Efforts started by Christians after 9/11 to aid and comfort New York continue to bring hope to the city today.
For most residents of New York City it was difficult, even excruciating, to pick up the pieces of their lives after Islamic terrorists crashed two commercial airliners into the World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11, 2001.
Thousands of New Yorkers died that day. For weeks after the worst attack on U.S. soil, family members anxiously awaited word from authorities saying that their loved ones had been found. For many, the call never came.
“We were a broken city, with broken lives,” recalls Amy Williams, a Queens resident.
The attack opened a door for the body of Christ to respond to the grief by meeting physical and spiritual needs. And today leaders say 9/11 continues to affect the spiritual climate in the city.
“Churches and organizations have been collaborating and working together in ways that we didn’t do before,” says Mac Pier of Concerts of Prayer Greater New York. “It’s had a definite effect on us.”
He says much of the collaboration has resulted in considerable growth, especially among immigrant churches in the city. Faith Bible Church is one. It is a thriving immigrant ministry with locations in suburban Flushing and other areas across the city. It also has planted foreign churches, in Taiwan, South Africa, England and China.
Pastor Greg Woo says fear drove people to the church. “Initially they came because they were afraid and had a sense of uncertainty,” he told Charisma. “Sept. 11 wasn’t just something we saw on TV. We could look out the window and see the smoke in the skyline.”
But he credits the substantial growth in his church to the ministry’s commitment to core values such as evangelism, community outreach, and leadership training among pastors and seminary students.
“We have 900 to 1,000 members because two immigrant Christians passed out fliers on the streets of Flushing,” he says. “Yes, people came to church after 9/11, but we focused on fulfilling our values, and that is what really made people join and turn to Jesus.”
Many churches responded to 9/11 with community outreaches in the months after the attack and today continue to schedule prayer gatherings in conjunction with citywide events. On Sept. 20, more than 20,000 people are expected to participate in Prayer in the Square, a one-hour event sponsored by pastor David Wilkerson’s Times Square Church.
In a Web posting dated March 7, Wilkerson said “earth-shattering calamity” would hit New York City and surrounding areas as a result of God’s judgment on “America and the nations.”
“For 10 years I have been warning about a thousand fires coming to New York City. It will engulf the whole megaplex, including areas of New Jersey and Connecticut,” he said. “Major cities all across America will experience riots and blazing fires—such as we saw in Watts, Los Angeles, years ago.”
Wilkerson is “a person of integrity and accuracy with God’s Word,” Billy Wilson, executive director of International Center for Spiritual Renewal, told Charisma in response to the warning. “Time will tell” if the prophecy is true, he said.
“God’s judgment on America can still be avoided if the church will respond with humility and repentance. The fate of the nation is in the hands of those who are called by His name,” says Wilson, a co-organizer of Cry Out America—a prayer initiative that calls for Christians in all 50 states to gather at their county courthouses on September 11 to pray for spiritual renewal in the U.S.
Wilson said churches have an opportunity to be a tangible witness in their communities and should reach out to people with the gospel.
“If judgment is impending, then the opportunity for evangelism and ministry to the broken will be greater than ever. God is calling us to awaken our hearts to purity, intercession, preparation and evangelism for what could be the greatest harvest in America’s history.”