Stories of Love Does
It was the first summer and we were working on a dumpsite. There were mounds of trash with old furniture covered by old mattresses scattered on top, overgrown weeds up to your waist, all behind an abandoned house that had been broken into.
Our team had been working on it for a while and they were worn down. They had to go really slow because there were used needles under the mattresses so it made it hard to get them out safely. Meanwhile, there was an addict jumping in and out of the window while the team was there. He was searching for his stash and getting agitated by our presence.
We boarded up the house he was using and the next day he came back looking for more. He couldn’t get in and he was angry. He slowly backed away and left. Our team kept working, we were so close and made so much progress, despite the obstacles and run-ins.
The lot was clean now, cleared out, the abandoned house fenced off and windows boarded up. They couldn’t get in anymore. It was secure. It was safe. Mission accomplished or so I thought.
There was an apartment located directly behind this property. I had noticed a woman with her two small children, a little older than my own kids. They were trying to play in the alley within her sight. She came up to me with a smile on her face and tears streaming down her eyes.
“You know my kids play here and I get so worried that they are gonna be stabbed by a needle because of what’s going on back here. But thank you! Now I don’t have to worry anymore.”
Her few simple words pierced my heart. I was reminded of Jesus’s words to me “Do you care? But do you care enough to do something about it?”
It was all worth it. Every moment of working in the heat, dealing with strung-out addicts, and trying to coordinate teenagers. Everything was clear when I looked into her eyes of gratitude and I knew that I had seen Jesus. I knew that this was the way of the Gospel. This is what love looked like.
When I loved her, I loved him. When our teams cleaned out the lot we were really loving him and we were giving back something that was taken from a woman who desperately needed a safe place again.
That is radical love that will change the world. It’s not our words that matter, but our very lives poured out. We will show them how far He will go for Love!
When I first walked down Nectarine alley I was in shock. I felt waves of despair hanging over me underneath the shade of the trees. It felt dark and heavy in more ways than one. As I walked the alley and discovered piles and piles of trash piled up on every corner of the alley, and more behind the houses left abandoned, it didn’t seem real. How could this street exist in my neighborhood in the United States of America? I had been to many third-world countries and almost every state in the US and felt like I had been transported into another country just by walking down that alley.
I wanted to shout to the world. “This place exists, and in your own backyard maybe even miles from where you live!”
“And what are you gonna do about it?” The words of Jesus once again echoed in my mind.
That summer we met a family who lived in that alley next to abandoned houses. There was a girl about 8 or 9 who played in her backyard that was literally a dumpsite. Not only that, but it was home to users that would go back there and leave their used needles. This was not a playground for any child, let alone an 8-year-old girl. But this is what she had. Her name was Tiana and despite the many obstacles she faced she somehow kept a smile on her face and an innocence about her.
She hung around our groups all summer long, riding her bike alongside us, waiting for us to come back. She just wanted to be around because she felt loved. She thanked us for our work and jumped in alongside our efforts. She came to our worship nights and cookouts in the yard at the Mansion.
And then she left. We cleaned the alley behind her house and a few weeks later she was gone. Just as quickly as she came into our lives, she also left. I knew we did that project just for her, if nothing else she was the reason. It was like Jesus led us to a little girl who needed love that summer and that love looked like cleaning up her alley and backyard so she could be a child again. The seeds planted in her life we may never know the impact, but I know she saw Jesus in us and know we loved Him well by loving Tiana.
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