Let Us Start Building

Many years ago, when I was a Children’s Ministry Director, the Youth Leader and I decided to take twenty-eight teenagers on a Mission Trip to Juarez, Mexico for a week.

As we drove into the city, reality started to sink in where we were being asked to serve. Painted black poles on both sides of the road stretched on for miles, each representing a missing woman. Our accommodations were behind a fenced compound with high walls and we were instructed not to walk alone. Ever.

The next morning, my group was tasked with the demolition of one wall of the local church in order to construct three new walls for the expansion project, so I asked the staff when the bricks would be dropped off. She pointed across the street to where the brickmaker lived, a kind and patient man who spoke no English, willing to teach us how to mix cement properly with gravel, pour it into molds and place them in the sun to dry. We quickly realized we would not be able to build all three walls. Another team would arrive the following week to finish.

As a leader, when I reflect on this experience in Juarez, and the “building” process to launch UrbanPromise, I am reminded of the story of Nehemiah, a devout man of prayer, who encountered numerous challenges while leading the restoration project and the rebuilding of the walls around Jerusalem. Nehemiah did not complete this massive task alone, it was a community project with some volunteers even coming from outside of the city to help. Chapter three, in the Old Testament book of Nehemiah, lists thirty-eight individual workers and forty-two different groups. Each worker—named and anonymous— was assigned a place and a task. Each person was needed for the project to be completed. In the end, the walls were rebuilt and the people finished the good work because they kept their eyes on the same goal and worked together for the glory of God.

In Juarez, our handmade bricks, cemented together side by side, layer by layer, were a visual reminder of Nehemiah 2:18 ‘Let us start building.’ So they began this good work” . At the end of Nehemiah’s project, at the end of our time in Juarez, no one person, group or leader could say “I did this”, it was “we did this, God helping us.”

Nehemiah still teaches us today that prayer, planning, patience, partnership and our love for God and for others is how we are to lead this next generation of young leaders to develop their spiritual potential.

In my office are the humble beginnings of a wall of “Jenga” bricks. Each brick represents those who have come alongside thus far and supported our desire to build an UrbanPromise here in Ottawa. Each little wooden brick, side by side, layer by layer, encourages us to keep pressing on to completion of this good work.

Every brick has a name. Every brick has a story. Every brick is needed. Let us begin building.

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