Influence

 the shape of leadership

Difficulties Won’t Stop Us!

A Q&A with Stephen and Priscilla Perumalla

Chris Colvin on August 1, 2019

Stephen and Priscilla Perumalla planted The Grace Place NYC (Assemblies of God) in Hamilton Heights, one of the hardest-to-reach neighborhoods in all of Upper Manhattan.

INFLUENCE: You two are originally from Texas. What brought you to New York City?
PRISCILLA: While in Bible school, we would take missions trips to New York. We weren’t married at the time. We weren’t even dating. But the experience of the city just stayed with us. I remember telling my friend, “There’s something about that Stephen guy. I think we’ll be working together for a long time.”

And here we are, over 10 years later, married and planting a church in the city!

Was it tough fitting in, without having a built-in connection in the city?
STEPHEN: We had felt we wanted to plant a church for a while, and New York City was the first place on our hearts. We knew one family, but they lived nowhere near where we were planting.

We felt God tell us to go, and then He started opening doors. Through a friend of a friend, we were able to find an apartment in the tight New York real estate market right in the heart of our community.

PRISCILLA: This neighborhood is full of young families, and that’s so great. Our heart is to be a neighborhood church and live there. So we were so fortunate to be able to find a place.

“Cancer was not going to determine the timeline of our ministry.”
— Stephen Perumalla

Why was it important to you to be a part of the neighborhood?
PRISCILLA:
The people in our neighborhood don’t necessarily look like us. They are mostly Dominican, and that’s reflected in our own church. But we wanted to move in and be a part of what’s happening in their lives. That was so important to us.

When we meet people and tell them we’re pastors, they ask us if we live in the suburbs or another neighborhood. They’re shocked when we tell them we live right around the block.

Being a neighbor means you help out however you can. You build friendships first. And that has paid off in big ways. Our last discipleship track, we realized every person who signed up was a new believer we had met on the street outside the subway, just talking to them about Jesus.

What lessons have you learned about trusting God through challenging times?
STEPHEN:
Right after we made the decision to plant a church, I was diagnosed with cancer. The doctors told me they could remove the tumor with no chemo, which was a blessing. But during that whole time we were still on track, not letting anything stop us. Cancer was not going to determine the timeline of our ministry.

After moving to New York, I continued regular checkups with a local doctor and assumed everything was fine. It wasn’t. Six months before our initial launch, I was told the cancer had come back. This time I would have to go through chemo. And being far away from family was an added stress.

Through God’s incredible grace, I came through all of it, even with all the hospital bills forgiven as well. It has taught us an incredible lesson about spiritual warfare, but more importantly, it has taught us to never give up!

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2019 edition of Influence magazine.

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