A BRIEF HISTORY OF URBAN HARVEST MINISTRIES
From small steps of faith come great things. Urban Harvest Ministries was birthed in the South Bronx, one of the toughest neighborhoods in our nation. Walking by faith, God taught us to trust Him wholeheartedly. He proved His Word over and over again. He taught us methods of outreach that are relevant to the urban community and that bring change. These simple truths have changed the spiritual climate of communities and have changed the lives of many individuals and families.
On this page, you can read a history of the great things God has done through Urban Harvest Ministries and the ministries that continue to faithfully serve in the call of the Great Commission.
- HARVEST CENTER, SOUTH BRONX
- HOPE FOR THE CITY, DETROIT
- THE IGNITE MINISTRY
- THE BRIDGE SCHOOL OF MINISTRY
In 1994, he resigned the directorship of a thriving short-term missions agency and moved to New York City. When they arrived, the Mott Haven community of the South Bronx known as Fort Apache was the poorest community per capita in the US, with over 50% of households having an annual income of $11,400 or less. Still today, 25% of expectant mothers are HIV Positive. More than three out of four students drop out of high school. It is the highest ranking community in the nation for poverty and single-parented homes.
Dr. Grassano and his family began building relationships with people on the streets of the South Bronx. By reaching people with the gospel and empowering them toward their destinies, a solid base for urban outreach – The Harvest Center – was established.
At first, they met in the homes of drug addicts and dealers. After the first year, they moved into that very same storefront Dr. Grassano had walked into three years earlier. In that building, the first Harvest Center was established and remained for five years. For four of those years, they suffered through challenges such as no heat in the winter, rat infestations, and continual water damage from apartments above. But they knew this was the place God meant for them to be, and so they persevered with faith in the vision of seeing urban citizens empowered toward their true destinies.
In 2001, UHM moved across the street into that old coffin factory that had been abandoned for more than 30 years. The place had been used by drug dealers and homeless drug addicts for years. With no funds available to do even basic renovations, Dr. Grassano signed the lease by faith. Miraculous provision followed, and they renovated part of the factory into a beautiful facility to empower and equip the urban community around them.
When they arrived in this community, they did not seek to employ short-term methods that would place a “band-aid” on persistent problems, but to engage in long-term solutions one person and one family at a time. The ministry methods developed over the years increased the individual’s capacity to pursue his/her destiny and live a productive life in the context of faith.
God has brought powerful change. Playgrounds, streets corners and parks formerly controlled by drug dealers have been returned to the people. Drug dealers once controlling the streets are working jobs, raising their children, and learning to be responsible fathers. Housing conditions have improved. Employment has increased. More than 96% of the students involved in programs at The Harvest Center have graduated high school on time and then have proceeded to college. This is a major accomplishment in a community where more than 85% of students drop out of high school.
A new sense of hope has come to this community, and it has come because God has raised up people from this community in Christ-centered faith. Now they not only walk in freedom, peace and joy on the road to their destinies, but they are leading efforts to bring change in this community. They are now a significant part of the hope for the future. They are now a part of real change. They are living with dignity and integrity, equipped as godly leaders effecting change in their own community.
With discipleship focusing on faith, family responsibility, moral values, education and work ethic, generational cycles are broken. A sense of God-designed destiny is instilled in the hearts of people, and real change can come.
Many of the ministries at the Harvest Center are now led by Pastor Lesly Exil and a team of leaders trained by Dr. Grassano. As was always a part of the vision, servant leaders from the community are now leading ministry. The Harvest Center remains as very strategic part of the ministry of Urban Harvest Ministries, touching the South Bronx community with the love of Christ.
In 2005, God turned Dr. Grassano’s heart to the suffering city of Detroit. Much has been written about Detroit: The poorest city in America. The highest misery index in America. Detroit owns every statistic on poverty, unemployment, foreclosures, high school dropout rates, infant mortality, and violent crime A Time Magazine Special Edition was titled “The Tragedy of Detroit.” A new book titled Detroit: An American Autopsy states, “Detroit is now America’s capital for unemployment, illiteracy, dropouts, and foreclosures … redemption is thin on the ground in this ghost of a city.”
Urban Harvest never saw Detroit in this way. We saw the opportunity for the church to rise and rewrite the history of this city. The official Seal of Detroit has inscribed in Latin the words, “We hope for better things. It will rise from the ashes.” We know that it is the Lord that brings beauty from ashes and we are working to bring lasting change to this city.
Urban Harvest Ministries established the Hope for the City initiative in Detroit. The Hope for the City strategy is empowering leaders, establishing prayer initiatives, implementing strategic methods of outreach, networking churches and businesses in the suburbs and inner city, and equipping of people for effective, relevant, life changing action among the urban poor.
The Hope for the City Network is witnessing the tangible results of these ministry methods first utilized in the South Bronx. The rebirth of hope in communities has been among the first fruit. Pastors and leaders have been empowered to pastor the streets around them, bringing the Good News to the doorsteps of people in a heart language the people can understand. Partnerships have been established between inner city and suburban churches and relevant methods of outreach have been established in communities around the city. Literally thousands of lives have been touched by the ministry of Hope for the City.
The IGNITE Ministry began in the summer of 2010 with an intensive weekend of study in the Word and involvement in outreach for young adults ages 17-29. It has grown into a year-round mentoring and discipleship ministry. Young adults today are more confused about moral and spiritual truth than ever and lack an understanding of their identity in Christ. IGNITE focuses on personal mentoring and discipleship, teaching the truths of God’s Word, and challenging young adults to live and share their faith in their daily lives and through serving opportunities.
The purpose of IGNITE is to empower this generation to live as an example of Jesus to all (1 Timothy 4:12), to live a lifestyle of worship that is holy unto God (Romans 12:1) and to live co-crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20). It is our passion to inspire a generation to fulfill this commitment to Christ:
It is my mission to be a part of changing my home, my school, my community, and the world for Jesus Christ. I purpose to make Christ the Lord over all areas of my life. I want His will and His desires to be accomplished in me and through me. I want to glorify God in my thoughts, my words, and my actions. I reject anything that does not glorify God. I want God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit to have freedom to do whatever they desire in me. I want to be accused of “turning the world upside down for Christ” like the disciples were in Acts 17:6. I have decided to “go deep” at all costs. I desire to be a true WorldChanger.
IGNITE Ministry: empowering young adults to know faith, live faith, and share faith.
The mission of The Bridge School of Ministry is to empower and equip followers of Christ in evangelism,
discipleship, servant leadership, and pioneer ministry.
The Bridge School of Ministry is an outgrowth of the leadership development and empowerment in Great Commission that Urban Harvest Ministries has conducted in cities and nations. Seeing both the need and the increased desire in multiple locations, Urban Harvest Ministries has established The Bridge to equip and empower current and emerging leaders in Great Commission ministry.
The focus is to provide a deeper foundation in sharing our faith and relational discipleship, to strengthen spiritual foundations, and to prepare for greater servant-leadership roles in the local church and community. Course study is offered in the areas of servant leadership, discipleship, worship, evangelism and outreach, empowerment of the poor, reaching the unchurched, hermeneutics, doctrine, examining modern theological trends, local church and pastoral ministry, and Christian Education.
The Bridge School of Ministry launched in January 2021 with two six-week courses offered on Saturday mornings via Zoom in Bible (authority and authenticity of the Bible, exploring different methods to study and teach the Biblical message) and Servant Leadership. A certificate program is available to those interested.