Written July 15, 2011 during my time at GVBC as pastoral intern of neighborhood impact. This article was one of my quarterly support letters written to the congregation about my involvement on staff. My dear friend, TJ Tallie, told me after this was sent out to the church: “I love love LOVE any pastoral support letter that begins with a 2Pac analogy.” 😉
A few years before his untimely death, the late Tupac Shakur wrote a poem entitled, “The Rose that Grew from Concrete.” Tupac’s poem depicted a single flower sprouting from a crack in the concrete, symbolizing a beacon of hope in the midst of an unjust reality. Such was the flower’s drive for life that it broke free from the shackles of its granite prison, overcoming an immensely overwhelming situation. What a miracle to think that a tiny rose can snake its way through the contours and challenges of something as solid and immovable as concrete.
In a similar way, I see GVBC attempting to break through an invisible barrier to radically love its neighborhood. GVBC has the potential to become an anomaly in its locale, a people rising with Christ to shine forth hope, life, and grace and invite others on the journey.
I am excited that God is calling me to seek out these factors, both positive and negative, that strengthen or impede the GVBC-neighborhood relationship. Along this journey, God has quietly been revealing next steps to move forward. Currently, I have been conducting interviews with GVBC attendees and researching GVBC’s history and culture to better understand who we are, how we function, and what challenges and opportunities we may encounter as we move toward deeper neighborhood engagement. Furthermore, I am talking to Gardena community organizations and other active citizens who are involved in meeting some of Gardena’s needs. The theological and biblical foundations of neighborhood engagement are also crucial in this process: doctrinal research and Bible study are essential aspects to move forward. The final component of my pastoral intern position is service: exposure to the Skid-Row homeless at the Union Rescue Mission, serving the low-income people of Long Beach through our high school mission trip, and helping with Neighborhood Ministry outreach events. All of these have been opportunities to tangibly serve others and experience God’s heart for all people. What’s more, I’ve seen God work in my life: I’m changing, growing, and continuing forward on a personal journey of self-discovery and inner healing.
Although the task of strengthening the GVBC-neighborhood relationship is daunting, there is hope. Against all odds, Tupac’s tiny flower rose above its harsh reality and ignited dreams of a better life for disenfranchised America. If that simple image conjured such hope for a people devastated by riot and martial law in 1992, think of the possibilities for a Church whose savior overcame the confines of the grave. With the image of an empty tomb, a stone rolled away, and scars in the hands and feet of a man resurrected, children of Christ must believe in the impossible, in God’s will being done despite the circumstance. Christ shattered the thick-slab called death; so too, GVBC can be “the rose that grew from concrete.”