The chilled wind blew the rubbish around in the overgrown grass in front of the rundown flats like jewels in a kaleidoscope. Finding beauty in gritty inner-city neighbourhoods is a skill that is required to last in a job like this.
As a country girl at heart, I tend to loathe endless concrete slabs and dilapidated buildings, not to mention crowded streets and the piercing sound of sirens. In such places, I used to seek out any green tree or flower pushing through the cracks as a refuge and sign of God’s grace amidst the ugliness of man’s sin intensified in a city scene.
Yet over the years, the Lord has graciously taught me that his most beautiful creation is the very thing that can seem to detract from the purity of nature—people. The pinnacle of his creation, people possess a likeness to God that even the most breathtaking sunset lacks. It’s not always easy to see, but with the eyes of Christ, the many people who fill the houses and streets of an urban neighbourhood are the true source of beauty to be discovered.
Two such treasures waited for us in the top floor flat of the rundown building that lay in front of us. The latch for the front door clicked and McKayla and I made our way up the concrete stairs to the beaming smile of Nadiya and her coy two-year-old daughter Ema.
The graceful way Nadiya welcomed us into her humble home, and seemed to float in and out of the room in her draped loose clothing as she served us homemade treats and coffee, made me think that she could have been a Sudanese princess in the home she left behind. Since I’d known her, she’d lived with her husband who worked long hours, and her two young daughters, in a one-bedroom flat that had such bad mould that she’d developed severez asthma, which caused a complication in her last pregnancy.
Yet as we sat and chatted, we discovered that her home in Sudan was more like a mansion, and I began to imagine what kind of woman must be trapped inside the body of this African immigrant who struggled to communicate her thoughts in English and spent most of her days confined within the mouldy walls of a drab flat looking after her toddler.
As McKayla and I left Nadiya’s flat that day, we were the blessed ones. Although our friend was profuse in her thanks for our company and insisted we visit again soon, we got the privilege of taking a glimpse into the wonder of God’s marvelous creation in a human being who was made in the image of her Maker. Please pray that Nadiya can see something of Christ’s beauty in us, and that we can communicate his love for her despite the language barrier.
The other week I joked with Nadiya that the Friendship Centre is like a second home for Ema, because she is there with her mother pretty much every day it is open. She said with all earnestness that it’s her second home too. Praise the Lord for that. May the Lord bring even more people to the Centre who feel like it is home, and may he create a spiritual hunger in them that they might want to know more about the love they find there.