Looking in the Mirror

In April of this year we set forth with the goal of reconstructing the destroyed and abandoned Community House in the middle of the Virgen Noble neighborhood. Thanks to the great generosity of two families – Lellah Holley and Ryan & Jessica Looney – and the distinct blessings of the Lord we can now say WE ARE DONE!!! And no, the picture to the right is not the finished product!

I will let the pictures and the video speak for themselves with reference to the work and final outcome, BUT I would like to tell you what this building represents to me. I want to tell you why, every day, I couldn’t wait to get up and go to the site. I want to tell you why this community house was far more than a house.

FIRST, turn of the lights, click full screen and watch the video! Then, read the rest of the blog below the video to understand why I loved this project so much!

The first time I looked at this building I saw it how it could be. In fact, I don’t think I really ever saw it how it was. The people that know me best can tell you that when I look at something I immediately start dreaming of the possibilities, of what could be, ESPECIALLY when the thing in question is broken. Although it has very definitely gotten me in trouble many times, I still believe this to be one of my spiritual gifts. I believe it is God’s way of helping me understand what he sees when he looks at us: the power of redemption. He is, after all, our great Redeemer.

So when I looked at the house I saw the broken walls in the back of my mind, but in my heart I saw a finished school. I looked up where the roof should have been and, instead of the sky, I saw steel beams supporting a tin roof. I looked at the largest wall and, instead of graffiti, I saw the opportunity for inspiring hope. It was a beautiful site.

Over the next few months I prayed and looked for guidance as to the direction of the project. Should we present it to potential supporters or should we wait and tackle something this big in 2011? God answered this for us. He brought Ryan and Jessica Looney into the picture first. They had been saving for a new wood floor for their home but felt the tug of the Lord and decided to repurpose their money. Completely unprompted, they contacted me because they wanted to help build a school. Next came Lellah Holley. After one of our information sessions she came up to me and, with tears of compassion in her eyes, told me that she wanted those children to have a place to learn. She wanted to help build the school too.

God had moved and had answered. He too saw the redemption possible for this building and the people that would use it. It was time to make it a reality.

The minute my plane landed in Nicaraguan the work began. Governmental and community meetings were held, we came to terms with our builder and finalized negotiations with our supplies, contracts were signed and the supplies were purchased and delivered. Then, on November 16th, we offically broke ground. The day was here and redemption had begun.

Over the next month we worked feverishly towards our EXTREMELY aggressive goal of finishing the entire facility by December 18th. God was going to have to continue blessing us with good weather, good workers and great efficiency. As each day passed I saw a little more change and felt a little more hope that this might actually get done. The next thing I knew the roof was up and the floor was down. Then the septic tank was dug, the wall-fence was starting to take shape and the bathroom was being built. Then, as if overnight, we had a school. It was still ugly as all get out because it didn’t have a drop of paint on it, but man was it beautiful.

Then the paint started. I had been waiting for this more moment more than any other. As a result, I don’t think I have ever been as giddy as I was when I saw the building covered with primer. White and pristine. It had taken almost a month to get here but it was here – with three days until the inauguration (ha!). Sure, we could have painted sooner but it wouldn’t have made since. The paint would have been damaged by the construction. No, the best thing to do was to have patience and wait.

After the primer the Aggies arrived with 24 additional hands to help clean, apply the final paints, and get the facility ready for the inauguration. I can still remember the exact moment I realized the facility was done. It was about 30 minutes before we were going to start the inauguration (literally). I drove up to the facility and I saw it. Not the building, not the fence, not even the roof or the new paint. I saw IT. I saw redemption. But not just of the school.

In my heart I then understood why this had meant so much. Why I felt so compelled to start this project and to make sure it was completed. When I looked at the building it felt like I was looking in a mirror and seeing my own reflection. I was seeing my own redemption story personified through the school. And even more so, I was seeing the redemption story of the kids, the community, and even the world. It was no longer just a facility. It was a symbol of our redemption by Christ and the hope that we have. It was the reason With One Hope exists.

It was about 11:30pm when I finally got back to the facility and everyone else was asleep. I sat down alone in my room and began to work on my sermon for church in the morning. The lesson couldn’t have been more clear in my head. I needed to share with everyone else what I felt had been shared with me. What came out of that evening was the following idea to close out the sermon:

“What are we here to give thanks for today? Is it this building? I think so. But I also think that this building is only a small piece of what we are giving thanks for. You see, I believe that what we are really celebrating is not so much what this building is, but what it represents. What it means for us.

“So what does it represent? I believe it represents the opportunity to learn and receive an education, and better futures for our children and our families. But, once again, I am not sure that those are the real underlying reasons that we are thankful. In fact, I think that all of the things this building represents can be boiled down to one thing: hope. Hope that the same change that we have all witnessed with this building IS possible. That those things that are broken, abandoned and unwanted can be healed and made whole again. That what the world says is no longer valuable does have value.

“And, even more so, I believe we are giving thanks for the hope that this is not just true for buildings or structures. But that this hope also applies to our lives and that we have the same hope. That when we feel broken and shattered, when the world says that the mistakes or decisions of our past are too much, that we are incurable, unworthy, and unlovable, that in those moments, when we feel utterly and completely alone, we can still believe that we have a God that DESIRES to love us and to heal us. That we have a God that gives us the hope to say, ‘I am healed. I am loved. And I am redeemed by the God that is faithful, that is above all, and gives us life through his son, Christ.”

Remember today that you are not forgotten or unwanted. That God loves you and wants to have a relationship with you. That there is nothing that He cannot heal or forgive, and NO ONE that He does not love with everything He has. We are all community houses and we can all be redeemed.

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 8:38-39

4 Comments

  1. Gigi & Papa says:

    What marvels God, love and hard work can bring. Blessings to Jessica, Ryan, Lellah and to you, Chris.

  2. chris says:

    Thank you Gigi and Papa! This could never have happened if you hadn’t helped spread the word too!!

  3. [...] Click here to go to the blog entry explaining more about this! [...]

  4. Gretchen says:

    Wow! Such a powerful story of renewal and redemption. What if we could see ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures of our own lives? Thanks for sharing this, Chris. Praying that you continue to live out your story of hope!

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