Ruthie and I have driven east-to-west and west-to-east across North America more than once, but being pretty much westerners (in the US) by heritage we had never ventured very deep into the eastern provinces of Canada.
So several years ago when we received an invitation to speak for a conference in Newfoundland and Labrador (though they are separate entities they comprise one province) we were happy to accept knowing we would also be able to explore some parts of this great continent we had never visited before. Since we were living on the east coast at the time we decided to drive. Long trip.
And we discovered that you can’t drive to Newfoundland. True, you can go by car, but the car must go by ferry the last seven hours. So why don’t they build a bridge? Well, they’ve talked about it for the last half century but with the winter storms and icebergs and all that Canadian winter stuff the wisest plan seemed to be to build a rail tunnel under the bay. The arguments in favor said the project had the potential to be a “nation-building project” that could “truly change the landscape and unify our country.” The downside is that it would cost C$1.65 billion and take 15 years to build.
But historically a bridge changes everything. Imagine the heart of California without the Golden Gate. Imagine New York City without the Brooklyn Bridge; the Florida Keys without the Seven Mile Bridge. And a score of others. We also learned something about the Confederation Bridge as we drove the eight miles from the Canadian mainland to Prince Edward Island, the smallest and most densely populated of the ten provinces in Canada. Strangely, PEI, as it is called, is also a mecca of tourism and now produces 25% of all the potatoes eaten in the entire nation of Canada. But it wouldn’t have happened without the bridge.
The Confederation Bridge was completed in 1996 and the very next year tourism visits to PEI increased more than 50%, from 740,000 to 1,200,000. They have subsequently stabilized at more than a million annually.
As I re-thought that trip it made me think about churches and bridges. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a 50% increase in visitors at your church next year? What could make your church easier to find? What could make it more inviting? More attractive? More appealing? Would it be renewed landscaping, softer pews? Not likely.
Then what’s your church’s bridge? Caring people? Spirit-filled preaching? Hope? People obviously on a joyous journey? Earnest praying that opens the heavens? A place to discover how to touch the heart of God. A sense that He is leaning down to listen? Discovery of the power to break addictions, restore families, find forgiveness? What is it about your local church that opens a warm pathway from the community to your front door? Why would people come to your church? What’s your bridge?
A haven for the battered? A place of healing for the broken? A place of welcome for the marginalized? A place of help for the struggling? What’s your bridge?
A bridge changes everything.
By Don Jacobsen