If it weren’t for Hannah Satnan’s horribly sore foot, she may not have taken the time to sit down and notice the shattered glass that surrounded her.
But more peculiar was “the way the sun danced through the glass,” recalls Hannah.
Attracted by it, Hannah carefully hand-picked the glistening glass and invited the four other members of her congregation’s youth group to do the same. Spread out in a large field of rubble where Peace Lutheran Church, an ELCA congregation in Joplin, Mo., once stood, the youths gathered shards of glass into a basket they found nearby.
“Each of us picked up a piece that became ‘ours,’” says Hannah, adding that “a sort of bond was made with each piece.”
Although unsure what they would do with their collection, the five young people from Christ & Trinity Lutheran Church, an ELCA congregation in Sedalia, Mo., understood that the shattered glass once had purpose and meaning, and destruction did not have to take that away.
“Maybe we could give it new meaning,” thought Emily Greble.
What transpired since then “continued to be the work of the Holy Spirit,” according to Kimberly Knowle, pastor of Christ & Trinity.
A natural glow
In May 2011, a tornado destroyed a signification portion of Joplin, including the building of Peace Lutheran. Christ & Trinity is about three hours away.
Alex Eppenauer heard about the tornado on television. He urged his parents and his pastor, Kimberly, for a response on the part of Christ & Trinity.
Ten days later Alex, Hannah, Emily and two other youths from the congregation made their journey into Joplin to participate in clean-up efforts. At the end of their workday, they spent about an hour on the site where Peace once stood.
“We were silenced by the sight” of the destruction, recounts Alex. “One of the things that really struck me was finding a Bible and hymnal in the rubble. I couldn’t help but think that while I may not know these people, they read the same Bible and sing from the same hymnal as I do.”
The idea about collecting the glass at the destruction site came from Hannah. But together, they knew what needed to be done next.
They would make a cross — a gift they intended to present to members of Peace.
It’s “a gift of hope rising from the ruins,” says Kimberly. “These youth went from the heart of darkness and loss” to “a work of love. A work of God.”
When they returned home, they enlisted the technical help of Michael Shukers, an artist who teaches at the high school in Sedalia.
“He helped us refine our idea and really made everything come together,” says Hannah. “So the next thing we knew, we were taking measurements and cutting wood and sanding and re-sanding. That same glow (illuminating from the glass) seemed to still be there, whenever we were working.”
The creation of something new and beautiful out of the destruction serves as an inspiration for the youths. According to Hannah, “Hope and beauty can be found in some of the most unlikely places.”
For youth group member Caitlyn Craig, her hope is that the cross, which stands at 6 feet, will bring new light to the congregation of Peace, as well as to “let them know that our congregation’s heart has been with theirs all along.”
Broken pieces from far-flung places
The youths presented the cross to members of Peace Nov. 27 during Sunday morning worship. It was the first day of Advent.
“There are not many words to express what happened at the unveiling,” says Kimberly, who accompanied the youth group members for worship. As they removed the table cloth covering the cross, which stood at the altar, “there was a gasp, then silence and tears.”
The unveiling took place before Katharine Redpath, pastor of Peace, preached the sermon. Since the tornado, members of Peace have been worshiping at a Presbyterian church in Joplin.
“Advent is about waiting for the promised Messiah, the One who will make all things new, the One who will pick up the pieces of our brokenness and put them back together into something amazing and beautiful and whole,” preached Katharine.
“We limp through life with broken relationships and broken dreams and broken promises, but God is able to gather up all those broken pieces. And, in spite of their sharp edges and their unmatched sizes and their far-flung hiding places, God creates something whole and new.
“And what they have to give you now is something amazing, something beautiful and something whole — something that came from the brokenness they saw,” Katharine told members of Peace. “It’s a tangible demonstration of how God works to bring comfort and hope and meaning into our brokenness and our loss.”
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