This past week I had the privilege of working with two hard working teams here at Motown Mission. One was from Memorial UMC which is located in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (an eight hour drive to Detroit), and the other was Warren UMC ( 20 minutes away from Detroit). Our worksite was the Michigan Urban Farming Initiative, a small farming movement started up by some college students here in Detroit.
Our tasks were far from fabulous, sometimes we would weed for hours, other times we would be picking up rocks and trash around the site. It was hard for the students who were volunteering on the worksite, whose ages ranged from 12 to 16, to fully grasp how their work was doing anything substantial. I found it hard to explain to them how every little thing that they were doing was pushing the city of Detroit in the right direction.
On Tuesday of that week, I had a great discussion with one of the leaders of the Memorial group, Elizabeth Hill, who was the pastor of their church. She was a native Detroiter and helped me better understand the work we were doing. She said that when she was young, she saw young people from the National Guard come into the city, and whenever she and her family saw these people, it gave them so much hope. Detroit wasn’t being abandoned, and there were people interested in making the city a better place. Having volunteers coming into the city instills hope in the people, it reaffirms the fact that Detroit is not dead, but that every rock we pick up, every weed we pull from a side walk crack, and every shard of glass we collect, is an action confirming that the city in fact lives.
It lives because the people that live here have hope that things are constantly getting better. It lives because volunteers are willing to come here to make a difference and be part of the city’s transformation. It lives because we are willing to step out of our comfort zone and do the small and large tasks that improve the city of Detroit’s image.
The city of Detroit will not change overnight, but the work we are doing constantly makes things better. And that is the point of our mission this summer and for every summer until Detroit is the place we want it to be: a beacon of hope for those in the city and the world.