Category Archives: Some Cool People at NLF

Good Advice I’ve Received Lately

I find myself more grateful these days, probably because I’ve had a bit more time to reflect on my life, and also because I know that there are people who are persevering in much more arduous circumstances.

In the midst of my grief on behalf of others, I’m realizing that the things that worry me aren’t that big a deal in the grand scheme of things.

Older, wiser friends have given me good advice lately, and I thought I’d share some simple snippets of wisdom that have come my way in recent days.

1. Lesson 1 – “Lead like Jesus”

This bit of advice came this past week from Dave Jennings, the Director of the New Life Community Health Center and the Vice President of Nyack College.  Dave is a phenomenal leader, and in many respects, I’d be a lucky man if I could become a leader like him.

Over the past couple of years I’ve been reading a ton about leadership.  I’ve gone to conferences, scoured podcasts, books, blogs – anything I could get my hands on, really.  Being surrounded by so many great leaders at New Life Fellowship has helped too, and so I’ve been a bit of a maniac about some of the principles I’ve been learning.

Meanwhile, I’ve been fumbling about as a leader, making my fair share of mistakes, disappointing others, getting frustrated with myself in the process.

I had fallen into a bad habit of dissecting my every move and decision, testing the wisdom of my perspective against the latest thoughts on leadership by Pete Scazzero or Andy Stanley or John Maxwell.

Earlier this week, I sat down with Dave and chatted briefly about some of my reflections about leadership.

In the midst of my angst, Dave leaned back in his chair with hands on his head, smiled, and then said, “Drew, just lead like Jesus would, and you’ll be fine.”

I know, it sounds pretty simple, but his comment really struck me.  In some weird way, I had been searching to be more like Jack Welch or Bill Hybels, instead of reflecting more on the very simple question – what would Jesus do?

Anyhow, thanks for the advice, Dave.  I trust I’ll keep coming back to your words at various times throughout my life – “Just lead like Jesus, and you’ll be fine”.

2. Lesson 2 – “You are God’s Beloved”

This past week was an anomaly of sorts because I had a chance to meet with different mentors at various points throughout the week.

Leighton Ford happened to be in town for a conference, and he needed a ride to LaGuardia on Thursday morning and Pete asked if I was interested in giving him a ride (Leighton is Pete Scazzero’s primary mentor).  I pushed some engagements around and made time to pick him up in Manhattan and drive him to the airport.

One stalled big rig on the Queensboro bridge ruined our plans, so he ended up taking a cab instead.  I was bummed.

Leighton arrived at LGA really quickly though, so he called me up and asked if I’d be willing to meet him at the airport for 30 minutes or so for a chat.

I zoomed over there from Astoria, and ran to the terminal as fast as I could so we could sit down and talk.

And yes, getting 30 minutes with Leighton is worth all the trouble of big rigs, airport parking, and uncomfortable LGA terminals.

Leighton is now 79 years old, and there’s a certain air that he possesses that is quite healing.  It’s kind of hard to explain, but I’d highly recommend that you read his book The Attentive Life to see what I mean – it’s probably one of the best books I’ve ever read in my life.

Anyhow, I’ve been a huge beneficiary of Leighton’s mentoring from people whom Leighton has mentored – which is quite a long list of extraordinary leaders, including Pete.

Leighton’s network has galvanized so many movements around the world, and so I finished our conversation with one question – “Leighton, if you were to give a piece of advice to a 31 year-old leader like myself, what would you tell me (and others in my season of life) knowing what you know and have experienced around the world?”

I suspected Leighton to give one of the following responses:

– Drew, be disciplined in your pursuit of God.

– Drew, make sure you value your marriage above any other commitment.

– Drew, keep the dreams alive.

Instead, Leighton pierced me with these simple words, “Drew, I would want you to know that you are God’s beloved.”


Leighton continued, “There’s a lot I don’t know and understand about today’s world and all the different innovative things happening, but the message I want young people like you to know more than anything is that you are God’s beloved.”


Leighton gave me a hug.

I drove home and I cried.

It’s really going to be okay.  Life is going to be all right.

I am God’s beloved.

Sometimes the wisest words are the simplest words, too.


Some Cool NLF People – Part 6

I’ve gotten off my monthly rhythm of posting “Some Cool NLF People“, but I hope to get back to it soon.  You can see previous posts on the subject here.

1) Esther Chai – Esther is one of those people that immediately puts people at ease with her personality and presence.  She’s funny, witty, and approachable (sometimes snarky, though), and she’s got mad cooking skills, an easy way to befriend people.  For a pastor, she’s one of those people you’d love to have at any gathering because of the comfort level she brings to people and her heart in welcoming people.  She volunteers in our small groups, Global Partnerships, and worship ministry, and I hope she cooks dinner for Tina and myself for writing this post.  Just kidding.  Sort of.

2) Bill and Dawn White – A wonderful couple to be around.  These guys are so full of life and joy, and they are as honest and warm as people can be.  I was in a small group with them back in 2005-2006, and they had an infectious quality about them that has lingers with me.  That was a special group made up of special people, and the Whites were a big part of that.  They are both leaders in their own right, and they currently serve in different worship capacities and in our marriage ministry.

3) Judea Costes – You can read some of Judea’s stuff here, and I think you’ll get a pretty good sense of her – thoughtful, passionate, quirky, musical, and real.  The side you’d miss (but all who know her can testify to) would be her fun-loving self that loves to laugh and sing out loud.  She’s one of our college students who brings a sweet dimension of passionately seeking to love God and others.  She’s on our worship team and also volunteers at times with our youth ministry.  Very cool.

4) Dominick Baerga – You’ll hear more about Dominick if you plan on coming to our annual meeting, but yeah, the guy is so much fun to be around.  He now works at NLF, and he serves on our alpha team as a small group leader.  He’s also been involved in the food and clothing pantry.  Ever since we met he’s had me rolling with laughter and he has a winsome way of sharing what God is teaching him.  Again, come to the annual meeting to hear more!

5) Johann and Liesel Schumacher – If you haven’t met the Schumachers, you really should.  They are sweet, servant-hearted, and kind, and it’s evident in the ways they volunteer in our esl ministry.  At our Rule of Life Weekend, I had the privilege of getting to know them better, and what impressed me most was their gentleness and affable manners.  Johann also helped put together our silent sermon, and if you have a chance, you can see his incredible work online.  We also shared a very funny moment at the Rule of Life Weekend, and I’ll never forget what good sports Johann and Liesel can be.

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.

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!

Some Cool NLF People – Part 4

February Edition

1.  Dave (& Cindy) Jennings – Dave and Cindy are really extraordinary (as is their daughter Hannah).  They live up in Nyack where they continue to hold considerable leadership positions at Nyack college, but they also commute down to Queens weekly (over the past 15+ years they’ve been at NLF) to be part of our community and serve the people of Elmhurst in remarkable ways.  In case you haven’t heard, Dave has been behind our Community Health Center as the director, and he’s one of the best leaders I’ve been around.  Go ahead and ask the volunteers of the Health Center about that!  In addition, Dave and Cindy have done extensive work in the Philippines with the Harners, and their leadership, service, compassion, and commitment to people has left me incredibly humbled and challenged.

2.  Dave Sue – Dave is one of a kind (even though this post includes two Daves).  For anyone who knows him, his energy is unmatched, and he’s so gifted in many ways.  He’s like a blur of positive energy – Christ-centered energy, that is (he’s a constant reminder to me to keep sermons Christ-centered – kind of an inside joke).  He’s a man of great wisdom and in general, a really fun person to be around.  Chances are, you’ll be the beneficiary of both if you spend time with him.  He’s a full-time employee in Macy’s marketing department, I believe, as well as a part-time MBA student.  He’s served in our small group ministry and helped in various other ways.  Most recently, he shared how he handles Sabbaths as an unmarried fellow, and I found it quite entertaining.

3. Josie Figueroa – Josie is one of the founding members of our Singles Ministry, and currently one of the key leaders in our women’s ministry.  She’s led small groups, taught classes, spoken at retreats, and done a host of other things in her efforts to love and care for people at New Life.  She’s done all of this as a volunteer!  Josie and I used to meet regularly when she was closely involved with the Singles, and I really appreciated her faith, honesty, and maturity.  She’s one of the bravest people I know as well, in terms of her willingness to step out in risky endeavors.  Very cool.

4.  Bill & Jessica Humphrey – Chances are, you’ve seen these two musicians if you attend NLF.  They have tremendous talent and servant-hearts – a combination that is pure gift for our community.  I hope you’ve had a chance to hear some of their arrangements, songs, and instrumentals.  I wonder what they think of Taylor Swift.  Haha, j/k.  But yes, they’re daughters are also quite talented as singers/musicians, and it’s so nice to have a lovely, fun-loving, godly family to lead us in worship with different styles of music.

5.  Stacey Chen – Stacey’s part of small group leadership in Manhattan, and she’s also a counselor professionally.  She’s got a super huge heart, a sweet spirit, and an easy-going manner.  As long as I’ve known her, she’s been quick to give an encouraging word and offer a listening ear.  She has a very easy presence.  We’re very fortunate to have her part of our community, and she personifies a woman of great depth and spirituality.

Some Cool NLF People – Part 3

January Edition

1)  Mark and Pam Taft – I’ve deliberately not mentioned staff on these lists because I wanted to highlight so many other folks, but the thing is, so many people at New Life are practically staff.  Mark and Pam are one such couple.  They have been faithfully serving in our marriage ministry for the past several years, and they have done so much to resource pastors, couples, and other vocational ministers throughout the city.  Their previous stint was at Here’s Life NYC, which is actually how I got connected to New Life out of college ten years ago (I realize I first arrived in nyc ten years ago, but settled nine years ago.  I just say ten because it’s a nice number).  That’s right, the Tafts are largely responsible for me being in NYC at New Life.  I feel indebted to them in so many ways – with marriage, ministry, and spiritual growth.  They are now working with Christian Resources Ministries, and our church is so lucky to have them.

2)  Isaac and Valerie Chung – Isaac is a filmmaker/photographer whose film Munyurangabo was featured in the Cannes Film Festival in 2007.  It’s really an extraordinary, groundbreaking film.  Isaac first went to Rwanda because of the work Valerie was already doing there as an art therapist.  Valerie now works in Brooklyn doing some family therapy.  These two are incredibly talented, compassionate people.  The thing is, they’re really humble and unassuming, which I think is one common aspect of our community – we’re all just folks at the end of the day.  I’m so proud to know Isaac and Val, and if you’d like to support their work, you can check the links above.  They also volunteer in our 3rd service.

3)  Veda Simpson – I just hung out with Veda at the Rule of Life weekend, so that’s why she comes immediately to mind.  She’s such a sweet, friendly person, and I hear she makes some really good ribs.  This post is one plea for an invitation to dine at her home. 🙂  But seriously, Veda has an easy smile and laugh, and gives wonderful hugs.  I admire her hunger for God and the way she extends grace to others.  Very, very cool.

Some Cool New Life Fellowship People – Part 2

Hopefully I’ll be able to post these once a month.

1.  Tony and Louise Simone – The Simones are a dream for any church to have – wise, seasoned, and mature people of faith who bring a presence of hospitality and warmth wherever they go.  Tony runs his own business and Louise is a schoolteacher, and they are the parents of three adult children and a few grandchildren (I forget how many but I know they’re adorable).  I’ve worked with these folks in Alpha and small groups, and I think folks who know them would agree that these two are gems to our community.

2.  Cate Song – If you don’t know by now, Cate is a phenom in NLF circles as one of our worship leaders, and she’s apt to become more well known as she continues to travel with her music.  You should buy her cd if you have a chance.  The thing is, if you get to know her, you find out that she’s as quality a person as one will ever meet, in addition to her immense talent.  She’s fun, easy-going, and really thoughtful.  And she has served our communities in many more ways than just her music – I think mainly by being her winsome self.

3.  Victor Rodriguez and Nelly Calzada (and kids Mia and Januel) – Fellow Astorians, Victor and Nelly are a great family to have in the neighborhood.  They are charming, cheerful, and funny – really funny.  Victor works for Intouch ministries while Nelly works in television.  They’re one of the few families I know who have moved to NYC from the suburbs of a Southern city and absolutely love it here (and can recognize how God is moving in NYC).  Their kids are really terrific, too.  These guys make me believe I actually live in Astoria.  Oh, and they volunteer in our worship ministry and they’re thinking about hosting/leading a small group. 🙂

4.  Monique Ambrose – Monique is one of our faithful greeters, and she has the personality and smile that suits her for it.  There’s a peace and inviting spirit that Monique exudes, and it’s evident whenever I see her.  She’s a schoolteacher during the week, and I’ve always admired her earnest heart for God and the hopefulness she always seems to carry.  She’s also part of a small group in Flushing and is the proud mother of a college student!

5.  Brian Petersen – More affectionately known as BP, this southpaw is a leadoff hitter, counselor, small group leader, and acoustic singer  extraordinaire.  This guy absolutely kills me with his jokes and his references to Pete Incaviglia and Kirk McKaskill.  His band Liminal Space puts on a dang good show, too.  I respect him for his willingness to go deeper in his soul searching and wanting to be a blessing to Astoria – wow, two Astorians made the list this time around!