Ball, our office administrator, got off his motorbike and walked into Creative Life Foundation in his customary button down shirt paired, not with the expected dress pants, but with basketball shorts. It’s an all staff office cleaning day. He’s dressed to get down to business. Bangkok is notorious for her city dust and our building is not immune. We’ll start with the fourth floor therapy room, third floor classrooms, second floor admin offices, finally down to the kitchen and gathering space at ground level sweeping, mopping, and cleaning away the dust.
Dust was the theme of a recent staff spiritual formation gathering. The opening discussion question was, “Do you think God can make beautiful things out of the dust?”. The team balked. Then laughed. “Uh...No.”was the general consensus. These urban dwellers view dust differently than me. Plots of soil come to mind, but they immediately think of the city filth we regularly sweep away. This dirt is full of bacteria. It can make it difficult to breathe in addition to causing various health problems. How can beauty come out of such a thing? We went on to talk together. If dirt could be made free from pollutants and made full of nutrients instead, things can grow out of it. When we see dirt we can think possibility.
Possibility is exactly what our educator, Karissa, sees in our students. She says that’s the hardest part though. Being able to “see” when things look impossible. She shares that many discount the poor or when people do take notice, all they can see is a deficit. She challenges us to get into relationships with people in a different socio-economic class than the class we originate from.
“If you are in relationship with the poor, you get to see other facets of their lives. You see their strengths. Maybe they don’t yet know how to develop their strengths or lean into them yet. But the first step is discovery -utilizing strength comes next. Walking this journey with our students has been really really cool. It’s hard. It’s not an easy process. It’s not always ‘successful’ in the ways people might define success, but relationship is what brings it together. Looking for how God is working instead of just looking at the negatives. That’s what I pray for. For God to help me to see the beauty and not just the dirt. There is something growing, We don’t always see it, but it’s there. Growing.”
Tim, co founder and executive director, reflects on the “beauty from the dust” CLF has seen over the years.
“Back in 2013 when our team at the time heard the David Crowder song, "I am a seed" , we all thought of the relationships that we've developed over the years. Specifically the kids we knew who were (at the time) working in the red light district all hours of the night. Our hope and prayer was that one day they would all rise to become trees. My reflection eventually led me to writing this.
Standing strong from the dust
There is a girl with a story that is shared by many. She was a vulnerable seed, pushed down into the ground and trampled on. The soil in which she lay was dry and lacked what it needed. Even though she was among other scattered seeds, she felt alone and the bad soil which she lay was choking her to death. Along came a farmer. She saw the seed. She gave the seed an environment and the care it needed. Come spring, a sprout emerged from the seed. Over time, the sprout grew and grew. Even though she was pushed down into the ground she rose up a tree. No longer is she vulnerable. No longer is she alone. The soil around her is not without flaw but it’s good. She stands strong.”
The seed that Tim wrote about in 2013 has indeed grown. One student from that time is working in a coffee shop full-time another has an internship and is pursuing his GED.
Let us open our eyes to see the beauty in the dust. Let us work together to clear the soil and tend the seed.