Sisterhood Ireland Team 2014 – Bridging the Gap

Jesus is often referred to as our bridge to God.  In him, we can see hope.  He brings us the message that we can have a better life.

Today, we saw another bridge.  But its message is the same.

The area we are visiting is rather rural.  The countryside is abounding with luscious rolling  fields set against picturesque hills.  Winding two lane roads take you past the farmland and into the quaint Irish town.  The houses are cobblestone, the patios meticulous, and the people are friendly.

But like any other town, there is a dark side.  There is an area where  some would be reluctant to walk alone after dark.  The housing units are in a state of disrepair,  the crime rate is high and the morale is low.

It seems that the area was intended to be a flourishing community a few decades ago, and the infrastructure was in place for that vision to become reality.  There was the hope of  life, and a bright future was just ahead.

But then, life happened.

Some political issues…some deals fell through…and without much fanfare, the dream died, and along with it, hope for that bright future.  It was written off as a “failed” community.  And so the people thought of themselves that way, too.  It wasn’t  long before the darkness took over.

Fast forward to the present time, and today  it is still a depressed area housing third  generation  drug dealers and crime families.  The adults feel stuck and the kids do not even dare to dream of a future; they feel they have been forgotten .

You don’t even have to look for their despair; you can read about it.

It is a place known as The Bridge.  There is a walkway between housing units  and at one point, the road for car travel is overhead, creating a bridge.  Because youth tend to like to hang out, and because it is more often than not raining here, kids will gather under the bridge.  They hang out.  They drink.  They smoke.

And one night, one of those kids wrote his feelings on the concrete walls of the bridge.  His anger had bubbled below the surface too long, and it finally came out through a spray paint can.  He defaced the wall that night.  And soon after, another someone followed, and then another, until the  majority of the surface was covered in hate-spewing graffiti.

But it started with one.  It always starts with one.

And so, the kids hung out night after night, sitting in a smoky haze, and surrounded by words of  worthlessness and condemnation.  Forgotten.

But God has not forgotten them.  When Celebration Northern Ireland was looking to do some community outreach,  He sent them here.  They knew that the kids hung out at this bridge, and they saw that it was littered with trash and debris.  So they cleaned it up.  Nothing earth shattering, they just picked up the trash.  Thirty-two bags of it.

It was dirty.  It was messy.  And it was noticed.  They talked to some kids while there and invited them to church.  They talked to more the next week.  And the next.  And eventually, one came.

It always starts with one.

After several months, a few of the kids were coming to youth services.  It was about that time that someone noticed a new message written on the wall.  For the first time however, the message was not hateful,or condemning.  It was uplifting.  Someone had written  encouragement on the wall.

It always starts with one.

Today, there are still kids hanging out under the bridge in a smoky haze.  But now, instead of being surrounded with words of  worthlessness and defeat, there are hundreds and hundreds  of messages telling them that were made for more.  That they are loved with an unconditional love.  That the past does not dictate the future.  That someone cares.  And that they are not forgotten.

A few years back we had a message series entitled “Grace Graffiti” at Celebration.  And that’s exactly what this was.  There was grace and mercy all over the walls of that bridge.  God is talking to those kids, and it is as clear as the writing on the wall; he loves them.

There were many tears shed by our team, as we walked under that overpass and saw the faded words of  hurt and pain covered by the graffiti of God’s grace.  It was so very powerful.

You should know that the young man who was  leading us on this tour, was one of the  ones that used to hang out in this very spot.  He showed us the apartment his dad still lives in, and said that his grandfather had lived here too,  and had been involved in the same illegal activities.  He told us that his future was on a straight path to the same lifestyle.  Until someone invited him to church.

It always starts with one.

As he looked over in the direction of his dad’s house, he said, “This stops with me.”

This young man’s life has changed because someone reached out.  God wants to  get right in the middle of our mess, and take out the trash.  He wants to clean us up and write a new message on the slate of our heart.

Now when you  look at the walls  of concrete, you see hope.

Jesus is still The Bridge.

Invite someone to church.  It only takes one.

Won’t you be the one for somebody?

–Sherri

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~ by Celebration Missions on June 19, 2014.

One Response to “Sisterhood Ireland Team 2014 – Bridging the Gap”

  1. Wow! Sherri you are so right, it only takes one. what a powerful message. One person can truly make a difference we just have to be willing to be the one. I  love this, glad you all got to experience this. I love you ladies!!!

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