The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


A ministry metaphor

In this community, building walls had a way of breaking them down

A Mennonite church in Pennsylvania was nudged into a project by studying Nehemiah, who brought his community together to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem. Ben Miller, a pastor of Kaufman Mennonite Church, Davidsville, did much the same — and he invited local Lutherans to join him.

Miller wanted to do a project off the church property and, fittingly, discovered a wall-building effort through Mennonite Disaster Service. Wanting to involve other community churches, he called Greg Van Dyke, a pastor of St. David Evangelical Lutheran Church. "We embraced it immediately," Van Dyke said.

They named their project the Davidsville Nehemiah Project, leaving off any reference to denominations.

The result was indeed walls — walls that would become a home for a 10-member family near Bastrop, Texas, that lost their house to wildfires more than a year ago.

The walls were constructed on an empty lot in the center of Davidsville two Saturdays in August, creating quite a community buzz. "Our community is close anyway," Van Dyke said, "but the piece that hooked everybody, the goal, was to lift up Christ. Not the Lutheran or Mennonite churches, but to lift up Christ and give an opportunity to people to be part of something bigger than themselves."

Van Dyke called the project "insight into what kingdom will ultimately be."

Davidsville, population 1,130, has been torn apart by a mining issue — a family that owns a good deal of land wanted to strip-mine it. But during the wall project, "people on both sides of the issue were hammering nails together," Van Dyke said. The township commissioner who voted against the mining worked next to the man who would have profited from it. Neighborhood yards that held mining-related signs also held "Nehemiah Builds Community" signs.

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