On the Radar: Interview with GBIMC Co-Founder Daniel Sanabria
How did the GBIMC movement start?
Daniel Sanabria: On November 2, 2009, we met with a couple of youth leaders, and we read an article that says one million New Yorkers don’t need God. I got really upset at that statement, but I’m not upset at the ad, or the newspaper writer or newspaper because it was actually written for the atheist. I got really mad at the church. I thought this city belongs to God. And I wrote down “God belongs in my City,” (GBIMC) in my book and we were like what can we do to make this better? What can we do for our city? What can we do to gather and change our city? How can we change our city? And a couple guys were like lets wear T-shirts that say “God Belongs In My City”, and just walk the city and pray. Not protest, just to pray.
We were going to pray, unite, come together as one body to love our city, and to love the kingdom of God and work together. We believe it takes the whole body of Christ to change our city, not just one church. So we were really excited about that, and in two weeks, on Nov. 14th I was calling churches, pastors, youth leaders all over the city, all my friends, and long story short, in two weeks 1,500 kids came and prayed in Times Square. We walked all the way to Times Square. Another group walked all the way from 110th street all the way to Times Square, and we collided and we worked together.
We prayed for education, for our government, we prayed for the safety of our city, we prayed for police officers, we prayed for every aspect of our government and our children and our unity. We prayed for our unity in the Body of Christ. We had to walk the city because God belongs here. We only see God being pulled out of every aspect of our government, every aspect of our city and we really know that people don’t want God, but we the church, the people are the light of the world and the light of the city need to declare God’s presence.
So that day, November 14th, is when it started. It was only supposed to be a one day event. That’s it. It was planned for one day every year, and soon after our first, cities all over the world were saying that we want to do prayer walks, we want to do prayer walks, we want to do prayer walks. It just blew our minds what the Spirit of God was doing. The movement has been around for four years and its still going strong.
What does a normal prayer walk look like? What do you do at a prayer walk?
DS: For NYC we come together in various locations and we pray and then we walk to certain areas, like parks. We’ll stop and then we’ll pray for a specific thing. It could be education, it could be the government it could be protection for the body of Christ, whatever topics that come up. So all of those things is what we’ll do. At the end we’ll pray on our knees for about 10-15 minutes and we’ll just declare God within our city. This is just in our city. Other cities will do a prayer walk and then a big worship session at the end. We have never done a worship, we just pray.
We don’t go to different cities to do a prayer walk. It’s your city, we don’t belong to your city. We can help you, guide you, but you know the specific things that are going on in your city, you know the situations going on around in your city. You need to be with your city.
What has been the result of the prayer walks?
DS: We believe that the result of the prayer walks has been greater unity within the church, the body. We believe they have given young people unity and boldness. We believe that our young people are bold enough to wear their shirts within our schools, and other places where they can preach the gospel to the lost. When you wear the shirt saying; GBIMC, people are going to question it, people are going to say what is that? What’s that all about? That gives our young people a door to tell those people about the gospel.
To see young people walk gives other young people a little bit of boldness, a little bit of; ‘Hey I feel like I should preach the Gospel. I love this city. I’m going to take back this city.’ So individually, young people have been stepping up. Ive heard stories of young people empowering schools, Christian schools, power to preach the gospel. It is giving the power to preach the gospel that is the purpose. Not just doing prayer walks but giving power to preach the gospel to our city, schools, and to the nation. Be encouraged to preach the gospel. We want people saved. We want everyone saved.
What does a common prayer-walker look like? Are they young, old?
DS: This is for everybody. But it was driven by young people, it was produced by young people. It was declared and enforced by young people, even though adults were there and adults were proud, and adults were excited and came forward to be excited about it. Everyone’s invited to a prayer walk.
How are you invested in all of this?
DS: I co-founded it. So, the GBIMC came from my mouth. Which I think God gave it to me, I don’t take any credit. The relationships that I had before prayer walks, with the youth pastors and pastors that I knew that I can make a phone call now and talk to. Right now I run the GBIMC ministry, the organization, I run it now. I run it from a perspective of how can people do prayer walks, how we can help, how people can do it.
All the money that we make from the t-shirts benefit all ministries across NYC. I make stock for a lot of events. I provide ministry resources. I provide resources for leadership ministries. We’ve given over 100,000 dollars away to ministries conferences, retreats, youth administrations, we’ve made flyers and provided marketing materials. So I oversee that, but we have a president, a CEO of GBIMC.
Are there any standout stories about GBIMC?
DS: Just other cities, adapting this in unity. Uniting in the movement of coming together to change the city. Adapting a movement of ‘we can’t leave this city alone anymore.’ For example, Jacksonville, started an organization called United Jacksonville where these leaders and these pastors come together and work together for the city. They have the power of communication and the power of brotherhood.
The city is too big for one church. Specific stories of young people coming to Jesus, I’ve only heard stories of young people being bold enough to go to school and rock their t-shirt, and say ‘yeah, God belongs here.’ So they’re not afraid.
I want this to be organic. Wherever this is organic and something comes out of it, it is from God. If kids wear a t-shirt to school, that’s awesome, if people wear t-shirts in different neighborhoods that’s awesome. To me, organic being is the way to do it. I got people going out there feeding the homeless, and doing missions, and evangelism is the purpose. Wherever God takes it.
I’ve only been to four prayer walks. I want this to be so biblically sound I don’t want it to go off. I believe if God gives you a vision, a huge part of that vision is for people to be saved. That’s it. Not to fill the church, not to fill a ministry. Just for people to be saved. So when people ask me, what do you guys do at GBIMC? I tell them it’s people being saved. That’s our mission.
How do you see the brand of GBIMC?
DS: I see it as a strong statement especially in our culture. I see it as a message of love and a message of hope. Its strong but its also good. You definitely want God here. God is love, God is hope, God is in our city. He is the creator, he is the number one, God’s been here before. So it’s a strong statement to non-believers, it takes a strong movement of people to say if he belongs here, and he saved me, I can’t just be sitting here not doing anything. I must need to be doing stuff, I need to be saying God here I am, use me of no relent.
The reason we are not turning our cities upside down like Peter and Paul in Acts, is because churches are not coming together.
So it’s a statement, it’s a strong statement. It’s a call to action to present the gospel. It’s a call of action to come together.
For more information on GBIMC, go to www.godbelongsinmycity.com.