Category Archives: friends

10 Reasons You Should Come to NLF’s New Year’s Eve Bash

I’ve written before about our New Year’s Eve Parties here and here, and I’m obviously a big fan of getting together, eating delicious international fare, then working it all off with dance lessons, singing, playing games, listening to good music, singing some more, dancing some more.

Doing all of the above in the name of “cultivating a deep spirituality with God” is always a good thing.

Anyhow, I thought I’d add 10 more reasons (in no particular order) you should come out to our party tomorrow.

1)  Where else can you get to eat bulgogi, samosas, fetticini alfredo, jerk chicken, and spanish rice and beans in the same meal? And THEN, eat some pad thai to round out the meal…

Worship at New Year's Eve - easily my favorite part of the night.

2)  We have a stellar lineup of performers this year at our Coffeehouse – New Life’s very own Judea Costes, Henn Sie, Cate Song, and Abbey Hoffman. They’re worth the admission price alone!

3)  We can all do the Electric Slide and Cupid Shuffle again, led by the hip-shaking Mike Park and Rich Villodas. Does this ever get old?  Probably.  But probably not.

Where else can you experience the Cupid Shuffle led by Mike and Rich? It may not be synchronized, but it will be fun!

4)  Our Hip Hop Lessons will be given by talented and experienced instructor Susan Maysonet (one of NLF’s very own). She will also be leading our Family Dancing time as well!

The dreaded dancing circle actually works on New Year's Eve at New Life!

5)  The dreaded dancing circle, found in most wedding parties and impromptu dance parties, are actually a chance to showcase some of NLF’s extraordinary dancing talent.

6)  You’ll have a chance to join in the longest dancing train you’ll ever experience.

Seriously, will you ever be part of a longer dancing train anywhere else?

7)  The worship experience is incomparable. There’s something about ringing in the New Year with family and friends singing at the top of our lungs about the faithfulness of God that is unlike any other feeling in the world.

8)  You never know what interesting characters and costumes you’ll see now that it’s 80s night.

By popular demand, it's 80s night tomorrow night.

9)  We will likely have a time of silent reflection during our meditation time. Who says it’s loud and rowdy the whole time?

10)  It’s a chance to hang out with kids, youth, parents, grandparents, singles, couples in a fun, delicious, and warm atmosphere.

Fun times for the whole family!


Doesn’t this all sound so spiritual?

You can register at the door tomorrow night.  More information can be found here.

Feel free to invite family and friends!

Sidenote:  If you’re in Manhattan and would prefer another party, I’d highly recommend Restore’s New Year’s Eve Gala to support a fantastic cause.


One of the Privileges of Being a Pastor at New Life Fellowship

In the flurry of Christmas parties and potlucks, I was called in for jury duty last week.  Interestingly enough, the interruption to my schedule felt like a respite from all the usual December end-of-year activities.

In my prior experiences with jury duty, I’ve never been called in beyond the waiting room, so I was surprised and anxious when I got called into a courtroom with a number of other potential jurors.  In fact, I was in the first group sitting in the jury box, and it was certainly an honor to hear from the judge about our legal system and the role we would play as jurors.

If you’ve ever been on jury duty, you probably know that there’s a vetting process that each juror has to go through under the watchful eyes of the prosecutor and defense attorney (as well as all the other complementary participants in a courtroom).

Potential jurors are asked to answer a litany of questions, some of which are similar to the following:

What’s your occupation?

Are you related to or know anyone involved in law enforcement?

Have you ever been the victim of a crime?

Do you know anyone who has been accused of a crime?  What’s been your experience with people in law enforcement?

First off, it was so cool hearing about the disparate backgrounds and occupations of my fellow potential jurors.  NYC is definitely a melting pot.

Despite the ethnic differences of our jury group, it was customary to hear others answer “no” to a majority of the questions related to knowing people who have been in law enforcement or been accused of crimes, etc.  Usually, the answers were “yes” to one or the other – do you know more law enforcers or more criminals?

When it came time for me to answer questions about my job and various relationships I have with people, I shared that I was a pastor who had a broad range of relationships with people from different walks of life.

Unlike most of the other potential jurors, I was one of the few people who said “yes” to almost everything.  Both the prosecutor and the defense attorney narrowed their questions to me specifically after the general questions were asked.

The two sides asked me (not in exact terms):

– Can you tell us about your interaction with police officers?

– Can you tell us about people that you know in law enforcement?

– Can you tell us about the trials of accused people that you knew?

I didn’t realize how odd it was to have such varied relationships, but in the course of the questioning everyone discovered:

– As a pastor of a church community, I know cops, defense attorneys, prosecutors from the DA Office, and other legal and security professionals.

– As a pastor of a church community, I also know people who have been victims of racial profiling, accused of armed robbery, accused of selling drugs, etc.

Of the groups mentioned above, they’re all folks I’ve met through New Life Fellowship.

People prosecuting and representing the state, people defending and the people being defended – they’re all friends and families who attend New Life Fellowship.

At some level, this might seem like an awkward dynamic.  At another level, it’s also quite beautiful.  Messy, but beautiful.

I count it a privilege to being a pastor in this community, and although some tend to think that religious people see the world through black-and-white, right-and-wrong lens, being part of such a diverse community has shown me that there are more shades of gray when it comes to the problems we all face.

And at the end of the day, these problems remind us that we are linked not by our perfection or our rightness, but by our common weakness, a weakness that calls for a better way, a better truth, a better life.

In other words, we all come together – prosecutor and prosecuted – because we’re all longing for advent.

I think that message will preach.  I think that community will preach, too.

“I am the way, the truth, and the life.” – Jesus Christ

My Week Thus Far

Monday, August 16th

My week started in the midst of my Sabbath, catching up on missed episodes of The Office, Season 5.

By mid-Monday, I receive word that the 24 year-old son of a couple from New Life, died.  By Monday evening, I conduct a short memorial service in Jamaica, Queens, while approximately 150 teary-eyed friends and family come to view the body of a life cut far too short.

I cannot sleep.

Tuesday, August 17th

A full memorial service in the morning – we cry, we laugh, we don’t know what else to say/do.

The burial is in the afternoon – the longest lingering crowd I have ever seen at a burial.  Stefan was one special guy.

Head back to New Life, and we welcome one of our newest employees with an orientation.

Emotionally numb, I must do something fun and mindless.  I go watch NLF high school basketball team.

Exhausted, I go home to my lovely wife.  I eat.

I cannot sleep.

Wednesday, August 18th

Two meetings in the morning, both over an hour long.

Catch up on emails and some reading in the afternoon.

Evening sojourn to the grieving family and their friends.  They are so weak, and yet so, so strong.

Come home to another meeting, this time with a couple two weeks from marital bliss.  They are so happy, I am so excited for them.

I eat with my wife and then watch Top Chef.

I cannot sleep.

Thursday, August 19th

I interview someone in the morning.

Lunch with another ministry friend from Brooklyn.  We share dimsum, thoughts, ideas, and prayers.

Meeting with a member of NLF in the afternoon.  Big life decision forthcoming.

Convene with NLF high school bball team, and watch highlight DVD made by the ever-talented Frank Favilla and hear thoughts on life from Rich Villodas.

Tina and I have dinner with Peter, Jen, and Eli.  My soul feels replenished.

I sleep.

Friday, August 20th

Hear from a NLF family expecting the birth of their second child within hours.  Life is so precious.

Meet with Peter R and Rich V, mapping out thoughts for the Fall.

Notarize letter written on behalf of members of NLF.  Eat a Subway sandwich for the first time in months.

Catch up on emails unanswered, finally time to think ahead and fill out some spreadsheets.

Dinner at Rosa’s with my lovely wife.  BBQ Chicken, Lasagna, and Eggplant slices.  We order too much, but Rosa’s has that effect, I reason.

We convene for a gathering back at the home of the grieving family.  I hear stories, and I am moved.  I smile, I stare, I stutter, I pray.  Family and friends on a beautiful night, feeling closer than ever.

We eat delicious fish stew and shrimp fried rice from Trinidadian origins.  We munch on Guyanese snacks.

These people are so weak, but so, so strong.

I will sleep soon enough.

Great Memories from our Rule of Life Weekend

Our Group Picture from our Rule of Life Weekend.

Had an awesome weekend with New Lifers at our Retreat in the Poconos Mountains.  Some memories are listed below.

And if you’d like to know what we mean by Rule of Life, you can click here.


– Greg Jao leading us do an eye-opening study through Acts 9-10.  WOW.

– Some beautiful weather… right until we had to leave.

“If you’re having a hard time thinking about what you enjoy, think back to your childhood.”

Rich Villodas going over guidelines for being together – “it’s not the time for you to prophesy!”

– Rich going over a personal Rule of Life and giving us some much needed time of personal reflection.

– “Have you tried these brownies?”

– “These apricots are sour!”

– “Would you rather be taken or left behind?”

Who knows a song? Let’s sing some songs! ~ God, told Noah, to build him, and arky, arky…~

– “Karis is so cute!”

– “I should really stop calling him Paul.  He’s not Paul yet, but the story when Saul becomes Paul is really cool.”

– “I’d like to introduce you to my lovely wife… she’ll be collecting your money.”

– “This retreat is an invitation, not an impostion.”

– “Who’s the all-time best ball player from NYC?”

“Oliver Mack.”

“Who’s Oliver Mack?”

– “Have you had Korean short-ribs?  It’s objectively the best BBQ in the world.”

– “The hike takes only 30 minutes.”

“You got all that from observations?”

– “Can I trade bikes with you?”

– “I am not standing on that rock next to the edge.”

– “Why are we going up this hike so fast?”

– “There’s another shooting star!”

– “Are we there yet?”

– “I shouldn’t have gone on that hike.”

– “There’s a chinese word that means ‘I’ve had too much of this rich food’, and it just doesn’t translate.”

– “I’m puzzled why we’re still in this session and not having lunch when the schedule says we were supposed to have lunch 30 minutes ago.”

– “Block him, Terry.  Block her, Johnny.  This will be an epic game that we’ll remember forever.”

– “Lean on me, when you’re not strong, I’ll be your friend…”

– “Who wants one more s’more?!”

“This hike takes 30 minutes to finish, tops.”

– “Help! Help!  My marshmallow’s about to fall off!”

Anyhow, feel free to add to this list.  It was an amazing time!

You can see all the pictures from the weekend here.

Christopher Celiz beatboxing @ NLF Open Mic in 2007

You have to watch this!

I was digging through old videos and came across the clip below of Chris Celiz, a college student from New Life Fellowship.

Keep in mind all the sounds in the clip are coming from Chris (aside from some ambient sounds).  The quality of the video isn’t too great, but I think you can get a glimpse of his immense talent.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Chris is also a finalist competing in the American Beatbox Championships on July 31st (he’s nycbeatbox).  Please support him if you can!

You can also find out more about Chris here.  He shares his most memorable Beatbox moment is performing in front of NLF Youth for the first time, which was a few years before the clip below.  Word.

A Full Weekend of Crying, Laughing, and Everything In Between

After getting back from Drive, I had a very full couple of days, replete with crying, laughing, and everything in between.

In many respects, Drive felt like a Sabbath, but in other ways, it did not (in terms of stop and rest – it’s hard to stop and rest at a conference called Drive).  Thankfully, Tina and I are off to vacation today for a couple of weeks! It’s all about rhythm…

Please don’t think of us while you’re not on vacation.  My thoughts are especially with you students in finals.  Sorry, that sounded like I was teasing, but I genuinely meant that my thoughts are with you students!

In the meantime, here’s some things that made me experience the fullness of life over the weekend:

1)  Nikki’s Memorial Service – Nikki Holden was a member of a church and an extraordinary person.  She was a teacher for 20+ years at Evangel Christian School, and it was amazing how consistent the remarks were about Nikki and her impact on children and her unwavering faith in God during the turbulence of life.

Here’s a portion I read from a testimony she gave at NLF before a sermon I preached back in September.  The written portion here describes her reaction to finding out she had to go through her second round of chemo.  After being in and out of the hospital for 2 years, she passed away couple of weeks ago.

I knew I could yell and scream and carry on and have to go through it anyway… or, as much as I was sad and disappointed, I could embrace what God was doing and move forward.

It’s been a roller-coaster of a year in dealing with fear, depression, doubt and anger, but also experiencing joy and peace in the presence of the Lord’s faithfulness and goodness.

Having cancer has been the most terrifying thing that has ever happened to me, but it’s also been one of the best things to ever happen to me, because I never really suffered in my life before now. But now I’ve walked through this valley and I’ve seen God’s faithfulness.

I still haven’t gotten the outcome that I hoped for a year ago.  But my hope is in God, not in the doctors, and not in the chemo.  He is my healer and my protector and I know I can’t just sit at home and live in a bubble.  As best as I can with his strength I have to live the life he has placed before me.

A couple of months ago, I read Psalm 119:91 which says, “All things serve you.”

When I read that verse, it just gripped my spirit.  I knew that even this cancer can serve him if I let it.  My testimony is not that I had cancer and God healed me, but instead, I have cancer, and by God’s grace I am journeying through it.

Nikki was a remarkable woman, and it was a beautifully uplifting service to take part in.

2)  Karis’ First Birthday – Fun times with the Villodas and Valle families, celebrating the ever-popular Karis Villodas.  She’s mad fun to be with, and there always seems to be a crowd around her.  One of my biggest highlights was seeing her eat her first cupcake.  Too cute.

Villodas + Valle = GREAT TIMES.  Check out Rosie’s blog to learn more of Karis and family.

3)  Open Mic Nite – We raised over $600 for Global Partnerships as different artists did their thing.  Wild talent of singers, musicians, dancers, rhymers, actors, rappers, and poets on display.  Click here or on the image for more pics.  Hoozah.

Next time, I’d love to see Mike Favilla do a bhangra dance to raise money for the Philippines.  Who’s with me?

4)  Smart Feet – Preached a message on having smart feet from Jeremiah 42-43.  If you don’t know what smart feet are, you can find some resources here.

Some Cool NLF People – Part 5

If you’d like to see this series of “Some Cool NLF People“, you can click here.

I’ll call this the new baby addition.  It just so happens that these couples have all had new (first) additions to the family in recent weeks.

1.  Matt and Susan Geevarghese (and Priya) – Matt leads a men’s group at New Life, and these two are part of a marriage small group as well.  Matt is a fun, hilarious guy who loves the Philadelphia Eagles.  He’s very brave for loving the eagles in NYC.  Meanwhile, Susan is a fun, winsome person with a strength and ease about her.  These guys have been faithful to our community for some time, and they add a warm, encouraging presence to a room or group.  Congrats on baby Priya!

2.  Mike and Fanegie Doty (and Mikey) – Whenever I see Mike and Fannie I want to give them a big hug.  Mike’s a guys guy and our shared passion for football is instant bonding material.  We probably exchange more texts regarding football than anyone I know.  I appreciate his honesty, passion, and verve for holy hip-hop.  Fannie is really sweet and giving, and she has a wonderful disposition toward those in need.  These guys are a gift.  Congrats on baby Mikey!

3.  Rick and Pam Chowayou (and Owen) –  Chances are, if you’ve been around NLF, you know Rick and Pam.  They’ve served in a variety of roles including CDC, Small Group leader/coach, children’s ministry, prayer team, etc. while maintaining demanding jobs.  Rick is a faithful, welcoming, and wise leader, and I’ve been so fortunate to work with him, learn from him, and share life with him for the better part of recent years.  He’s a rock.  Pam is dynamic, hospitable, and really grounded as a leader, and her willingness to serve and welcome people is astounding.  These guys are servant-leaders in the truest sense of the word, and they’ve made huge deposits into our church family by simply being their godly, fun-loving, selves.  Congrats on baby Owen!

4.  Randall and Lydia Lambright (and Angelina) – Randall and Lydia were part of our marriage small group last year, and we had a blast getting to know them.  I admired the way they wrestled with their faith in business, family life, and the future, and they had a hopefulness to them that was really encouraging.  Plus, they made me laugh.  A lot.  They are as friendly a couple as you will meet, and I was blessed by their positive outlook, even when bad circumstances (like stolen cars) would come. Congrats on baby Angelina!

5.  Alan and Colleen Chan (and Joshua Zachary) – Alan is a small group coach in our community who has served our church in a variety of ways.  By day he is also a lawyer in Long Island.  He’s got a great knack for community, laughing outrageously and making others feel like they’re really funny, and leading people.  We’ve exchanged countless emails in debate, and he’s like a brother to me who’s shared in so much of my young adult life.  Colleen is a wonderful leader as well (she’s lead and served in so many ways as well), and she has a huge heart, engaging personality, and is a naturally gifted schoolteacher in Bayside.  She is one of those friends who one will think of calling at the first sign of need, trouble, or joy.  Congrats on Joshua Zachary!