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GOSHEN -- When Dale Shenk picks up a damaged guitar, he sees more than a broken tailpiece or damaged fingerboard.
He sees potential.
Shenk, who teaches Bible, church history and woodworking at Bethany Christian School, has enjoyed restoring old, damaged and broken string instruments for some time.
His hobby started when he began wondering what it would take to make a guitar. He would take a few wooden boards and piece them together, creating a guitar that not only looked great but also played, he said.
That prompted him to start buying broken guitars at online auction site eBay, restoring them and selling them for charity. A $12 guitar, plus $12 in shipping and handling charges, plus 25 hours of his time, and the first guitar went at a charity auction for $50, he said.
On one of his recent walks, Shenk found a broken violin case lying on the street. It looked as if a car had run over it, damaging the case and its contents. Inside, Shenk found a bow, a chin place, and a violin broken into seven to 10 pieces.
After Shenk finished restoring the violin, most signs of damage had disappeared.
Shenk began teaching woodworking to Bethany Christian students two years ago in addition to teaching Bible and church history. He's been a teacher there for 13 years.
The restoration of musical instruments is not just a fun hobby, but a metaphor for what God can accomplish in his people, he said.
Shenk tries to fix instruments so that they can continue to fulfill the mission for which they were created. Broken, out-of-tune string instruments are like God's people, according to Shenk. God finds them, fixes their damage, and sends them onto a mission of their own.
Every person has a gift and talent given by God, Shenk said.
"We're called to find out what they are and use them," he said.
It also means that not everyone is a violin, metaphorically speaking. Different instruments play different sounds and serve a different role in an orchestra or a band.
Speaking recently at the school chapel about his musical hobby, Shenk told the students about this metaphor.
"I believe that when God looks at us, God does not really look at our weaknesses and faults. Rather, God sees our potential and possibilities," he said. "Old and broken guitars when given care can come alive again, just like people who have failed or been wounded."
Contact Aleks Tapinsh at firstname.lastname@example.org.