Nehemiah was compelled to go to Jerusalem and rebuild the walls of his ancestor’s city, knowing the disobedience of his people who were living under the long shadow of shame and disgrace. As we have worked for change in Lalor Park for almost 12 years, there is a strong sense that the fruit of our mission can be defined as a restoration project; rebuilding bridges where there were once only barriers and rebuilding lives through the love and grace of Jesus.

In the last month we have seen significant transformation for those living in the deserted ruins of their own homes, through the struggle of trauma, mental health and self-loathing. For many people, trauma can metastasise through living in squalor. For one family in particular, the trauma was so deep that their living conditions were beyond conceivable.

Sometimes it takes a long series of events for a person to be ready to accept responsibility, and be prepared to allow help and kindness be the antidote to self-hatred. So, to advocate on behalf of this family with Social Housing (FACS), and to be offered a home for this family, all in the space of one week, was in and of itself a miracle. The FACS worker even said it was a miracle, because this property had become available in such a narrow window, and it was right where the family wanted to be.

Cleaning up the existing derelict property was the wonderful and confronting opportunity for our Church to roll up our sleeves, and work alongside the family. It was about getting the job done, and leaving the trauma there; breaking the cycle of poverty that held them captive to living in a place of worthlessness and neglect.

And the transformation? I write this with my tears, because I have literally witnessed a family’s life dramatically altered. I’ve heard it described that the Jubilee year (Lev 25) was like a circuit breaker. A once in a lifetime moment to ‘start again’. To be given a second chance, and to know something of the gift and redemption of God.

This was a Jubilee moment for this family. To see them go from complete despair and a hopeless situation, to a restoring of home.

I wonder if we could dare to be re-builders of broken lives and broken communities. Would we dare put ourselves in proximity with those who have no ability to see themselves as the Beloved, made in the image of their Creator. Would we be known, not by our pious religion, but by the love of Christ in flesh.

“… this is the kind of fasting I want:
Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people.
 Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless.
Give clothes to those who need them,
    and do not hide from neighbours who need your help.”
 (Is 58:6-7)

Nathan Marshall 
Commongroundz Community Café