Spontaneous Combustion

It’s often said that where there is smoke, there is fire. When we see people acting in odd and extreme extravagance towards others, curiosity compels us to see what is behind this bizarre behavior.

Acts 4:31-34
After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them.

The power of God working through community destroys poverty completely. God’s grace transforms the givers and the receivers all at once.

This level of generosity seems almost excessive, but it is exactly what Jesus had already talked about (even commanded):

Luke 12:33,34
Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Jesus said to give to the poor, but the fire didn’t catch until the Holy Spirit was fully released on the day of Pentecost. The action had to come from the inner transformation within the hearts of those now filled to overflowing. The church was freed by the Holy Spirit to come fully alive.

In Acts chapter 4, there was no political rally, no new policy reform, no speeches to inspire a new movement. There was no new book written (or blog article) that was the catalyst to a trend of community action. Social justice was a direct outcome of the move of the Spirit of God. They didn’t even call what they were doing Social Justice. It was just called LOVING GOD. Those who had been forgiven much were now empowered to give much, not out of intellectual understanding from a teaching or an attempt to become more righteous or holy. It was simply an organic response erupting out of those finding themselves suddenly in the very palm of God. In this epicenter of love, power and grace, the ways of the kingdom start pouring out of them. It was spontaneous combustion.

It was spontaneous combustion.

Suddenly these new believers found themselves consumed by the fire of God. The side effect was that poverty was obliterated. The driving force was the move of the Holy Spirit. Generosity was just sparks getting thrown off from the inferno of the Holy Spirit. The world would never be the same. The church is birthed on earth out of this explosion. The fallout is a widespread. Jesus the light now sent the Holy Spirit so the light could be in us. Darkness didn’t have a chance.

One example of this Holy Spirit fueled generosity that I see on our urban missionary team at New York City Relief is in Outreach Team Leader, Paul Ballesteros (pictured at left). If Paul sees someone on the streets with no shoes who has the same general boat-sized feet, he will give his shoes away. This is in the middle of a four-hour outreach with The Relief Bus in which he is constantly walking around on the concrete sidewalk. In a New York City winter, that sidewalk is as cold as ice. Paul just can’t stand to see someone live barefoot on that ice-cold sidewalk. Another Outreach Team Leader, Jeff Cook can’t seem to hold onto a pair of gloves. Every time he saw someone without gloves during this past brutal winter, he was compelled to give them away. Giving wasn’t so much a sacrifice for these guys as it was a joy.

People ask me how our team at New York City Relief keeps going in our mission to bring life transformation to the homeless. How do we not burn out? Don’t we get overwhelmed by the incredible need? How do we deal with over 60,000 homeless people in New York City, rampant addiction, dire poverty, and the despair of those who struggle literally for daily survival?

The answer for our team of urban missionaries is the same as the answer for the early church. We are in desperate pursuit of Jesus and a move of the Holy Spirit in and through us. Even when weary, we press forward relentlessly into the heart of God. Pulling each other up in community, iron sharpens iron. Spurring each other on, we love God by loving and serving each other. We fail as much as we succeed at this, but we are intentionally running after a goal. We stumble often, but keep getting up, dusting ourselves off and running some more. We don’t bathe ourselves in diatribes and dogma, we open ourselves up more and more to the ridiculous foolishness of a life relinquished to God. Motivated by our love for God, we fight for each other’s hearts:

Hebrews 10:23-25
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

The King James version of verse 24 says: “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:” We keep dragging our compatriots back into the fire of God. There is nothing else.

This isn’t so much a life of sacrifice and self-discipline as a life that is relinquished to Jesus. We serve the broken because we love Him. Of course this only happens because He loved us first. His love is the fire that drives the engines of our hearts. I don’t know how to explain it except…spontaneous combustion.

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Hoka Hey

Several years ago I wrote a song called Hoka Hey. I would like to share this song with you and the context from which I wrote it. What does Hoka Hey mean?

Native American warriors would shout ‘Hoka Hey!’ to one another as they charged into battle. In the context of battle hoka hey meant, ‘it is a good day to die.’ The origin of the phrase. literally translates as ‘hold fast. There is more!’”

A speech by Shawnee Chief, Tecumseh

“It is a good time to die.” The ancient battle chant is shouted in defiance by a spirit warrior, rising to inspire his people. A true warrior is one who fights to defend those who cannot defend themselves. Heading into danger, he goes having made peace with his family and his fellows, and with his Creator. Confident in the justice of his mission, he goes without fear, to do what must be done. For if he should not return from this day’s battles, he will be able to face the Creator with an open heart, and enter the next life without shame or regret.

“So live your life so the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their views, and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and of service to your people. Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide. Always give a word or sign of salute when meeting or passing a stranger if in a lonely place. SHOW RESPECT TO ALL PEOPLE, BUT GROVEL TO NONE. When you arise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life and strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies in yourself. Touch not the poisonous firewater that makes wise ones turn to fools and robs them of their visions. When your time comes to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home. It is indeed, a good day to die.-TECUMSEH-

Interesting speech that echoes some key elements from scripture:

1 Corinthians 15:50-58
I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God,nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

Philippians 1:21
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

Romans 14:8
If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.

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The Currency of Heaven

“Life every man holds dear; but the dear man holds honor far more precious dear than life.”- William Shakespeare

Our American culture has made an art form out of tearing people down. It’s the basis for many reality shows and celebrity media outlets. Dishonor is entertainment. Even in the church, it has been said that the Christian army is the only one known for shooting it’s wounded.

Paradoxically, there are a lot of fake honors out there. For the right price, you can appear in Who’s Who. If your donation is large enough, an organization will name you “Man (or woman) Of The Year.” I have personally been given an official government award for my service in a New Jersey county in which I don’t actually do anything for their residents. I think they found me online.

Recently our staff at New York City Relief watched a great documentary film called Compelled By Love. It’s the story of Heidi and Roland Baker and their work amongst the poorest of the poor in Mozambique, Africa with Iris Global. One of the most powerful statements Heidi Baker makes in the film is, “Honor is the currency of Heaven.”

“Honor is the currency of Heaven.”

Honor is defined as a verb this way: regard with great respect.

Heidi Baker described how they used to do outreach in Mozambique by rolling into a village with a sound system and a screen with which they would start showing the Jesus movie. Now instead, when they arrive they gather the chiefs and elders of the tribe. One by one, the outreach team members lower themselves before each seated leader to meet them face-to-face to honor them publicly before the village. These volunteers kneeling in the dirt are many times professional doctors, lawyers and business people in the US. Now the outreach teams are welcomed back for more future outreaches to these villages. The investment of honor pays off in long-term favor and relationship.

Josiah Haken (above right), Director of Outreach at New York City Relief, sets a high standard for how we serve soup to the homeless. He teaches volunteers that we should do a better job at presenting food and beverages than a barista at Starbucks. If soup spills down the side of the cup while ladling it out, that cup should be wiped clean. Believe me, that is a large percentage of our cups. Would you hand the President of the United States a sloppy cup of soup? Everyone should get the presidential treatment. That’s how honor works.

What does God say about honoring people?

Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. -Romans 12:10 ESV

He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor. -1 Samuel 2:8 NIV

Sometimes the church can be a little inbred. We get homogenized by relegating ourselves to people groups made up of people just like us. Our racial, spiritual, economic cliques trap us in a bubble of groupthink. This naturally leads us to a place where we can’t relate to people outside our bubble, because we don’t know them. It can also lead to judging and stereotyping.

A good friend and board member of New York City Relief named Bob Goodwin (left, on right) is a marketing executive in Cincinnati, Ohio. Rather than eating lunch at his desk, as often as he can, he walks outside to find a homeless person to have lunch with. This is his way of escaping the corporate, white-collar world to experience what others outside are going through. It’s the way he befriends Jesus through the poor.

At The Relief Bus outreach, we are going for the same thing: communing. We aspire to not just feed the homeless, but eat with them, talk with them and do life with them. Our goal is to enter a journey with the poor where we aren’t seen as above them, but alongside them. As we befriend those who may be very different than us, we are showing them honor.

This currency of honor is so valuable that almost all who receive it are significantly impacted. Giving honor in everyday life is becoming a lost practice in our society. Because of this scarcity, it is even more valuable and for those who are usually dishonored, it is priceless.

This currency will cost us time, comfort and overcoming our own biases. The payoff is that we become enriched. When we do Jesus stuff, we become more of the person we always wanted to be.

The currency of honor is something we all have pocketfuls of. Opportunities to spend it are everywhere. Rather than spending it in the regular places, take a look around to see who is literally starving for someone to regard them with great respect. Then watch Heaven come to earth.

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Back From The Philippines

Recently I went with a team on a mission trip to the Philippines. We played music, shared testimonies and preached the good news of the gospel. Whatever opportunity came, we took it and tried to represent Jesus the best we could. It was a humbling and life changing experience. We met so many wonderful people who marked our lives.

Of course, like any mission trip it opened my eyes to the many things I take for granted in the United States, but it also revealed the coldness and isolation we sometimes experience in our culture. The people of the Philippines were so gracious and hospitable to us and I experienced God’s love through many of them.

One of the best parts of the trip was getting to share the experience with my 16-year-old daughter Hailey. Below you will find the newsletter report that she wrote. Here are some of my highlights from the trip:

We sang the lyrics of one of my songs, “Blessed are you who are poor, yours is the kingdom of God” in the slums of Arellano and it seemed prophetic, for as the adults and children sang the joy of God seemed to fill the air. I was so touched to hear people sing along to the songs I had written from my heart, but never knew I would sing in this country. It was as if the songs were written just for them.

After we ministered and sang in a jail, one of the prisoners who gave his life to Christ asked for the music and lyrics to a song I wrote called Least Last Lost. The chorus goes, “You love the least, You love the last, You love the lost, You love me.”

The hard work of the missionaries at the Dagupan YWAM base was awe inspiring. Weekly they go into the slums to minister where the local churches are afraid to go. Of course this inspired me concerning the work we do with New York City Relief. To see their faithfulness, hard work and commitment to the poor encouraged me to keep moving forward in our mission to the poor in New York City and New Jersey. I will forever be grateful to those of you who partnered with us to go on this trip and to the people there who welcomed us into their hearts.

I would recommend to anyone who wants to go on a mission trip to consider the Dagupan YWAM Mission Base. Learn more at https://www.facebook.com/ywamdagupan

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The Offensive God

Offend: to cause (a person or group) to feel hurt, angry, or upset by something said or done

Jesus Christ was not the sweet Sunday school teacher we would have rather him to have been. His messages were just as often offensive to listeners as they were comforting. We tend to gravitate towards the words of grace that our souls long for, and well we should because without grace we are doomed. We shouldn’t be shocked by his offensive words though, because Peter describes Jesus as, “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.”

Jesus was clear in so many verses that we need to “put up or shut up.” These words sting because they convict us and make us aware of how far we fall short. Jesus used strong words often, both with the crowds and his own disciples. Sometimes, he was even angry. Even when ticked off, Jesus acted solely out of love. He fulfilled and lived Hebrew 12:6, “The Lord disciplines those he loves.” Rather than correcting people to lord his power over them, Jesus’ rebukes or commands always had purpose to benefit his followers.

Jesus refused to compromise his message and mission. His cousin John was the same way and was relentless in challenging society. He had to express the truth of the Kingdom of God regardless of the consequences. Of course he offended to the point of losing his own life. Kind of like Jesus did. Both of them had a mission worth dying for and the blood of their martyrdom serves as the foundation of our faith.

Let me give you a specific example of one potentially offensive verse that we need to think about:

John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.

…The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”

“What should we do then?” the crowd asked. John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.” (Luke 3:7-11 NIV)

If John was a pastor and that was a Sunday morning message, he might have been voted out and fired by the elders after service. He threatened the crowd to start acting like God the father or they were going to burn. His words were prickly, barbed and blunt. No softness, no consolation and no coddling. Rather than getting offended this time, the crowd responded with a plea for direction. “How do we embrace Heaven and escape Hell?”

John could have said anything, but he pointed them towards the poor. Basically he told them that if they wanted to act like God, they should give clothing and food to the needy. He could have pointed them to more worship, tithing, Bible study or spiritual disciplines, but he challenged them to embrace the poor and by doing so they would be embracing God.

This isn’t a nice little Bible story. John says that unless you and I have good fruit, the ax is coming. What is good fruit? Not attending more church services, avoiding profanity, longer morning devotionals or more anointed prayers. Nice things and good things, but John says that isn’t it.

Good fruit is washing the feet of the weak, generously giving to the hurting, being a brother to the stranger. Good fruit is putting clothes on someone’s back and food in their belly. The good news is that if this fruit isn’t a part of our lives, we can repent and let God change us to make us truly fruitful. Yes, Christians still need to repent. At least I do -over and over.

At New York City Relief, we exist to give people a place to bear this kind of fruit. The Relief Bus outreach is a great way to lavish God’s best on those who have the least. The homeless are so touched that volunteers would come bearing gifts of new socks and fresh soup.

Let’s cultivate a lifestyle of growing delicious spiritual fruit that allows others to taste God’s goodness in us. Here is the benefit on our end: REFRESHING

“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,” Acts 3:19

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HELP Us Serve The Philippines

My daughter Hailey and I are headed to the Philippines on a mission trip in January. Please take a look at our newsletter and join our support team. We can really use your help.

Go to www.give-relief.org and write “Philippines Trip- Juan & Hailey” in the designation field. You can also write a check made out to New York City Relief and mail it to 295 Walnut Street, Elizabeth, NJ 07201. THANK YOU!

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Identity Theft

When we think of identity theft, we usually think of someone stealing our credit card number or social security number, leaving us in a position of explaining how we never purchased those ten iPads online or worse didn’t take out that $10,000 home equity loan. These are nightmares to be sure, but there are worse kinds of identity theft.

During outreach with The Relief Bus, one of the most common sad stories I hear is when a homeless person is robbed of their identification. While they catch a nap and are vulnerable, someone slips away with their belongings. This can be catastrophic for someone living on the edge. Without ID, they are unable to work or receive benefits. It can take lots of time, money and bureaucratic finagling to obtain a new birth certificate, social security card and picture ID.

I myself discovered when I decided to live homeless for a few days in New York City, that if I was found sleeping on the train without ID I could even be arrested. Imagine being locked up in a scary cell with a bunch of criminals just because you didn’t have a simple card with your photo on it!

Some homeless people are more vulnerable than others. One friend of ours is in a wheelchair and regularly gets beat up and robbed. Several other friends are plagued  with epilepsy, and are robbed when they have seizures.

One man that I met during an outreach in the South Bronx was a victim of violent crime. He was slashed to the point of being hospitalized for months. In the process of the attack, his passport was stolen. He was terrified of being caught without ID and getting deported, even though he was a legal immigrant. We contacted his embassy and helped him get an appointment to have his passport replaced. He was so relieved to get proof of his legal status.

Another friend that we helped get off of the streets and off of drugs was overwhelmed with excitement when he got ID. It was like he was an official person again, no longer invisible to society.

Laticia (left) was from Oklahoma. She found herself stranded and homeless in New Jersey. Her identity had been stolen and she was stuck. New York City Relief Staff helped get her a bus  ticket to reunite with her sister in Nashville!

There is yet another form of identity theft. When the poor are condescended to, treated roughly and not respected, they lose their dignity. When people aren’t treated as valuable, they are robbed of their identity of being human. When someone is treated as less than human enough times, they stop acting human. People can descend to an animalistic state of survival instinct, dull in heart and mind. They become programmed to live at a base level, because that is what they think they deserve. These are sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers made in the image of God.

Many of my friends who live on the streets refuse to sleep in public shelters or drop-in centers, because of the way people are treated there. All that they have left is their dignity and they cannot afford to lose that too. New York City Relief is committed to helping people recover their identity as precious, important people. To God and to us, they are treasures. We help many people to recover their physical ID’s, but more importantly we work to restore each individual’s identity as a valuable person.  A kind word, a listening ear, and a prayer go a long way to letting someone know that they matter. Come join us on the streets sometime and help restore someone’s stolen identity, you might even find yours restored in the process.

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Least Last Lost

Recently I gave a message at Church at the Gateway in Staten Island titled “Least Last Lost.” Unfortunately, it’s human nature for us to stereotype and separate ourselves from others. Jesus conquered that great divide between the haves and the have nots. He became poor so that we could become rich.

Here is a video of that message. I hope you enjoy it and that God speaks to you through it.

At the conclusion of the video is a song I wrote called “Least Last Lost”. Here are the lyrics to the song and here is a link to a free mp3 for you to download.

Least, Last, Lost
by Juan Galloway

You love the least
You love the last
You love the lost
You love me


Ya da da da da
Ya da da da da
Ya da da da da

You didn’t come for the healthy
You came for me
You didn’t come for the righteous
You came for me

For the sick and the sinful
You came for me
For the failed and the fickle

You came for me
You came for me
You came for me
You came for me


For the harassed and helpless
You came for me
Like a sheep without a shepherd
You came for me
And took me under your wing
You came for me
Now I can sing
You came for me

I’ll cast my cares on You
You care for me
All my fear and anger
You care for me
I’ll take your yoke that’s easy
You care for me
I’ll trust your grace completely

You care for me
You care for me
You care for me
You care for me


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Summer Stories from the STREETS

Summers are a busy time of the year for us at New York City Relief and we have teams from all over America coming to stay at our base and work on the streets with us. Here are a few stories from this summer:

Marcus is homeless in Newark. I met him during a special nighttime outreach on The Relief Bus. Marcus gave his life to Jesus that night for the first time. We gave him a Bible and information on getting him into a discipleship/rehab. He wants to get his life together to be a good dad to his 12-year-old daughter.





That same night in Newark, Will came desperate and hungry. He is homeless and addicted to heroin but ready to turn his life around. He cried as we prayed together and he rededicated his life to Christ. We connected him to a detox program. He is trusting God for a miracle. He was SO thankful for the help.





This man came to The Relief Bus not just for soup or bread but for peace, rest and protection. He laid his weary body down on the ground right in front of the bus and slept. He was in a safe place where people watched over him. I took a moment to ask him if he felt all right and if we could help him in any way. He said he was alright, but allowed me to say a prayer for him.







Carmen and Jose came to The Relief Bus 20 years ago homeless and needing help. Staff and volunteers pitched in money so that the two could afford to pay for their marriage license. After getting married, they continued to come to the bus for prayer and friendship. They live in a shelter. Carmen was diagnosed with terminal cancer, but she was holding onto God and putting her faith in his plan. She asked if Outreach Team Leader Yaz Bellihomji and his wife Edna would baptize her and Jose. Here she is getting baptized at our staff pool party this summer. It was a precious moment I won’t soon forget.

To partner with the Galloway family in our work with the homeless go to www.give-relief.org and write “Juan & Tracy” in the designation field. Thank you!

Entering The Heart Of The Homeless,

Juan Galloway

(800) 736-2773 x14

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My Favorite Preacher

Here is a video of my favorite preacher (my wife Tracy) giving a knock out message. The girl can preach!

Here is a video of my favorite preacher (my wife Tracy) giving a knock out message. The girl can preach!

Over 20 people gave their lives to Christ after hearing this message. Way to go Reverend! Anyone interested in having her speak at a service or event? Just let her manager/booking agent (me) know: juan@newyorkcityrelief.org

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