In the City

By Kerry Kind

Here are three stories of how God is moving in lives in urban settings cross the United States.

Petersen Family.jpg

Petersen family

Resurrection Life NYC

Branden and Jenn Petersen have relocated to Manhattan, New York City, to co-plant a church called Resurrection Life NYC. For the last 17 years, they have served on the staff of Sent Church, in Plano, Tex.

There seemed to be some big hurdles, but when they phoned Penn-Jersey District Superintendent Karl Eastlack, he said, “We have been waiting for you!” They were awed by the high costs in NYC, even though they shifted their family of four from a large home to a 1000-square-foot apartment. But it was a further confirmation when God opened up avenues of support, and their home sold quickly.

Branden and Jenn knew they needed to grow culturally and strategically to serve in such a famously hard place to plant a church. Branden was accepted into Fellows, a one-year program with Tim Keller, one of the most notable pastors in NYC. Also, both are part of City to City’s Incubator, a two-year program of church-planting preparedness.

The Petersens chose as their target the Upper East Side of Manhattan. After considering over 60 locations, they have found a great venue—a private school that is opening its arms to them. Nearby are diverse populations: upper-class Carnegie Hill and multi-ethnic East (Spanish) Harlem.

Monthly preview services this summer will gather a growing launch team, which currently stands at 20. Weekly services will begin in September if they have 50-70 committed people. The Petersens request prayer for workers, for a critical mass for their launch team, and for launch expenses.

How are they making connections? They have made some good friends at school functions. First you have to prove you are there for the long haul for people to give trust. But they are also assessing needs and they plan the kinds of outreach where they can show Christ’s love in practical ways.

God is going to do something wonderful with Resurrection Life NYC. But first, he is already changing the Petersen family. Branden and Jenn state that their faith has grown more in the last eight months than in their entire lives. God isn’t waiting—he is already working.


Aurora, CO

In July, 2012, the nation was horrified by the theatre shooting in Aurora, Colorado. But Reid Hettich points out that, in urban Aurora, there are tragedies every day. Although the church he planted there is named Mosaic, the huge sign on their building says “Opportunity Center.” As expected, their sign brings people walking in every day: people seeking help to find a job, to find affordable housing, or just looking for something hopeful. And Mosaic delivers hope.

...the warmth and depth of these friendships are different than anything I’ve ever experienced before.

The Gift

Inside the offering envelope was a crumpled $10 bill. The names on the outside were Cynthia and Daryl, a homeless couple. They get a small monthly disability check, but it always runs out. A gift of $10 from them would mean an extra night on the street instead of in a cheap hotel or riding a warm bus all night. Reid was momentarily shocked as he struggled to remember a time when he had given that sacrificially.

Stories from Aurora
Pastro Carlos praying with Day Laborers.jpg

Pastor Carlos praying with day laborers

According to Reid, ministry in Aurora requires a permanent presence to establish trust with people. God showed them a 5,000-square-foot commercial building in the perfect location. With a Wesleyan Investment Foundation loan and help from community partners, they bought it and renovated it into a worship center, a medical clinic, an educational facility, a counseling center, a food bank, and more.

The free clinic on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings is operated by doctors and students from a medical center. On Thursday evenings, Mosaic runs a “Whiz Kids” faith-based tutoring program and collaborates with a local public school that refers at-risk students. Friday night is given to focused prayer. And on Saturday afternoons the food bank reaches more people. Mosaic is a Sunday church with 140 worshippers, but it is a Monday through Saturday church, too, that meets hundreds of people at their point of need with the love of Jesus Christ.

Mosaic is three congregations in one. The Korean congregation is led by Songmin Kim and the Spanish congregation is led by Carlos Calandreli. Many in the church are economically challenged, including immigrants, refugees, and even homeless.

Reid is ever thankful for a core of 18 key leaders, mostly volunteers. Sometimes he has felt that he is just “hanging on” as God carries Mosaic forward. Reid and Joy Hettich were united in their decision to serve in Aurora. They changed their lives to do so. But Reid made a revealing comment: “My best friends now are people who have been through a lot of brokenness. And the warmth and depth of these friendships are different than anything I’ve ever experienced before. I am so blessed.”

Mission House

Salisbury, NC

A signature ministry of Mission House, a new Wesleyan church in Salisbury, N.C., is racial reconciliation grounded in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Anthony Smith is the teaching pastor, and Dustin Wilson is the executive pastor of Mission House. Their spouses, Toni Smith and Hannah Wilson, are vital members of the team. Hannah, who was ordained alongside Dustin, is children’s pastor.

A signature ministry of Mission House, a new Wesleyan church in Salisbury, N.C., is racial reconciliation grounded in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

As a pastoral team, they have good standing to promote racial harmony: Anthony is African-American and Dustin is white. Both were already ministering in the city when they met in 2011 and became friends. Both have grown a lot through their friendship.

Anthony is a noted preacher, public speaker, and a community organizer. Dustin is a pastor, a people person, and an administrator. God called them to join forces and so they merged into Mission House in 2014.

Their intention was to simply plant the gospel, not a church. It began as a missional group of believers who fellowshipped, studied the Bible together, prayed, and began to engage the city.

Mission House today is a church. Sometimes they joke that they planted a church by mistake. It meets on Sundays at Isenberg Elementary School with perhaps 50 attenders. Their church is a multi- ethnic group including students, families, and civic leaders. God has called them to spread the gospel, but also to be disciples who help make their city a more just and loving place.

A regular activity of missioners (those who have joined the mission) is Peace Circle. People converge monthly on a coffee house. They divide into 3-5 groups with a leader assigned to each and discuss a burning “challenge question.” City council members, business leaders, students, Christians, and non-Christians meet together and seek understanding. And the gospel becomes salt and light.

They are building bridges between ethnic communities, cultivating compassion, and even influencing public policy.

Christin Taylor's article about Mission House
Read Here

Recently, Anthony was given a two- year assignment as commissioner for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He seeks to retell the story of the city, bring to light the patterns of racial brokenness, and help bring system-wide changes in law enforcement, schools, and the business community.

Partnering with other churches, Mission House has cooperated with a food pantry, a soup kitchen, a homeless shelter, basketball camps, and youth camps. They are organizing community gardens and backyard Bible clubs. They are building bridges between ethnic communities, cultivating compassion, and even influencing public policy.

A lot of good has already been done. But both Anthony and Dustin feel they are just scratching the surface. When one meets these gifted pastors and sees their relationship, you sense that God is up to something special. Learn about Mission House at