While millions of city residents obviously objected, some young people in Brooklyn saw the ads in the subway and were sparked to action. Daniel Sanabria, youth pastor at Park Slope Christian Center, recalled how three youth leaders at his church helped start a movement.
“They came to me and informed me about the ads,” he said. “I then went to my network of youth pastors in New York City to ask, ‘What are we, as the body of Christ going to do about this?’”
After praying together, the youth pastors decided that ministries from all five boroughs would hold a prayer walk and wear T-shirts that stated, “God Belongs In My City.” In less than two weeks, on November 14, 2009, the walk took place.
The turnout for the event was larger than anyone imagined. “We intentionally wanted a quiet and peaceful walk that wouldn’t offend or cause any issues,” said Sanabria, who is the principal at Park Slope Christian Academy. “I made a few phone calls to Urban Kingdom, my youth pastor network, and we expected maybe 200-300 individuals to come walk because that seemed ‘do-able’ for us. Little did we know that God had a movement in the works. More than 1,500 came out.
“Attendees walked from north and south of Manhattan, meeting at Times Square and Grand Central Station, making a bold statement that made history in the city and now the nation.”
Originally expected to be a one-time occurrence, God Belongs in My City (GBIMC) has gone national, spreading to cities such as Baltimore, Kissimmee, FL, Cleveland, Orlando, Camden, Lehigh Valley, PA, and Chicago.
“In order to organize a walk like this, it’s something God births in your heart and he places all that you need around you to make it happen,” said Sanabria, who is the director of GBIMC. “I’m indebted to my team for helping carry out this vision that belonged to them and now, they’re assisting other cities to carry the name of Jesus Christ!”
This October, NYC’s third annual walk drew an estimated 1,500 participants.
Sanabria remarked that the blessings of being involved in GBIMC are “endless.” “One of the greatest [rewards] has been creating valuable partners in ministry. I can honestly say that some of the leaders that have come alongside me during this journey have become my best friends,” he said. “They have become the men and women I look to for support and to [whom I] give support as well. Friendships have been made and strengthened in the schools of students who have recognized each other at the events. It’s also given a great opportunity for my wife and me to work together and support each other.”
As the movement continues to grow, Sanabria stresses that it is something for all believers. “This is not only about New York City,” he said. “This is about standing in the gap for your cities and communities. It’s about loving your city deeply and wanting the hand of God to be present from the community members all the way to the government officials. God Belongs In My City is our declaration of faith.”
-Written by Rachel Mari
For more information on the God Belongs In My City movement and to order shirts, visit www.godbelongsinmycity.com.