“Look Mr. Don! No Glory!” Alper was excited to point out the Gypsy neighborhood we were to visit, and to demonstrate that he was learning to recognize the glory – or in this case the absence of the glory of God. Banja is a tired little huddle of shanties resting in a sea of dirt, lapped about by whitecaps of shopping bags, plastic bottles, and candy wrappers. We’d come to spend Jesus-time with the young Gypsies who called Banja their home, twenty or so teenagers who soon filled the room with flashy-white smiles of rhythmic praise and haunting melodies of joy.
My topic for the evening was the Kingdom. (I suppose that’s no shocker for those of you who know me!) “Let’s dream for a bit about what Banja would look like if it was the perfect place to live,” I invited.
“No More Trash!” volunteered the first one.
“Other students would stop hating us for being Gypsies,” offered another.
“People would help each other!”
“People would LOVE each other!”
“No more mud!”
“No more criminals… no more police!”
One after another they spilled what was in their hearts, an innate dream of the Kingdom hardwired into each of us by the King himself.
I told a story about a King who’s people were afraid of him, and so he disguised himself as a homeless man and moved into the town dump. I think my new friends liked the king. And I’m pretty sure if Jesus were anywhere near Banja, Bulgaria, he would have been hanging out with this little gang, who reminded me so much of first century fishermen.
Sometimes God’s glory is in the landscape, and sometimes it’s in the faces of His people. If these young Gypsies would let the glory in their hearts spill out to the muddy landscape around them, Banja would be a city on a hill.