“I won’t go!” Meagan had screamed at her parents, “And you can’t make me!”
Yet here she sat in a loud, crowded church bus with a bunch of annoying holy-rollin’ Jesus freaks on some stupid inner-city mission trip. “How did I get myself into this?” she agonized as she banged the back of her head against the seat.
After a run-in with the police a few months ago her parents had taken drastic measures to “straighten” her out. They’d begun dragging her to church and forcing her to go to youth group activities. She was no longer allowed to see her friends or even talk to them on the phone. Life as she’d known it had ended.
It’s not that the church kids weren’t nice to her. In fact they’d gone out of their way to make her feel included. But she thought it was all phony. “They’re just trying to turn me into one of them,” she thought.
Brandi, the girl sitting next to her was the worst. Meagan didn’t dare look at her for fear that she would take it as an invitation to talk. She knew that she was the kind of girl her parents really wanted. She was cute, peppy and popular. She loved going to all that youth stuff. She knew all the church answers and all the other kids hung on her every word. She was her complete opposite and it seemed as if she’d made Meagan her own special project.
“Oh! Isn’t this going to be so fun?” Brandi exploded. “I mean to actually go somewhere out of our comfort zone and help someone is SO exciting! I can’t wait to get there and get to work!”
“Yeah, whatever,” Meagan managed to mumble. “They can force me to go, but they can’t force me to like it,” she grumbled to herself.
The loud bus was suddenly silent as they pulled up to the work site. Amidst the graffiti ridden homes with bars on the windows and behind a tall chain-link fence topped with razor wire was a literal jungle of weeds and vines.
The youth leader stood in front of the bus. “Well gang,” he announced, “This is our mission! Behind these vines is a home that is in need of some tender loving care. Let’s do our best to show the love of Jesus to Mrs. Kersey, the elderly lady who lives here. The work we do will be a witness to her and to all of her neighbors.” He then proceeded to issue out tasks and divide the kids into teams. Meagan cringed when she was partnered with Brandi.
With heavy duty gloves and hedge clippers, Meagan and Brandi began to tackle the thick vines that had overtaken the house. It was hard work, but Brandi’s enthusiasm never waned. It was almost contagious. Often Meagan had to fight the urge to smile or laugh.
As the vines came down, the architecture of the house was revealed. “Wow!” Brandi exclaimed as she uncovered an old stained glass window.
“Look at this!” Meagan couldn’t help but cry as she discovered the intricate woodwork on the front porch.
“This house is so beautiful!” Brandi sighed.
“Yeah,” Meagan had to admit. “It’s too bad it had to get like this.”
“You know what this house reminds me of?” Brandi asked as she dropped her clippers and looked Meagan in the eye.
“Me?” She laughed cynically, “You just said it was beautiful!”
“Exactly. Someone took a lot of time and effort to build this place yet over time, for some reason or another, these vines began to grow and the beauty was hidden. You are a very beautiful person. Yet for some reason or other, you’ve put up a wall just like these vines that hides who you really are and no one can see the beauty that’s there.”
Tears began to form in Meagan’s eyes, “But I’m not like you,” she protested.
“You don’t have to be! God made you for you and He made you that way for a reason. Don’t forget,” Brandi smiled and went back to working, “God doesn’t make mistakes!”
It was then that Meagan began to see that despite the corny church words, Brandi was really genuine. She really did like her, even though they were complete opposites. Perhaps this church stuff wasn’t such a bad thing after all. With every snip of the clippers the vines that had grown up around her heart began to fall away.
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