Have you ever seen a fork where the tines were so twisted or blunted from someone using or abusing it that it no longer served to pick up food? Or maybe a spoon that someone deliberately twisted so badly it could never be straightened again? What happens to those utensils? Where do they go? You know – usually in the trash. Thrown out. Discarded.
Same kind of thing happens to people. Bent. Twisted. Abused. They look so bent out of shape nobody wants them. So deformed by the mental, emotional, and physical abuse they’ve been through it’s almost impossible to imagine them being useful for anything. So they get tossed out on the trash heaps of life. Fleabags. Crack dens. Abandoned buildings. Street corners. And there things just go from bad to worse as the natural process of oxidation and rust set in. They drink or take drugs to sooth themselves, to forget, to escape. And down, and down, and down they go.
When Diego first came to the Christland Center for Christian Transformation, nobody would have thought he could be useful for anything good. But God had different plans for Diego. One of the themes of Christland is “Jesus Transforms”. It’s emblazoned on T-shirts and signs. And most incredibly, it’s written on the faces and in the lives of the hundreds and hundreds of men and women who pass through the Center for Christian Transformation. Men like Diego.
I met Diego not long after he arrived in the Christland Phase One Project in Paudalho, about an hour’s drive from Recife. I didn’t see him the day he entered the project. But the director’s wife usually takes a photo of the men and women upon entering the project. They need it to go along with the registry, but it also serves as a powerful witness to just how much Jesus transforms lives.
This was Diego the day he entered Christland
How much hope would you have had for a young man who looked like this? What kind of odds would you have given he could ever be used for anything good?
When Diego and I met he was already doing woodwork in Christland’s shop. He had learned the trade when he was younger but never put it to good use. But in Christland he was given space and time, along with daily Bible study, classes, work in the garden or kitchen. Slowly God began transforming what society had discarded into something fit for a much higher calling.
Just like the discarded forks and spoons Diego made into tools to do his woodworking. He didn’t have any of the specialized tools he needed to carve out letters and words. So he made his own, from the twisted and discarded utensils that nobody else wanted, but that he could see a different purpose for. Isn’t that just what God does with us?
These are the woodworking tools Diego made from discarded knives, forks, and spoons.
Diego the day he graduated from Christland. He’s now an assistant director at the Christland center in Maceió, capital of the state of Alagoas, south of Pernambuco. Jesus transforms. Yes he does, and what beautiful, incredible instruments he transforms us into.
In his majestic vision of the judgement day, Jesus tells those who are destined for Heaven that they had seen him on earth. And what did he look like? “I was hungry… I was thirsty… I was a stranger… I needed clothes… I was sick… I was in prison…”
Jesus wasn’t wearing a crown or dressed in a royal robe. He wasn’t attending church or teaching in Sunday school. He was hungry, thirsty, a stranger whom nobody else wanted to help. He was sick or in prison. Ever thought about the kinds of images Jesus used to describe himself here on earth right in our midst? Not what you would normally think of as someone you would want to help. Those are the people Jesus identified with. Those are the people Jesus said he would go to.
Thanks for all your prayers and support. Thanks for helping us keep Jesus in the streets, among the sick, the needy, the discarded. Jesus transforms. Oh yes he does!!!
More about Christland:
“The Two Cups”
“He Changed My History”
“Blessed are the Hands”