Evangelism on Display
It was just another Sunday afternoon for Rosemary Opaye and her three children. They were shopping along 125th Street in East Harlem, N.Y., when they encountered an evangelism team from the Manhattan Citadel Corps.
“We saw them sharing the love of God with people,” says Opaye, an immigrant from Ghana, West Africa. “They invited us to come and have fellowship with them and so we did. When we went, we were so happy. The kids were so happy, so they go every Sunday.”
Opaye’s three children, Rachael, 12, Jesse, 10, and Joel, 7, also go to the corps two days a week to learn how to play musical instruments. Rachael is learning to dance.
“I’ve seen a difference in their behavior,” Opaye said. “When they go there, they are being taught the Word of God and how to play instruments. They love going there after school.”
Opaye has been attending church and a Bible study at the corps.
“The love of God is alive there,” she says. “When we go there, they receive us as family. It’s like we belong there. They talk to us and they really care. The kids love it. They are always looking forward to going there. We are grateful to be part of The Salvation Army church.”
The evangelistic outreach began seven years ago when Captains Antonio and Jennifer Rosamilia were appointed to the Manhattan Citadel Corps.
“When I got to Manhattan Citadel, I saw this prayer station that wasn’t being used,” Captain Antonio said. “I was like, ‘Wow! Look at this!’ So I transformed this prayer station. I put wheels and speakers on it. Some people call it a ‘prayermobile.’ I call it a prayer station.”
The prayer station, which conjures up memories of the “Glory Shop” open–air meetings in Times Square from decades past, has been the centerpiece of a revived open–air ministry at the Manhattan Citadel.
Some of the more recent outreaches include a March 20th event, which featured a 70–person high school choir from the Whitesburg Baptist Church in Huntsville, Ala. The meeting drew a huge rush–hour crowd at the busy Park Avenue and 125th Street train station.
On “Resurrection Sunday,” the corps scheduled a “Witness Parade.” The New York Police Department Band and other Harlem churches agreed to march from the Manhattan Citadel at 125th Street and Lexington Avenue to the Harlem Temple Corps at Malcom X Boulevard and 138th Street.
Captain Antonio said God had placed open–air ministry on his heart since he and his wife were corps officers in White Plains, N.Y. He tried to start a similar ministry there, but neighbors complained about the “noise” and absence of a permit.
When he arrived at the Manhattan Citadel, Rosamilia read about its rich history of open–air meetings. That revelation motivated him to renovate and literally transform the prayer station.
“God is resurrecting this ministry,” he says. “It’s something personal for me. God put this in my heart, and I try to do this every Sunday.”
Rosamilia said he goes out alone or with a group from the corps. Sometimes visiting missionaries join them. He often plays music, shares Bible verses, and delivers a mini–sermon to listeners. He also gives Salvation Army publications, including SAconnects magazine, to passersby.
“We meet this way three or four times a week,” he said. “It works. The community is open to it.
“I love it because the people let me do this on the streets and they never give me a hard time. They are open for prayer and they listen. It’s beautiful. I’m a big believer because God put it in my heart, and it works. We have had a few families who come to church today because of it.”
However, there are some challenges. For example, a man recently took Rosamilia’s tambourine and smashed it to the ground.
“My heart kind of stopped, but I said, ‘I’m going to continue doing this because the calling for this is higher than the devil’s threats or any evil spirit trying to tear me apart,’” Rosamilia said.
He also has had a rock thrown at him, and someone tried to steal his microphone, but he remains undeterred.
On those bad days, Rosamilia remembers how God allowed him to find that unused prayer station.
“I had a God moment right there,” he says. “I didn’t know why I had been appointed to the Manhattan Citadel, but that prayer station was like a confirmation that God wanted me here.
“Beautiful things have happened,” Rosamilia said. “We’ve had people coming to Christ, people crying, and people asking for prayer. There have been rough times, but also a lot of life–changing times.”
by Robert Mitchell