Lesson 1 - Beauty out of Brokenness

Beauty out of Brokenness

Love What’s In Front of You

The personal lives of John and Ashley Marsh were in some ways a reflection of their place: their drug addiction, financial ruin, and relational decay mirrored the dereliction of Opelika, Alabama, where once vibrant streets gave way to vacancy and shuttered storefronts. Could these places—the Marsh’s marriage and this rural town—be made to live again?

Christians worship a God “who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist” (Romans 4:17). Slowly, this God of the impossible began to work his redemption in John and Ashley but also through them. As their relationship to each other grew healthier, the Marshes came to a critical realization about their relationship to their place: “We decided we wanted to be right here.” 

Rather than fleeing from their marriage, the Marshes stayed; and rather than fleeing from Opelika, the Marshes stayed. Biblical neighboring means loving what’s in front of you, wherever you find yourself, and Marsh Collective was formed to create community “in the truest sense,” as John and Ashley put it. Through their construction and real estate company, the Marshes have helped to revitalize Opelika by repairing dilapidated buildings, yes, but more profoundly by casting a hopeful vision for Opelika (and other towns like it) not just in the present, but also for the future.

That’s why it’s so vital for Christians to love their places, because it is in our places that we encounter our neighbors. Marsh Collective offers a helpful model for thinking about the state of our places: long-term, patient investing with properly aligned capital. Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote that “the ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children.” By doing business God’s way, the Marsh Collective is leaving a better Opelika for generations to come. 


  • “There’s hope for people who are broken,” says John. “There’s beauty in broken things.” Where do you see brokenness in the places you inhabit—your home, your workplace, your neighborhood? Where is there an opportunity for God to bring beauty out of this brokenness?

  • God worked redemption in the Marshes’ marriage and in Opelika, in part, because John and Ashley resolved to stay in the places God had put them. Where in your life might God be calling you to stay and see what he will do, even if it’s a difficult place?

  • Marsh Collective helped to revitalize Opelika not through church programs or some other overtly “spiritual” initiative but through a construction business organized according to the values of the Kingdom of God. In what ways can you use your work to invest in your community and participate in God’s ongoing redemption of our places?

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This course is provided in partnership with Faith and Co.