By Jacob Steele

Last week, on April 25th, I beheld something earth-shattering right in our own backyard. Wednesday marked the day that The House of the Carpenter conducted a ceremonial groundbreaking for a new youth center that will not only further its current mission but also afford the space for new ministries that will invariably alter the landscape of Wheeling Island and surrounding parts of the Ohio Valley.

For those who weren’t there, it was fascinating to watch the flow of movement that afternoon: Vehicles crept up the roadways like ants marching as drivers searched for parking places; curious onlookers sauntered up the sidewalk, joining a growing wave of humanity that quickly flooded the South Front St. parking lot—a welcome reprieve from the swelling floodwaters that threatened months earlier.

Nearby, the brisk current of the Ohio River served as a moving walkway for a stray boat or two that was bound to behold another strong current that almost drown me and the others who were there:  A sea of students from Madison Elementary—perhaps the entire student body with teachers in tow—weaved their way down the street, under the canvas tent and into the rows of seats reserved specifically for them.

Northern District DS, Martha Ognibene greets the children arriving for the groundbreaking.

Children from Madison Elementary walked to House of Carpenter for the groundbreaking ceremony.

Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball and Jake Steele









As they poured into their seats among community officials, church leaders, state dignitaries and news cameras, the children’s gleaming eyes, giddy expressions and the pep in their steps churned a tidal wave of emotion near the river’s edge that no sandbag or levee could contain.  A shift in the weather prompted folks who once feared rain to tuck their umbrellas under their arms. All the while, one could also sense a change in the climate: laughter was heard in a place that’s suffered so much loss; a buzz of activity was seen among buildings that have been abandoned; a community rallied together on an island that fights isolation; for a change, the House won…and it wasn’t a casino.


Once the preliminaries were over, our bishop offered a prayer of consecration and shovels were handed to members of Madison’s student council. On cue, those kids collectively dug in…and when those shovels broke ground, something else broke loose:  hope, happiness, promise, potential…a place prepared…for them!  For all intents and purposes, the mound of dirt they moved might as well have been a mountain. Faith, hope, and love have a way of doing that.

They’re groundbreaking, earth-shattering forces.

Call me crazy. Maybe it was the thunderous applause, but when the hands of a future generation broke ground together, I think…no…I know I felt the gates of hell shake and the kingdom of God expand.