When Jaakko made plans to join the NYCR Leadership Intern Program, three major questions raced through his mind. “Is it foolish to take a break in the middle of my studies?” Jaakko Pasanen is a computer linguistics student from Helsinki University in Finland. After 9/11, “Is New York a safe place to be?” “And, since America has produced religious cults who commit mass suicides etc., how do I know that I’m not getting involved in something weird?” But, soon after he arrived in January, he found NYCR to be a safe and healthy place to grow. “I was surprised by God’s reality,” he admits now.
One of the places God has proven to be real to Jaakko is on the streets. One day, he worked at the Bible table, where he gave out free Bibles and prayed for people. Sometimes people come to The Bus just to receive prayer. A woman asked Jaakko to pray that her husband would come back. Jaakko prayed, without feeling much faith. A week or two later, this same woman shouted to him, “Thank you, thank you for praying for me!” Her husband had returned. Even though Jaakko finds talking to new people like this woman the most challenging part of the outreach, it is also the most rewarding.
Another surprise for Jaakko was that God’s love is real, not only for the street friends, but for him. He feels like he has lived in a closet for many years. “It was a nice closet and I was comfortable there,” he explained. “But I didn’t fit in it anymore.” Through the dynamics of living and working in community, issues surfaced in Jaakko’s life and forced him to break loose. “It was God who gave me the courage to trust that there is ground beyond the closet,” Jaakko shared. This experience proved to Jaakko, that God cares about him. “Although I mess up at times, still he loves me and calls me to come higher and closer to become more like “The Man” who made me.”
Jaakko has been a great asset to our street team and he has also worked on our web site. He was instrumental in launching our new Street TALK Plus email newsletter in March. (To subscribe, go to www.nycr.org/stplus.html)
Written in 2002.