Luke Marshburn

Luke Marshburn

Owning a building requires dedication. Locks jam, roofs leak, lights burn out, air conditioners break, with chairs to polish, floors to mop, fire extinguishers to get inspected; the cycle of maintenance never stops.

I'm not the building manager of Homestead Mennonite Church, but I'm in a position to know most, if not all, of the maintenance struggles required by our building. As such, it was no surprise to me when I entered the building to bookkeep and was assaulted by the smell of death. Decaying rats, a musk that never seems to settle, it lingers in the nose and gut to the point of distraction.

Yes, HMC had rats.

Grey rat isolate

It happens. I wrote a check for the exterminator, both grateful and perturbed. If left unchecked, that dead-rat smell could linger for weeks. In a large building like HMC's, with its attics, air conditioning ducts, and obscure nooks and crannies, it seemed unlikely that anyone would be able to scour the building to rid us of the stench. I prepared for the worst, knowing I’d have to endure this smell for weeks to come.

It shocked me, then, when a few days later, the smell had vanished. It turns out one of HMC's renter groups, another congregation that meets in our building, had taken it upon themselves to scour the building and rescue all from the stench. I could bookkeep in peace, nose clear and clean.

I believe HMC and its renters have a good working relationship. HMC tries to be reasonable about rent; to be respectful of the other groups' time and to accommodate changing needs; and when a congregant hears of a renter's concern, they work to make sure it gets to the right parties so the concern can be ad dressed. The rental groups in turn are respectful to the times of others, keep their messes to a minimum or tidy up after themselves so others don't have to work around them, and are patient when issues arise.

But it's the moments like this—when a group goes out of their way to clean up rats, or offers to paint the rooms, or notices a leaky faucet and fixes it—that leave me feeling truly inspired. At these times, it feels like I’m seeing Galatians 3:28 in action: "There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (NIV).

Now, there's a lot of room for interpretation in this verse, and I'm not saying that HMC and the groups that meet in our building don't have an owner-tenant relationship. I'm not saying that this verse means racial differences don't exist or that we should ignore economic and social disparities; rather, I believe it means that people shouldn't be treated with more or less respect or love based on their ethnicity, heritage, social status, employment relations, etc. In the body of Christ, we want what's best for each other, we work for the edification of each other, and we don't forget to shoulder each other's burdens. HMC and its renters may have an owner-tenant relationship, but above and beyond that, we are the body of Christ. We work to hold each other up in whatever storm comes. Whether that means giving a group some extra time in the building or cleaning up dead rats, we do what we can when we are able, bringing glory to God through our kindness.

I know I appreciate it personally, but I’m glad also for its witness. May we all aspire to such levels of love where we can pull rats out of attics and bring relief to our family.

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