Outreach Yields Harvest in Tough Bronx Neighborhood

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BRONX, N.Y. -- The Bronx, N.Y., community of Hunts Point has long been plagued by poverty, drugs and crime.

The cable network HBO even took its cameras to the community a few years ago for a documentary on the high prostitution rate there.

However, a local church is refusing to allow darkness to reign in their community. Their stand has yielded amazing results.

Real Life Church

These are the images of Hunts Point: worn out buildings, strip clubs, and girls walking the streets.

"There's a generational history in Hunts Point - notoriously known for prostitution, crime, drugs, gangs. Even now sex trafficking is a huge issue here," Reggie Stutzman, pastor of Real Life Church, said.

Stutzman is on a mission to paint a different picture of the Bronx neighborhood. He and his wife planted Real Life Church in the heart of this community.

"It wasn't my vision at all to come to Hunts Point, but as we started ministering here to the prostitutes, to the pimps, the Lord directed our hearts," Stutzman's wife, Ibelsa, said.

For the past two years, their church has tried a variety of ways to reach those people.

"This place needs Jesus more than ever before," Pastor Stutzman said. "And God's given us favor with all kinds of people, reaching the community. But we want to think outside of the box."

That new way of thinking led to a different approach to serving the community's poor.

Outside the Box

"There was a ministry in Texas called Vision for Christ that just happened to find us on the Internet," Pastor Stutzman told CBN News.

Stutzman teamed up with the Texas eye care ministry for three days of offering free medical help.

"They're doing free eye exams, free glasses. We have diabetes testing and blood pressure testing," he said.

Vision4Christ brought a team of 20 medical professionals to the Bronx event.

"It's important because I believe that's what Jesus called us to do," Dr. Andy James, head of Vision4Christ, said. "He wants us to go and help others and, really, it's all about Him. We can help people see better and we can help people feel better."

They ended up helping more than 400 people. Attendees like Hunts Point resident Pascaline Ayenegoye were overwhelmed.

"It touched my heart," said Ayenegoye, whose daughter broke her glasses while playing at school.

"When I went back to the eye doctor they said, 'Oh you have to wait for two years otherwise you pay.' I'm a single mother and it's not easy for me," she said.

While hundreds received free medical services at the medical outreach, it was also an opportunity to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ.

"Doing the vision outreach in conjunction with the evangelism is huge because the first thing people say is, 'Why? Why would you come out here and give me free glasses? Why would you give me a free exam?'" Vision for Christ's Charity James said.

"And it gives us the ability to say, 'You know because there was somebody who gave us something that we didn't ask for, we didn't deserve,'" she explained. "'You know Jesus Christ came and died on the cross and that's why we're here because of the love of Jesus.'"

Single mom Elizabeth Perez said she is thankful for the care she and her children received. She also responded to the gospel message.

"It's like hard to walk but since I walked in here I walked towards Jesus. It's making me feel happy," Perez said.

Drug Dealers Come to Christ

Pastor Stutzman said others were also touched.

"Last night we had two of the worst drug dealers in Hunts Point come to the altar and get prayed for," he said. "I mean where does that happen except for when the church goes out of the building and comes out on the street."

Bronx Deputy President Aurelia Green applauded Stutzman and his team.

"We are very supportive of the efforts churches make in order to improve their communities," Green told CBN News.

"And this is a perfect example of that effort wherein a local church -- not a big church, not a great cathedral or a church with thousands or hundreds congregation -- but a little, average church who said we're going to do something different. We're going to help these people realize that God is very much on the scene," she said.

Meanwhile, Real Life Church is planning a follow-up meeting with all who received medical and spiritual help. It's all part of the church's motto of serving real people with real issues and pointing them to a real God.

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Charlene  Aaron

Charlene Aaron

CBN News Reporter

Charlene Aaron serves as a general assignment reporter and helps anchor for the CBN News Channel.  Follow her on Twitter @CharNews and "like" her at Facebook.com/CharleneIsraelCBNNews.