The Power of Story
We as humans connect with story. More than facts or numbers or lists, we understand more deeply when we sit down and talk with someone, when we see that person as human, like ourselves. I think of one ministry site CSM Boston works with, a home for hurting people working to learn who God is and how He made them. As part of our work days there, we sit and eat lunch with the residents, and spend time sharing our stories with each other. Over lunch, we hear stories from ex-convicts, drug addicts, victims of broken relationships and systems. They share their stories of brokenness and redemption, of being saved by God and used by Him. At the end of the day, groups leave with the same reaction: "they are human, like me." This is someone created in the image of God, loved and cherished by Him and revealing a piece of God to me that I have not seen before. I think of a director of a clothing exchange program we work with, providing low-income and homeless families with children's clothing. With every group, she shares her story of being homeless herself, only able to keep her child through getting clothes and baby items she needed from this program. After getting back on her feet, she was able to volunteer at this program, and is now the director. Her story is unique, one of brokenness and restoration, one of being used by God, saved and now being used to help others.
The other night, in preparation for Boston's Urban Intensive on understanding refugees and immigrants in America through the lens of story, I sat with a Vietnamese couple to ask them to share their experience coming to America as refugees many years ago. They shared stories of pain and hope, wisdom in what it looks like to thrive in a country full of opportunity but burdened with roadblocks. They talked about the role their church played in their resettlement. As the church community allowed them to transition and process, they were then able to do the same for other newly arrived refugees, both Vietnamese and not. God used their story, their history of pain and hardship to invite others into His Kingdom. By His grace, God redeemed a story of brokenness into a story of thriving as His child.
At CSM, we step into a story of God's continuing restoration of the city. We step into the story He's crafting of the individuals and organizations He's using to restore - the stories of the broken learning the redemption that comes in Christ, the story of the woman who went from homelessness to directing a non-profit to help those in poverty, the story of a Vietnamese family using their brand as "refugee" to welcome others branded with the same name.