My Story: Erica – Growing a Heart for the City

My name is Erica Heffner and I moved to New York City 8 months ago from Raleigh, NC. Before I came to New York I had attended school in Raleigh and I became actively involved in the Cru movement on my campus. I started leading in our ministry as a student and my senior year I really felt the Lord calling me to stay and work with Cru when I graduated. I interned with the organization for two years and I wouldn’t have traded it for the world! I was getting paid to meet with young women and talk about Jesus! It was challenging at times but I adored what I did and thought that was what I would do for the rest of my life.

But by the end of my first year the Lord started to change my plans. I felt this incredibly strong burden to pay off my student loans quickly but I had no idea how I would do that. I knew a family friend who was a nanny in NYC and she was getting paid triple what I would’ve made in an entry level position in my major, interior design, so I thought I’d look into it. It seemed absolutely crazy to me that I would leave this ministry job I loved to help raise someone else’s children, but I kept coming back to it. I spent almost a year in prayer asking the Lord to show me another way to pay off my debt and still be able to stay in Raleigh and work in ministry but nothing else was brought available. I decided to apply through an agency in New York, and after a very extensive interview process they “accepted” me… first door opened. I still didn’t know if the city was really where God would have me but I continued to pray “Lord close the doors, make it unavailable, show me something else.” And He continued to open doors and make it clear I was to move to New York. The Lord provided a wonderful  roommate, a place to live exactly in my budget, and a job that paid the exact salary I had been praying for in order to live in one the most expensive cities in the world and pay off loans. I was so humbled by His faithfulness and knew He had me here for such a time as this.

The fall started and so did my new job. I went from full time ministry, amazing community, and adult conversation most of my day, to a family who barely wanted any kind of relationship with me, and two children who screamed and cried and threw fits all day long. I was miserable to say the least. I worked 60+ hours a week and I had no social life. If it weren’t for my roommate and the small group I had gotten plugged into I probably would have called it quits and left by October, but He was working in all of it. I came home this past Christmas and felt completely exhausted. I told everyone I couldn’t imagine living in the city more than two years and as soon as my loans were paid off I was booking-it back down south to the people I knew and loved. I truly hated the city and just didn’t understand how people lived and raised families in such a dark place. I felt broken and useless and incredibly confused on what the Lord was doing, so I prayed. I prayed the whole two weeks I was home for the holidays asking the Lord to change my heart for the city. Asking Him to show me why I was there; to bring about change and renewal in my job. Asking Him to bring deeper relationships and more opportunities to share Him with others. I came back in January and He fully answered my prayers.  God gave me new eyes to see the city with.

The initial change was in my job: better hours, more communication, better behavior from the children, and just a more enjoyable environment to work in. Along with that I also began to meet more nannies and moms in the city and started to form relationships with them. I was beginning to see God’s heart for the women in this city. The women who live humble lives as “servants” to these families and the women who live privileged lives as mothers to these children. Both need Jesus, both need salvation. My heart was overwhelmed with what God could and can do in my job.

The next change I saw was in my fellowship-community here as it began to expand. I realized Christians in the city truly see each other as brothers and sisters in Christ, as family. There’s a deep need for Christian community when you’re battling the world so head on. I have never experienced the body of Christ in such a tangible way as I do here in the city, and God is using this as a beautiful example of His bride to the people of New York.

And my greatest change was in my own view of the city and heart for its people. I now understand what an opportunity it is for me to live and work in the city that is said to be the most influential city in the world! The Lord showed me that there is a great need for Christians to live intentionally here. New York is a relational city. It’s hard to live an individual life here. We share everything: our transportation, our “backyards”, our buildings, our eating spots, our laundry rooms, and so much more. I am forced to interact with people and I’ve begun to love this and see how God loves this too. I meet people I would probably never meet and have conversations I would probably never have all because I live in a city. Over these past couple of months the Lord has dramatically changed my heart for what He is doing here. I can now confidently say I will live here indefinitely. It’s terrifying to say that aloud and it doesn’t mean I will live here until I’m 90, but I am willing to live here until then if that’s what Jesus has planned for my life. He is doing great, amazing and wonderful things with the people of New York City and I so incredibly humbled that my Father would ask me to join in this mission.

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