Welcome to the jungle garden.

I see West Central as a garden…or perhaps a jungle is a more appropriate descriptor. It’s not a perfectly symmetrical English garden nor a well-maintained suburban masterpiece — it is a wild, complex, messy, beautiful jungle garden. It’s likely there are plants we’ve never seen before, perhaps even some we don’t know how to describe or take care of. The diversity will shock even a master gardener. Many of the plants are kind and desiring community, simply seeking to be accepted like we all are. Others are rather prickly, at first glance perhaps seeming dangerous and foreign, but upon learning more from them, one realizes the nature of how they’ve come to survive such harsh environments and how they embody an unmatched beauty. This garden has a certain depth of magnificence which can’t be observed instantaneously — only through humbly learning its complexity, interacting with each of its flowers, and maybe even reimagining what a garden is.

What a year it has been. With seemingly endless transition, perpetual chaos, and enough sewer problems to make a person lose their mind — I have to say, this year has stretched me significantly. But despite middle schoolers trying to mutiny for control of the YFC building or food fights breaking out in the van, my posture looking back on this year is one of celebration and I am overcome with hope for what’s on the horizon.

A year ago I had fear. I looked at this neighborhood, or what I’ve affectionately named the jungle garden, and saw unforgiving, dangerous territory that could chew me up and spit me out. As I eased inch by inch into this garden, I felt the Lord telling me to listen and play. To humbly learn and enjoy anyone who I came into contact with. And that is what I’m continuing to do. I’m no expert on West Central and I am definitely not waltzing in to save anybody from anything — not my job. But I can absolutely show up. I can show love with word and action. I can beg my heart to see through the mess that is sometimes so blinding, to see the masterpiece of a human inside. In fact, these are less things that I can do, and more of what we can do. Together. Everybody. That’s our purpose. To kindly interact with the vines, the flowers, the prickly bushes — learn about them, learn from them, hear their stories, see the beauty and purpose they possess, celebrate who they are and show them they belong. Anyone can do this. In fact, it might be a necessity to really live.

Friends, let’s gently step into the garden together.