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Toilet Washing

Greeting from New York City!

My name is Stephen Trainer and I am the Pastor of Graffiti Coney Island, a ministry-based church plant in the Coney Island neighborhood of Brooklyn. I have been a student/practitioner of kindness outreach for a couple of years now, thanks to my friendship with someone I admire a great deal (who happens to produce this blog) and I’d like to take a few moments to share with you a little about our experiences showing God’s love in a city that has a reputation for impossibly hard hearts.

In New York City, you are told to speak to no one, mind your own business, and for the love of all things do not make eye contact with anyone on the subway. In the largest city in the United States, people are frequently alone even as they stand in a subway car so full the doors have difficulty closing. Headphones are the accessory of choice – everyone dons them each time they leave home, from kids to grandmothers, a strategy designed to ensure they are not forced to interact with anyone.

I’ve been told New Yorkers will never respond well to kindness outreach. I’ve been warned not to try in certain neighborhoods because the culture isn’t conducive and people will just become angry. Coney Island, where we are planting Graffiti, is a challenging neighborhood were violence is all too common, and I’ve been cautioned that kindness outreach is simply not safe in this area. I am convinced that kindness combined with the leading of the Holy Spirit works every time it is tried, regardless of venue, so duly noting the conventional wisdom we elected to advance as we have in many other of life’s areas, we did it anyway.

About an hour ago I was on the subway, and thinking about what I would write here I noticed a poster on the train that said, “Courtesy Counts. Others will thank you. Ok we can’t guarantee a thank you, but they will notice – and appreciate it.”

Courtesy Counts

People are people no matter where they live or where they are from, even New Yorkers. Who cannot appreciate and understand kindness? Let me qualify my words with this disclaimer – I am not claiming to be an expert on any subject. We have been doing ministry full-time in New York City for a grand total of 8 weeks, and I am certain our day is coming when we have a negative experience as we seek to show God’s love in tangible ways with no strings attached. I can only share with you what we have experienced so far; here are three stories.

It snows in New York City, in case you haven’t heard. It’s snowing now as I write this in fact. One of the seasonal outreaches Austin speaks a great deal about is leaf raking from yards in the Autumn months, and although almost no one has a lawn in NYC, business and home owners are required by law to clear the snow from the sidewalks in front of their buildings. We thought a great way to show God’s love to people in our neighborhood would be to do it for them! God used this particular outreach to help us establish a very positive relationship with a prominent business owner in our community. He is a not-yet believer, but knows who we are, why we are here, and every time I go into his store now he engages me in meaningful conversation. Once I was in his store when the phone rang. I couldn’t help but overhear his conversation, and was really moved when I heard him say, “Yeah, my friend Stephen is here…” This new friendship will no doubt continue to lead to gospel conversations.

This past Valentine’s Day, we tried our hand at another outreach Austin has lead many through. We made up 125 small bags of candy and placed an outreach card very similar to the ones Austin has demonstrated here. My wife, our two boys (aged 5 & 2) and I stood on a busy street corner in our neighborhood and gave passers-by the free gifts and very warmly wished them a happy Valentine’s Day. Out of 127 people we encountered, only two refused our gift. Not bad for stone-cold New Yorkers! People’s reactions were priceless, and I could not count how many people hugged our kids when they handed them the little bag. We even saw a spike in traffic at our website that afternoon.

Change it

The last experience I will share is my favorite. Some friends from a partnering church of ours and I went out one day for my personal favorite outreach, cleaning restrooms of area businesses. We visited four shops that day, one refused our offer to clean their restrooms, and the other three permitted us. One bodega owner, a Muslim gentleman from Yemen pointed us in the direction of his restroom, scarcely glancing up from his work. We did not know it just then, but because of a language barrier he thought we were there to use his bathroom, not clean it. He came to investigate when the three dudes did not immerge from his single occupancy restroom after several minutes; imagine his surprise when he found us cleaning it! He was at a legitimate loss for words in any language. As my friends finished up, I began to speak to him, and realizing our communication difficulties I asked if he read Arabic. He nodded, and so using my phone and Google Translate, I copied the “Just for You, Just Because” message from our outreach cards and translated it to Arabic for him to read. When he finished, his eyes filled with tears as he said, “We are brothers.”

Toliet Outreach

Is New York City too hard a place for kindness outreach? I do not think so. I am convinced that kindness combined with the leading of the Holy Spirit works, every time it is tried, regardless of venue. It seems to be working in my city, and I believe it will in yours as well.

For 3 years now we have had teams from our church through out the year go and wash toilets for businesses in our community. We simply show up to a business (preferably one that only has a couple of toilets) with toilet washing materials and we say with a big smile “Hello, We are here to wash your toilets for free, and we are not taking donations.” God has allowed us to touch lives through this kindness outreach and I am certain that He will bless you and your church if you will start serving in this way.

toilet washing 1

There are many, but here is our main reason why you and your Church should start washing the toilets of businesses in your community:

We Believe If Jesus Was Here Today, He Would Serve People In This Way

This is what we tell those we are serving after they inevidably ask, “Why in the WORLD would you wash my toilet for free?” And you know What? THEY SIMPLY UNDERSTAND. Whether they are Christians, Not yet believers, atheist, or Buddhist, People relate to Jesus quicker through acts of humble service than anything i have experienced. I don’t know of anything more humbling than washing a strangers toilet! You see our primary goal when we step out into our community is to show people Jesus through our actions. I am certain that if Jesus was here today He would wash toilets to display His love and servanthood to those He was reaching out to. Jesus constantly fought against what others perceived to be “truths” about God’s Kingdom, and he did this through serving in ways that went against the status quo during His earthly minisrty to reveal what His kingdom was truly like. He took time with Children when others saw them as a hindrance, He served and ate with tax collectors and Prostitutes, He healed on the Sabbath, He spoke with respect and kindness to Sinners about Repentance,  and He washed the disgusting, dirty feet of his disciples.

This reminds me of a response we got from a business owner. He said, “Well, Jesus washed feet, so I guess you can wash my toilet.”

Christians today often are stereotyped as judgmental, greedy, prideful know it alls that only serve others when there are strings attached. This is a perceived “truth” that is in direct opposition to how true Christians act and who Jesus is in God’s kingdom. 

When we wash toilets, people see Jesus clearly and forget about any preconcived lies they have believed about Him and His followers. I believe this stories will serve as an example:

One time during an outreach, we came to a gas station where a young adult who was in His mid 20’s worked. He was a self proclaimed Buddhist and seemed like he could care less if we were there or not.  After we served him freely with no strings attached, and prayed a quick 10 second prayer for him. He looked me in the eyes and said. “I want to know more about Jesus”

Another time a storeowner responded “I have never seen Jesus more clearly than through this act of service” 

When i was first asked to go wash toilets by the man who taught me everything I know about kindness outreach, I thought, NO WAY! This is weird, way too out there, way too disgusting, and not something that normal Christ followers would do. However, after praying and thinking about it, I kept coming back to this conclusion:

There is no doubt in my mind that Jesus (who was weird, way out there, and probably even described as disgusting by some) would wash the toilets of those who He was reaching out to, therefore, so should I. 

Here’s Practical side of washing toilets

What You Need:

IMG_4106

Bucket

Windex

Toilet cleaner and brush

Paper Towel

Air Freshener

Latex Gloves

Where to Go:

Gas Stations or small stores with only a few toilets work best

What to say:

Walk in the store with your team (2-5 ppl) and say, “We are here to wash your toilets for free today, and we are not taking donations” Tell them why you are doing it after they ask. Serve them and leave the business by asking to say a quick 10 second prayer with the person you served and leaving behind an outreach card from your church.

Just get Started:

Grab a couple of friends from your church and Go! The biggest lie about outreach is that you have to plan, plan, plan. Just get started and adjust from there. Ready Fire Aim!

If you are a pastor reading this, consider taking your staff toilet cleaning in your community. Our staff does this from time to time and it is a great way to show your congregation that you are willing to reach people no matter what that means! Here’s our staff:

toilet washing staff

For 3 years now we have had teams from our church through out the year go and wash toilets for businesses in our community. We simply show up to a business (preferably one that only has a couple of toilets) with toilet washing materials and we say with a big smile “Hello, We are here to wash your toilets for free, and we are not taking donations.” God has allowed us to touch lives through this kindness outreach and I am certain that He will bless you and your church if you will start serving in this way.

toilet washing 1

There are many, but here is our main reason why you and your Church should start washing the toilets of businesses in your community:

We Believe If Jesus Was Here Today, He Would Serve People In This Way

This is what we tell those we are serving after they inevidably ask, “Why in the WORLD would you wash my toilet for free?” And you know What? THEY SIMPLY UNDERSTAND. Whether they are Christians, Not yet believers, atheist, or Buddhist, People relate to Jesus quicker through acts of humble service than anything i have experienced. I don’t know of anything more humbling than washing a strangers toilet! You see our primary goal when we step out into our community is to show people Jesus through our actions. I am certain that if Jesus was here today He would wash toilets to display His love and servanthood to those He was reaching out to. Jesus constantly fought against what others perceived to be “truths” about God’s Kingdom, and he did this through serving in ways that went against the status quo during His earthly minisrty to reveal what His kingdom was truly like. He took time with Children when others saw them as a hindrance, He served and ate with tax collectors and Prostitutes, He healed on the Sabbath, He spoke with respect and kindness to Sinners about Repentance,  and He washed the disgusting, dirty feet of his disciples.

This reminds me of a response we got from a business owner. He said, “Well, Jesus washed feet, so I guess you can wash my toilet.”

Christians today often are stereotyped as judgmental, greedy, prideful know it alls that only serve others when there are strings attached. This is a perceived “truth” that is in direct opposition to how true Christians act and who Jesus is in God’s kingdom. 

When we wash toilets, people see Jesus clearly and forget about any preconcived lies they have believed about Him and His followers. I believe this stories will serve as an example:

One time during an outreach, we came to a gas station where a young adult who was in His mid 20’s worked. He was a self proclaimed Buddhist and seemed like he could care less if we were there or not.  After we served him freely with no strings attached, and prayed a quick 10 second prayer for him. He looked me in the eyes and said. “I want to know more about Jesus”

Another time a storeowner responded “I have never seen Jesus more clearly than through this act of service” 

When i was first asked to go wash toilets by the man who taught me everything I know about kindness outreach, I thought, NO WAY! This is weird, way too out there, way too disgusting, and not something that normal Christ followers would do. However, after praying and thinking about it, I kept coming back to this conclusion:

There is no doubt in my mind that Jesus (who was weird, way out there, and probably even described as disgusting by some) would wash the toilets of those who He was reaching out to, therefore, so should I. 

Here’s Practical side of washing toilets

What You Need:

IMG_4106

Bucket

Windex

Toilet cleaner and brush

Paper Towel

Air Freshener

Latex Gloves

Where to Go:

Gas Stations or small stores with only a few toilets work best

What to say:

Walk in the store with your team (2-5 ppl) and say, “We are here to wash your toilets for free today, and we are not taking donations” Tell them why you are doing it after they ask. Serve them and leave the business by asking to say a quick 10 second prayer with the person you served and leaving behind an outreach card from your church.

Just get Started:

Grab a couple of friends from your church and Go! The biggest lie about outreach is that you have to plan, plan, plan. Just get started and adjust from there. Ready Fire Aim!

If you are a pastor reading this, consider taking your staff toilet cleaning in your community. Our staff does this from time to time and it is a great way to show your congregation that you are willing to reach people no matter what that means! Here’s our staff:

toilet washing staff