There is a church in inner-city Philly called Church of the Broken Pieces. I like that. As a broken piece myself I know it's a place I can fit in. There will be other people like me. I won't have to pretend. Even the building, an old storefront without flash, pretense, glitz or glamor, says to me, “this is real.” No pretense behind this door. No surprises here.
I'd love to rename WEC as Mission of the Broken Pieces. It would be a pretty authentic name for us, because that's who we are—broken people redeemed and made whole by the power of the cross. We feel our brokenness keenly at times.
Pastor C became a follower of Jesus nearly fifteen years ago. He leads a small congregation in the mountains. The air is cool, and rain drips from pine branches. His church is on the rustic highway that divides two branches of the large P tribe. To the east, where Pastor C’s congregation resides, there are a few believers. To the west live 180,000 inhabitants and not a single evangelical Christian—not until just a few months ago.
I had an interesting experience this week. I went out to get vegetables and was greeted by the sight of about forty men sitting and standing around a dead body. This was quite unexpected. Usually the sound of women wailing alerts us long before anyone gathers for a wake, but we had not heard anything. Rather awkwardly, I managed to exit the building and returned some time later with my produce.
While I was still far away, a lady came quickly towards me saying, “I came to tell you there is a wake at your house, and they haven’t yet buried the body, so don’t bring your veggies home.”
Monday was a good day. I decided to go off on my own to run some errands. Everything started out fine. First, I stopped into a store to buy some shirts. I told the clerk I would like to buy two shirts, but I didn't know my size. After talking with him for awhile and buying the shirts, I felt encouraged that I was gaining confidence in my new language.
After his baptism S told me, “When I put my head under the water, I heard something like ‘wooooo’, and when my head was lifted my head out of the water, I heard the sound of many hands clapping. It scared me, because you were the only one that clapped as I came out of the water.”
Wow! Doesn’t this sound like Luke 15:10 where Jesus says, “In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Life is busy, and God is good. The weeks are hurtling by at their usual rate. Students are learning—including myself. Yes, I’m a student again, studying Arabic three days a week. Sometimes it feels like a little too much, but it’s encouraging to be able to say what I want to more clearly.
On my way back from Arabic lessons I look out on my city from the window of a taxi and see the railroad tracks. I have never seen a train on them. Once upon a time, a hundred years ago, these rails were part of a famous railway of the Ottoman Empire. In other countries the railway is still in use and, rumor has it, you can charter a train.
If you sat down for a cup of coffee with me (triple Americano with Breve for me, please) and asked about my passions, my list would include books, Jesus and being a gate-opener for people on the margins of society—not necessarily in that order. However, if you tried to fit those interests together there isn’t an obvious puzzle-perfect connection. That makes the opportunities God has provided these last couple of years even more amazing.