New York City Actor Finds Community, Creates Safe Haven

By Tony Hale with Chris Lawrence

New York City can be a terrifying place to start a career in acting. But at 25 years old, that's exactly where I found myself. It was a longtime dream I had to try. Anyone who has tried to break into the acting business knows how tough it can be. I worked menial jobs just to survive.

Meanwhile I was auditioning as much as possible. Only about one out of 30 auditions yielded work. It was a lot of rejection to take.

"Pretty much if you aren't blond, under 25 years old and built like a brick house, we can't represent you," one agent told me.

I was none of those things.

Acting was a tough road, but I believed God had a purpose for me in New York City. I grew up around the church, but it wasn't until college that my faith in Christ deepened. In New York I sought Christian community.

While visiting a church, I saw an announcement for a service activity -- making Thanksgiving pies for a homeless shelter -- through Priority Associates, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.

Just being able to get involved in something where you get your eyes off yourself looked really appealing to me. So I signed up.

It wasn't long before I started making some strong friendships. A friend from graduate school, Kathy Karbowski, moved to New York and became involved with Priority Associates too. Kathy, who is now a Campus Crusade associate staff member, is a wardrobe designer.

Together, through Priority Associates, we started a group called the Haven, a weekly fellowship for Christian artists in the city that includes small-group Bible study.

I knew that there were many Christian artists who needed community like I did. We created the Haven, as its name implies, to be a safe place where artists could gather and be encouraged.

For many artists who are Christians, unless you get a part in a movie like Left Behind, it's hard to get support from the church. So the artists often must rely on each other.

From the beginning of the Haven, Kathy and I prayed, "Lord, if you don't want this to continue, stop it."

Instead, God continued to prosper it. Since its start about 8 years ago, more than 250 artists now gather each week.

Priority Associates has been an incredible gift -- it made New York City seem so much smaller for me. I truly don't know where I'd be without the friendships I experienced through the Haven.