Published September 14, 2006
BROOKLYN, N.Y. (BP) — It’s just another nondescript red-brick building in Brooklyn dating back to the 1920s. It has been a furniture store and funeral home. During World War II, it housed a draft board that sent troops.
Today, with its green door facing the corner of 5th Avenue and 21st Street in Brooklyn’s Park Slope community, the David Dean Mission House is a launching pad for Southern Baptists’ post-9/11 mission work across New York City.
In 1991, David Dean, then-executive director of the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association, had a dream.
“I envision MNYBA purchasing a mission house ... a residence with 5-6 bedrooms, easily accessible to the city and public transportation for the purpose of providing housing for mission volunteers …,” Dean wrote 15 years ago. “I envision a Mission Service Corps couple living in the house and making it a home-like atmosphere for people.”
Accelerated by the jolt of Sept. 11, 2001, Dean’s vision became reality in August 2002 when the North American Mission Board bought the building from the Park Slope Community Church.
A home for missions
More than 700 people have stayed at the center since the first of this year, reported Jack and Becky Snyder, the center’s resident hosts since 2004 and Mission Service Corps missionaries for NAMB.
Sixty-three-year-old Jack and Becky, 55, left Cleveland, Tenn. (pop. 37,000), to relocate to Brooklyn (pop. 2.6 million). Jack, who has had two major heart operations, was a retired millwright for Duracell.
“After I had already been coming up here on mission trips, I told Becky that I felt like the Lord was leading me to go on mission in New York,” Snyder said.
Becky feeds up to 50 mission volunteers two meals each day, while Jack handles office administration and maintenance.
Her southern cooking is legendary – especially the biscuits and gravy for breakfast. Mission teams – particularly those from the South – fall in love with Becky and her down-home Tennessee cuisine.
While summer is the prime season for volunteer trips to New York, the Snyders are busy year-round – not only running the center but also conducting a variety of ministries on their own, including a high-rise apartment ministry, Bible studies, and worship services twice a month at the famous Bowery Mission, a shelter for New York City’s homeless. Earlier this year, Snyder sensed God’s call to preach.
The David Dean Mission House can house up to 50 volunteers at a time who pay only $35 a day for room and board.
“This is the fifth year I’ve been up here on a mission project,” Philip Slusher, church growth pastor for Temple Baptist Church in Hattiesburg, Miss., said, “and the second time we’ve stayed at the David Dean Mission House.”
Temple’s volunteers pay $600 each for the trip, which covers their airfare and meals and lodging at the David Dean Mission House.
“It’s a wonderful place to stay,” Slusher said of the David Dean Mission House, “because we’re located right in our targeted community, Park Slope. Jack and Becky are one of the reasons we go back time after time. In fact, Temple Baptist has adopted Jack and Becky and supports their ministry with a monthly missions offering.
“We just couldn’t go up there and do mission work if we had to stay in hotels or motels in the New York area. It’s simply cost-prohibitive.”
Although Temple has sent members to minister nearby on the Gulf Coast and even has an ongoing missions partnership with a church in England, Slusher said the church has a special burden for New York.
“Right after 9/11, we heard how New Yorkers started flocking to churches, but then it tapered off,” Slusher said. “We wanted to know why and what we could do.
“In Brooklyn and New York, we have found that people – five years after 9/11 – are very open to discussing the things of God with you.”
Slusher likes to tell the story of Giovanni Lanzo, owner of Luigi’s Pizza, a landmark neighborhood pizzeria across the street from the David Dean Mission House frequented by New York-based movie stars. Temple Baptist members even have been known to have Luigi pizzas shipped to Hattiesburg for special occasions.
Gio once told Slusher, “Phil, when I see you Baptists and the work you do up here in Brooklyn, I see a different God than the God I grew up with in the Catholic Church.”
“There are 80 different ethnic groups in the Park Slope community of Brooklyn,” Slusher noted. “We have the opportunity to impact the world right there in Park Slope. We feel we are an extension of Jack and Becky’s ministry.”
Georgia Baptists are in an ongoing partnership with New York Baptists. The original partnership began in January 2000 and continued through December 2003, with the primary focus being on the cities of Buffalo and Rochester.
A recommendation to extend the partnership was approved to continue through December 2008. The Baptist Convention of New York requested for the partnership to be expanded and include the entire state, specifically the I-90 corridor where the cities of Syracuse and Albany are located. Another primary focus of the partnership is New York City.
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