Last summer, 2017, was the busiest of my entire life. I worked as a camp pastor for the entire summer, except for one week. That one week I had off of camp, I did not use for rest. I was a leader on a week-long mission’s trip to Chicago with a youth group I barely knew.
There was a lot that happened in that week. It amazes me how much a group can do with an entire week dedicated to outreach and to understanding a culture that you start out knowing nothing or very little about.
In that one week, we drove around the different areas of Chicago and learned about its history. We learned about gentrification and how twisted people with power can be. We drove down streets and we prayed, we prayed even though we didn’t understand all that happened to them. We led a VBS for children that were being protected and that were homeless. We loved and we struggled to love because of fear because we got hurt because we did not understand because we were tired because we felt rejected and out of place.
The street woman’s shelter and VBS were on a wide alley that was also known as blood alley. It was called this because when Al Capone was running the streets of Chicago, this was the street he took his victims to kill. They say that you cannot take a single step on that street without stepping on a place where someone’s blood ran red.
Why tell that detail? Because of the beautiful redemption that happened on that street. It turned from a place of terror and violence, death and destruction, to a place of refuge and safety, a place that offers hope and security and the love of Jesus through the women’s shelter and VBS program for the children.
Another place, where we witnessed redemption, was an underpass. In this dark tunnel with broken pavement full of potholes and cracks in the cement walls, in a small community in the greater Chicago is where we worked. The air in this community seemed thick with heaviness, trouble, and a lack of hope.
There is this company, Green Star Movement, that believes areas can be brought back to life from the darkness that seems to envelop it. They researched the history of the community and found out about the people that came from there and became something remarkable; people who changed history, who were presidents and famous skaters. They took pictures of these people and drew outlines of them, larger than life, on the walls of the tunnel. Then they got colourful tile and they broke it. They colour coordinated each section of their outlined drawing and then invited multiple groups outside of themselves to help in the application of the process.
When we arrived the tunnel was about half done. Our job was to take the colourful tiles and smash them into pieces. We then took those pieces and fit them into the outline that was laid out for us. The brokenness put back together into a mosaic looked absolutely beautiful. As we worked we got covered in plaster, we cut our fingers on the sharp pieces of tile, and we sweat even in the shade of the tunnel on that hot July day. People would slow down as they passed through the tunnel and not just because of the potholes but to see the progress that was made, to glance at the history and the art. Others would stop and thank us for the work we were doing. They would thank us for taking the time to bring hope and a bit of light back into their community and for not giving up on them because of the current state of things.
Places can be redeemed and so can people. Art is therapeutic and creativity brings light and a little bit of hope, and light go a long way.
A mosaic reminds me of what Jesus does in our lives. We have all these broken, messed up pieces and He takes them into His hands and He redeems them. He redeems us and creates something beautiful and whole. He uses each and every piece that we hold out to Him to fix. There is no piece of our story, in our lives, that is unredeemable or unusable. He can use our brokenness and our past to help others, to show His power and ability to redeem, to show how He can turn a life around, to give us a glimpse of His glory.
We need to testify, to speak about what God has and is doing in our lives.
What has God done in your life?
What is He currently doing?
What has He redeemed in your story?
What have you helped redeem?
Also, to see more of what Green Star Movement does go here: greenstarmovement.org