Wayne Weekly “May Day…Mayday!!!”
Written by Wayne Taylor on May 1, 2018
It was over 40 years ago my practical Christian work assignment was given me while at Word of Life Bible Institute (WOLBI). I was assigned to what was known as the “New York City Team”. After class on Fridays, about six or eight of us would load up a WOLBI van and head on down to the Big Apple.
Tom Mahairas was just beginning his work in the city. Manhattan Bible Church was a small store front church at that time. As I remember it had an English sign and a Spanish sign identifying the church. It seems I remember having to walk down some outside stairs before entering the building, going below street level. It was downtown Manhattan, and for an upstate New York boy, it was a scene out of a movie. I remember the element of wonder, like discovering a secret passage.
It was May Day. May Day can mean a few things. It was a northern hemisphere ancient spring festival, a traditional spring holiday in many cultures. In communist countries, such as Cuba and the former Soviet Union, it is well known as an International Workers Day, but historically it was celebrated in the US as workers strived to create an eight hour work day, a relief from industries demands of an exhausting twelve or fourteen hour work day during the mid and late eighteen hundreds. It is also the universal SOS distress call from primarily aviators and mariners in a life-threatening emergency.
Working under the leadership of Pastor Mahairas was an incredible experience. All the evangelism classes at Word of Life, though helpful they were, were not a substitute for standing on the busy street corners of Manhattan preaching the gospel to the thousands of New Yorkers who strolled by our claimed street side corners. Often we would set up easels and illustrate the gospel with chalk or water color drawings. Sometimes it was just a raised arm with a waving Bible. Old time street evangelism.
We were all young, and somewhat ill-prepared to face the sneers and not so nice comments. We mostly were ignored by the masses that rapidly walked by. After all it was New York City where the street was a soapbox for anyone who had a mission, good or bad. And, it being May Day, and in the seventies, the communists were out blasting their ideas through bull horns and antiquated PA systems. The competition for the ears of the passer-byers was defeating. We had no amplification. We were shouted down.
Our small team of three made the decision to move on to another corner where we could preach Christ and share the plan of salvation. We regularly drew a small crowd. Sometimes hecklers would scream at us, but other times some would listen. We had, like the Apostle Paul had on Mars Hill in Athens, those who rejected the gospel outright, some who had an interest but walked away with no commitment, and then, by God’s grace, some who believed.
Our message was the basics, born separated from God by sin, heading toward a Godless eternity, God sending of the Son to save us by bearing our punishment on the cross and then conquering death in resurrection. We were passionate about the message of God’s love and provision. We preached Heaven, but warned of Hell. We screamed a mayday, mayday, because some were drowning, their life’s ship sinking fast into the terror of the deep.
I can only thank the Lord for those who listened and took heed of the warnings from a group of young men from a seemingly faraway country in the Adirondack Mountains of New York. We sent an SOS onto the streets of Manhattan.
“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”
2 Corinthians 5:20