“Why are these feeble-minded people repairing this run down church? It's been like this forever,” Sanders exclaimed to his group.
“Yeah, man,” shouted Thompson, stamping his foot on the sidewalk. “This is really gettin' on my nerves. All these do-gooders and Jesus weirdos! Don't it make you ….like, uh, irritated?”
“Right. That's right. Irritated. NO...more like angry. Why they come over here and try to repair that church? Ain't nobody gonna go there anyway. We're in charge of this side of town, and if they don't realize it yet, they will soon.” Sanders then gazed intently at the many workers, unloading materials, carrying lumber, stacking bricks.
'Hey, a couple of those guys look our age.'
Work continued for a few weeks. One day, Pastor John Neham, a thirty year old with an athletic build and friendly eyes, glanced across the street and noticed them staring. Each dressed similarly---white t-shirts, baggy jeans, and bandanas tied around their heads. As Pastor smiled and waved, Thompson held up his right fist, making sure his third finger was pointing up. Pastor John smiled again and waved, turning back to his work.
'I need to do something to help them.'
As the days progressed, tensions rose within the gang, while the masonry work, roofing, and windows were completed. Only the landscaping, interior painting, woodwork and other aesthetic improvements remained.
Midway through the project, a 7-year old ran across the street with a letter in hand. He handed it to the foreman.
“Here, mister. Give this to the Pastor,” handing over a crumpled envelope.
“Thanks, young man. I'll do that,” he said, kindly. But, as he looked across the street, the group watched him sternly.
Later that evening, after securing the inner and outer church doors, Pastor John sat down on a pew and read the scrawled note.
“Stop working on that church. It is really messin' us up. Watch your step before something bad happens. UNDERSTAND?”
Pastor folded the letter and placed it back in the envelope. Then, he prayed and called his foreman, reminding him of the great job he and the volunteers were doing. Pastor John also gave instructions to watch out for these young men, to work in pairs, keep a large stick nearby (just to frighten, if needed), and post a lookout on each corner of the building, with cell phone in hand.
He really wasn't worried, because God would fight for them.
On the day of completion, tables and chairs were set up on the lawn to celebrate God's finished work. The tables were beautifully decorated with tablecloths and floral centerpieces. Balloons framed the entrance.
The weather was sunny and had been pleasant for several days, therefore, Sanders and his group of eight, were constantly present. All were over 18 and most came from homes where drugs, alcohol, abuse or all three occurred, regularly. In other words, they felt no need to be accountable to anyone.
So, that morning, Sanders remarked, “we are gonna go over there, and 'jack up' a few people. Make them listen, because that Jesus stuff is bogus. Plus, like I said before, it irritates me.”
While the gang discussed strategy, Pastor and a couple of volunteers left to pick up fruit, cheese, donuts, bagels, coffee, hot chocolate, and water.
Returning, Pastor noticed the young men becoming very animated--- talking loud and cursing. Often, the police had patrolled the block, occasionally stopping to talk to them, but, nothing problematic ever transpired. Somehow, this day seemed different.
The food was ready. Soft worship music emanated from the sanctuary. Neighbors stopped by. As the crowd gathered on the lawn to celebrate, the eight left their post and began walking, in a very threatening manner, toward the church. The members and guests were nervous. Pastor, wiping beads of perspiration from his forehead, told his members to pray.
Suddenly, led by the Spirit, the Pastor walked confidently toward the group. As both parties approached each other, one of the young men reached in his pocket.
Pastor John, unaffected by the move, smiled and extended his hand. Sanders responded with a firm handshake, his face softening.
“Hey, I was just coming to invite you guys over for breakfast. Please join us!” Pastor John exclaimed.
Surprised, Sanders said, “Uhh—yeah, thanks. Can we take a look inside, too?”
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