From branch leader Aaron Abramson in New York City:

Thanksgiving in New York City is always a tremendous opportunity to reach out to tourists and residents alike. This year was no exception.

Two weeks before Thanksgiving, a few of our New York staff had some fun at Union Square Park in preparation for the holiday season.

There in the center of the park activity, we rolled out a white banner. We painted the center to read “Who Are You Thanking?” in the midst of a bright red circle. Many of us handed out colored markers to onlookers and passersby, offering them the opportunity to join in on the creative process! Dozens of people knelt down on the cement that day to write what they were thankful for, and to whom they were grateful.

As the banner was being created, a few staff members interviewed passersby as well as fellow staff members. Participants voiced their gratitude into the camera lens, naming things like: safety from the storm, family members, faith and life. Many stopped to ask about the project, to discuss their beliefs, and to understand our ministry. Pray that the spiritual hunger of this city will exceed the appetite for holiday foods!

Building on the energy of our “Who Are You Thanking?” outreach, the evening before Thanksgiving we brought a team of staff, teenagers and volunteers to the Upper West Side. There beside the Natural History Museum, tens of thousands of people gather to watch the balloons for the Thanksgiving Day Parade inflate into their full glory. It’s quite the spectacle! Our New York staff took advantage of the gathering by handing out free hot chocolate to the crowds and sharing about our Jewish Messiah.

We gave out around 3,000 cups of hot chocolate, each of which was stamped with a “Who Are You Thanking?” sticker. We distributed matching postcards with the same theme to raise the issue of being grateful to the One who gave us the greatest gift of all! We were able to engage thousands of Jewish and non-Jewish spectators. Some simply took a cup of hot chocolate, while others wanted to know more about the heart of our mission.

The following day, our team went to several locations along the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade route and handed out more of those new Thanksgiving postcards. All in all, we were able to hand out nearly 20,000 pieces of gospel literature!

After sharing a short meal together, our team headed to Far Rockaway where tens of thousands of people were devastated by the effects of Hurricane Sandy. We partnered with several churches to serve a Thanksgiving dinner to those most severely impacted by the storm. Most specifically, we worked with the children by providing games, arts and crafts, and some heartfelt encouragement. It was a blessing to be able to meet and serve alongside others who wanted to bless the community.

The following day, New York City transformed into a “shopping mecca!” Black Friday was in full swing and the streets were loaded with people looking for bargains. We didn’t miss this opportunity! Our team went out one more time and shared the gospel with many hurried shoppers. Pray that this city will pause long enough amidst the chaos to realize the true reason for celebration: our Messiah, Yeshua.