Monday, August 30, 2010

A masterpiece of scraps

This past Sunday at church, I was blessed to be introduced to 9 young men that were there to represent the San Antonio Teen Challenge. These young men stood in front of the congregation, dressed all alike in khaki pants, white shirt and tie, with their hands clasped in front of them for most of the service. They introduced themselves one by one telling their name, where they were from, and how many months they’d been in the 13 month program. The timelines ranged anywhere from 13months, to 3 weeks. The two that had been there 3 weeks and 1 month respectively both had already unbuttoned the top button of their white shirt and loosened their ties some. The others, with discipline from many months stood there, crisp, tightly knotted and buttoned.

They did not appear to have any special musical abilities, but the collection of them sang “unto the Lord” as their Leader put it. They sang words like “I’m not who I was…”, and “Oh no, You never let go, You never let go of me.” 3 of them had the opportunity to tell their specific testimonies. Most were typically tales of bad crowds, starting on drugs and alcohol at an obscenely young age (age 6 for one). But for the most part, looking at the group collectively, I saw in them a piece of myself. They each had the story of reaching the end of the rope and just begging God to help them because they could not help themselves at all. They had tried to help themselves, and they knew now it was impossible. Christ was their only hope.

And yet here they stood, 4 months, 9 months, 13 months later testifying of Gods greatness, His goodness and His mercy towards them. They testified to a love of such a nature that they had never imagined it before. I was moved as they closed the service singing “Here I am to worship, Here I am to bow down, Here I am to say that You’re my God.” And I felt it. That’s why they were here. To worship. To say that He’s their God.

And to make money so they can keep doing what they’re doing.

At the end of the service, instead of just taking up an offering for the young men and Teen Challenge, they invited us to purchase one of their handcrafted items they made in their own woodshop. Then they told us something that drove the point home.

Their local houses maintain 51 young men and they have a womens home as well. For stewardship reasons they seek donations for their supplies as much as possible. So instead of purchasing wood for their woodshop they have been blessed with a local merchant willing to donate wood. A cabinet maker here in San Antonio supplies them with, not whole wood, but scrap wood. Wood the cabinet maker might have thrown out, instead is used by these men to make things that were truly beautiful. And as I looked at the table full of wood scraps turned beautiful, I then looked up into the face of a young scrap that God had turned beautiful as well. He’d quoted the full chapter of Romans 12 to us before he ended his testimony.

I know what God can do with scraps. I know what it is to turn to God with a broken life and a broken heart and wonder if He could possibly want something so ugly and insignificant. Only to find that He can do more with scraps than a master cabinet maker can with whole storehouse of perfect wood.

I’m not who I wanna be, I’m not who I’m gonna be, but thank God I’m not who I was.

If you'd like to support Teen Challenge by buying some of their products as well here is a link to the Teen Challenge Store

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