Bridge Builders

The Brooklyn Bridge is an iconic example of human engineering. It was the longest suspension bridge in the world at its completion and was even dubbed the “eighth wonder of the world.” The 1,600 foot bridge connects the communities of Manhattan and Brooklyn with its stately granite towers and steel cables.

When Laurie and I stayed in Midtown for our tenth anniversary, we took the subway to Brooklyn and walked back to Manhattan on the pedestrian lane of the Brooklyn Bridge. It was incredible to walk across a piece of history.

As we continue to see God plant a cross-cultural church here in Orangeburg, I have visualized our work as that of bridge builders. We are connecting people to God through Jesus Christ, and to one another despite social, racial, and economic differences. The river of division is great, the waves and dangers real, and the risk of failure palpable. Yet, the vision of creating safe passage for Christian unity is inspiring and God-breathed.

I remember reading about the dangerous construction of the Brooklyn Bridge and the fact that dozens of workers actually died in the process. Workers known as “sandhogs” used shovels and dynamite to clear away the mud and boulders at the bottom of the East River. This all had to take place under water in specially built, water-tight structures. These work conditions were not only extremely uncomfortable, but it gave men blinding headaches, itchy skin, bloody noses, and slowed heartbeats. And as they rose back to the surface, the intense change in pressure could prove deadly.

Not to mention the unexpected explosions and collapses.

Bridge building means giving up your right to sit safely on one side or the other. It means risking being misunderstood by both sides and having your reputation questioned. Bridge building means you never get to fully rest in either community, which creates isolation and suspicion. In racialized terms, it means being called a Social Justice Warrior or an Uncle Tom or a Colonizer or a Sell Out.

For some, it has meant giving their lives.

Being a Bridge Builder is dangerous, and it may mean living in the tension of Now and Not Yet forever. But isn’t that the tension of every Christian life? Isn’t that what Jesus did for us when he stretched out his body between heaven and earth to bridge fallen humanity to our gracious Father?

In cross-cultural church planting, I have seen brave men and women devote themselves to working on the bridge. And it is something for which I am eternally grateful.

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