Bryant Park Life Hope Center, a three-story building in midtown Manhattan, New York, is situated at one of the world’s densely populated and influential crossroads. Flanked by a tower with more than 40 stories of luxury condos, hotel rooms, shopping, and surrounded by glass and steel skyscrapers (whose air space above even commands a hefty price), this property is in a powerful location.
Bryant Park Life Hope Center is poised to share hope, wholeness, and the three angels’ messages of Revelation 14 with the more than 12 million people who visit the area every year.
To help with the response to this opportunity and maximize its ministry potential, Bryant Park Life Hope Center, operated by the Greater New York Conference (GNYC) of the Adventist Church, received an operating grant from the Global Mission office of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, designated to support start-up urban outreach centers in unreached cities or regions with more than 100,000 people. This grant will support a renewed vision for the Bryant Park location, which housed the Adventist Book Center until 2019.
“This funding will definitely impact our members, but also our friends [in the community],” GNYC president Henry Beras said, explaining that evangelism isn’t just preaching. “Now, to get people to go to church, the first thing you have to do is to show them that you love them, then to show that you have something different than other churches. This money will impact our evangelism program in the [outreach center] in Bryant Park.”
With these plans, the world church’s “Mission to the Cities” initiative and “I Will Go” strategic plans are moving forward. The initiatives call for all Adventists “to engage the collective resources of the global church in establishing [or increasing] a Seventh-day Adventist presence and needs-based ministry in cities of one million,” and to operate at least one of these outreach centers in each urban area with one million people or more.
“GNYC will use this resource pragmatically to jumpstart the [center] financially,” Bledi Leno, GNYC multi-ethnic ministries director and supervisor of the center, said. But on a deeper, more far-reaching level, Leno added, “we want it to inspire people locally to do more and apply themselves to urban ministries.”
The application process for the funding is designed to help create a center that is supported across the bandwidth of the church, from all tiers of church administration to business professionals and lay members. “In distributing the funding, the GC partners with the division, union, and local conference, who each has a voted allocation of financial support,” E. Douglas Venn, director of the GC Global Mission Urban Centers, said. “Working with this Life Hope Center Committee, business professionals reviewed the proposal, including consultation with Kevin Jackson, CEO of Australia-based Sanitarium Health & Wellbeing, who shares valuable experiences of running urban [outreach] centers. The Life Hope Center also has an operating board comprised of Adventist business leaders who oversee the business operations of this center. The ultimate goal of the [outreach center] is to be financially self-sustaining, ensuring its long-term ability to serve the city using Christ’s method alone.”
Support from lay members is also beginning to arrive. An anonymous Adventist donor has given funds for remodeling the building, which has not seen updates since the 1980s. The GNYC continues to raise additional funds for the needed building renovations, capital improvements, and equipment not covered by the GC funding.
Plans for the Life Hope Center include partnering with area professionals to create a health and preventive lifestyle center and a mental health institute. A pop-up vegan café that will also organize plant-based cooking classes is in the future plans, along with a physical training and exercise center offering massage and simple hydrotherapy. The area will also include space to share literature and sell some best-selling Adventist titles.
Working in harmony with the Bryant Park Life Hope Center launch is GNYC pastor Wayne Jamel, with a team of young professionals. They are planting a church using the building as their meeting place and a springboard into the community. “This [funding] gives us the confidence to move forward with our plans,” Jamel said. “I am grateful for the support and look forward to what God will do as church members combine their efforts with the pastoral, conference, and General Conference leadership.”