimed, not with outward display, but in the power of the Spirit, by men of faith.” Evangelism, p. 428. (1908)

2 thoughts on “God Said: “REACH Philadelphia”

  1. Jane Sirignano

    Good Morning Jen,

    Your post is very inspiring. I didn’t know that Michael went door to door for three years. I will keep your project in prayer. Thanks for the post!

  2. Jennifer JIll Schwirzer

    Jane! Thanks for posting. He was doing Bible work and sometimes following up on leads.

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