I’ve been here for about a week and a half, and it has been a roller coaster. And that is putting it nicely.
The weeks leading up to BUP, when people would ask me how I was feeling, my usual response was, “I’m so excited. I can’t wait to be living in community again!” The nerves didn’t begin to hit me until about 45 minutes into the drive from my house in New Jersey to the place I will grow to call home in Baltimore. As my mom and I drove through the city, my mom would point out parks and different gardens that she liked. She saw beauty. She saw the beauty in this city immediately. I took a little longer.
The past almost two weeks have been hard. I think that is a good word to use. At different times, we were asked to go out into the community to meet people or pass out fliers for the upcoming VBS. As I walked through the neighborhood I saw and felt the brokenness. I passed broken windows, boarded up and abandoned houses, and trash. I met a woman, Christine, whose sister died two days before I met her. And by walking around the neighborhood I found out that an eight-year-old girl had been hit and killed by a car.
I was uncomfortable, I felt out of place, and I didn’t feel safe. What I saw when I looked around was broken. I couldn’t see beauty.
But then I began to see it.
Well, I should say God made me see it.
I want to talk about Christine, the woman I mentioned above who lost her sister. She was one of the first ways that God showed me he was going to love and care for me, especially while I’m here. I had the privilege and blessing of meeting Christine while passing out fliers for VBS. She was sitting on her front steps with her baby boy in her lap. As we began to talk, she quickly opened up and shared about her sister’s passing. And then, she invited Kaitlin, a fellow BUP intern, and I to come back later that day for her sister’s candlelight vigil.
I was honored; Christine had just met us and was inviting us into probably one of the most broken moments in her life. Going to the vigil, I wasn’t really sure what to expect; honestly, I was more concerned about how awkward I thought it would be to be there than I was about anything else. But God is gracious and he had more planned.
I can’t begin to explain the emotions that I felt being there. We were welcomed into Christine’s home, into her pain and into her struggle. I didn’t know Christine’s sister, and I barely knew Christine, but I found myself entering into her pain. While I saw how broken the situation was, for some reason I saw beauty. I saw the beauty of a community. A real community, one that invites others into its struggles and wants to share in each other’s brokenness. The verse in John, “Jesus wept,” continued to come to mind while I was there. I remember being in my freshman bible study and not understanding what that meant. It was explained to me, and made sense, but being here in the city has helped me to have a fuller understanding of that verse.
It took people, community, prompting, and a lot of work on God’s part, but I see it. As I walk through the neighborhood, God continues to reveal its beauty. Walking around, I pass corner stores, neighbors, kids, parks, different gardens, a fountain, art. The brokenness is still there, but brokenness is everywhere. It’s in every community; some just have the luxury of being able to hide it. If you just drive through this city it is easy to see where it’s broken. Find the beauty. Find the beauty because it’s there. God isn’t absent. He created the city, and he sees that it is good.