Urban Nations

Immigrant Assistance Center
Reaching the world where the world’s within reach

Few would dispute that New York City is the most important city in the United States. Some would argue it is the most important city in the world. Yet whatever yardstick you might employ to measure its worth, one element sure to be a factor in every assessment is the people of New York. They constitute an amazing amalgam of souls (literally) from around the world, gathered as denizens of a single city, engaged in every conceivable enterprise, most of which rank either at the top or near it in quality, power and influence. It is remarkable by any standard,  and it’s the people who make it so.

For all that, most non-New Yorkers seem only marginally aware of the fact that, despite its ineradicable American identity, New York City is, in fundamental ways, not American at all. That is, unless you are accustomed to thinking of and defining America as a reception center, less a self-regenerative cultural force than a consumer of all world cultures, chewing, digesting, favoring, impacting and coloring, then returning what was taken and spinning it out for all the world, now ready to buy what it had originally provided in raw material, transformed by its  stay and re-release in New York. New York is (again, literally) the world in microcosm.

And that doesn’t seem to be changing. When Urban Nations—a ministry of Messiah’s Congregation—was launched in 1993, 32% of New York’s population was foreign-born. The most recent data show that percentage increasing by a tenth to 36%. Think of it! Take 100 New Yorkers and meet 36 people born in foreign lands. When the foreign-born are counted with their children born here, they make up well over half of the people who are the source of the famous insomnia afflicting this city that never sleeps.

Urban Nations was formed as a response to this dramatic and dynamic force that makes New York stay five paces in the lead in every department of life. For that lead to represent a true path toward progress, reality demanded that new immigrants be equipped to take their places, bring their gifts, grow to form the neighborhoods which give off the collective vibrations which will soon be heard as the sounds of the new American life.  Resolved to do whatever we could wherever we were needed, calling ourselves an Immigrant Assistance Center reflected our whatever it takes for whoever may need it mentality. But we specialized from the first—and that as a response to the demands of the population we serve—as the place people from more than 70 different nations came to to learn English as a Second Language.

Since the lion’s share  of the roughly $250,000 annual budget came as donation from individuals and churches around (mainly) North America, Urban Nations (a tax-exempt, 501(c)(3) charitable ministry through its parent, Messiah’s Congregation) was able to provide immigrant clients with first-rate services at low or no cost. And though sponsored by a Reformed Church out of a strict Christian tradition, the only discrimination tolerated at Urban Nations was that a client be in need of help. Period.

It is perhaps, therefore, ironic that Urban Nations has been temporarily brought to its knees by a series of setbacks, the last and decisive being a certain storm that was equally averse to discrimination: Sandy. Sandy was number Two of a One-Two punch that began with a fire which had destroyed the Parish Hall (i.e., the community center) of the church at which Messiah’s Congregation worships. The loss of place and space was followed by the submergence of all Urban Nations’ materials, tools, supplies and books, for the basement of the ministry’s parsonage took a full 8-feet of the Atlantic “on board,” resulting in devastating damage.

So here we are, sleeping in the city that doesn’t.  Even with challenges, setbacks and Sandy-induced naps, however, our  motivation, available staff and, above all, the urgent need, justify our nodding with one eye opened. We scan the horizon for a cash infusion to return us to robust health so that vibrant hearts may welcome, and busy hands might equip the next generation of new Americans, enabling them to take their respective places in this astonishingly diverse tapestry, famous not for taking but for always giving back.

ince 1993 we’ve served 70 nations. Superstorm Sandy punctuated that service, but we see a comma, not a period. There are at least 70 more waiting—needing—our help. So while we sleep, we dream—dream of returning, assisting, enabling. Care to dream with us? Please, please do. Or do you feel like a scion of the Charming Family today, poised to wake us up with the kiss of cash? In any and all cases, contact Deacon Craig Brann at craigbrann@gmail.com or (917) 757-9297.

Perhaps you’ll discover the world had been waiting for you.