The beauty of the resurrection is that death is not the end of the story – but leads to ultimate life. Similarly, we often see how there are signs of God’s redemptive life coming out of painful circumstances and broken realities in our world. In this season of Eastertide, we want to feature The Boston Project Ministries, which “engages and equips neighbors, volunteers, and churches to build strong communities characterized by God’s shalom.” Below, Paul Malkemes shares how they worked with residents of the community to create a mural symbolizing hope after the heartbreaking loss of a young man in the neighborhood.
“We have learned that healing as a community is often rooted in relationships.”– Paul Malkemes
Our community has experienced some real heartache this year. Maybe you have to?
Early in 2021, we lost a young man to violence. He was deeply loved by his family, school, and community. He was an artist, a comic and video game enthusiast, a promising student, and a beloved son. An outdoor memorial and healing service brought together over 100 young people to grieve. Unexpected loss can sometimes be the hardest to recover from.
Then in the spring, retaliatory violence shook our community again. Trauma reawakened. Parents kept their children inside; neighbors wanted to move. What was happening?
Neighbors began to ask: How do we heal as a community? How do we find hope?
Our sense of safety had been shattered. The COVID-19 pandemic layered health concerns, loneliness, economic hardship, and learning loss on top of this tragedy. We have learned that healing as a community is often rooted in relationships. “Knowing and being able to talk to my neighbors helps me get through,” shares one resident.
So we began planning monthly events – a book fair, a vaccination clinic, building raised bed gardens, and having cookouts. But we wondered – could we have a more permanent reminder of our healing-hope journey? One youth expressed it this way, “Hope is like looking for the light at the end of the tunnel.” The idea for a mural was born.
The vision was cast for a mural that would both memorialize the loss of our beloved young person, and speak to the eternal message of hope found in Jesus – even as we face challenges in our individual lives and within our collective community.
Summer arrived and the time to create began. The process of building the mural was a sacred act of hope. “It was a beautiful experience, and I felt really honored to be part of this healing and catharsis for the community, and my friend,” expressed one youth. Another teen shared, “For me, it was an impact to see a memory coming to life. Watching adults, kids, and teens grieving together. At the same time, it gave people life. It was very beautiful – to some people, it was remembering our friend, for others, it was seeing hope for our community.”
Muralist Alex Cook reflects “It is powerful to have a human figure (in the mural) enveloped in hope. It is about our identity, our inner experience, and our struggles. It is intimate. It makes you think about your own relationship to hope. The butterflies represent our letting go and the healing process. You don’t keep a butterfly, but you let it rise.”
As we were completing the mural, a neighbor walked up and said to us, “that person in the mural, it’s Jesus right? It has to be Jesus.” We believe Jesus is the one who restores and embodies HOPE. In the words of Pastor Valerie Copeland, “Art has a way of pointing our hearts toward God.”
We put our hope in the Lord. He is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord, for our hope, is in you alone.Psalm 33:20-22