I came across this poem this morning, buried in a folder on my laptop. I wrote it in the early hours of the morning on a visit to Johannesburg in 2014. We had gone as a group to attend the official opening of a church that our church had a relationship with. This church was located in a very poor community with a high crime and drug abuse rate. They had just built their church 7 years earlier and a contractor did the roofing wrong. The roof came down and the building collapsed late one evening. Nobody was inside at the time.Things were so bad after that that many were determined to run the pastor out of the community. Many others left the church. Those that remained were the laughing stock of the community. They were given the use of the hall of another church in the community. For free. God started his restoration work. First with their hearts, their relationships and then they began to build again from scratch doing all the work themselves. I was touched by their story.

Right there we stood, wept and embraced
Our shoulders sagged and tears would mark
A salty stream down every face
The painful creak of breaking hearts
Hope like our shoulders, sagged that day
For in this ruin lay many dreams
How will we all survive such pain?
we asked "Oh God, what does this mean?"

“The roof came down,” the rumour spread
“It fell, building and all” They smirked
“Well they will never rise again”
“Come quick! Come see” They kicked the dirt
“Oh shame on you” Some may have said
“What happened? What did you do wrong?”
“Your hope round here, as good as dead”
The streets would echo with this song

And so this parable plays out
A building that once stood laid bare
And as each resident went about
Most missed the lesson lying there
The question: how do we move on?
When all we've built lies on the ground
Like many lives from Reiger Park
So many ills have kept them down

“Can hope rise up from this?” some ask
Lord will our church rise from this mess
For this is such a daunting task
Aunt Nelly's fifty Rand cries “yes
Yet as foundations filled the ground
Our God was working through this storm
Our hearts a special strength had found
And greater unity was formed

Just looking back down seven years
Remembering the road we've trod
Through all the setbacks, toil and tears
We see the fingerprints of God
Look closer friend with different eyes
Beyond the bricks and glass and stone
No matter where in life you lie
Your only hope is Christ alone

Sickness or poverty or shame
Through storms of life you fail to cope
Put all your trust in Jesus name
For He indeed is our only hope.
For some it may take seven years
To heal, to change, to overcome
While many trials bring us to tears
There's ample GRACE for everyone

p.s "Aunt Nelly" was in her 80's. Her 50 Rand was equivalent to USD5.00 at the time. She was the 1st person to call for a new building and the 1st to contribute (that 50 rand). She also was the last to contribute by bringing some snacks for the opening.