Eleven years ago, I had no idea that Motown Mission would become what it is today.
In 2005, I brought a group of middle school students from Birmingham First United Methodist Church to Detroit for a week of service. Sometimes I wonder what keeps volunteers, summer staff, and even me coming back each year.
It must be something about this place and these people. The Motor City continues to call and form young people in missional living. Whether families who've lived in neighborhoods for generations, or youth visiting for the first time - there's something that grabs each of us. One of my favorite stories from the early years was a young woman who left before the end of the week to go take the Pre-SATs. By the time we reached the worksite that Saturday morning I got a call from her. She was sitting in the parking lot of the testing location realizing (through a conversation with her mom) that her time in Detroit seemed more important than any scantron sheet. "Can I come back?" she asked. "YES!" was the answer.
From project partners to homeowners, stories of people in Detroit engage visitors deeply. The narratives of hope amid struggle, of ongoing artistic expressions and cultural gems here, the new adventures being birthed. They all keep us coming back.
This year we are asking - "How can we invite people into the rootedness of this place? How can we help them see Detroit's identity as an incubator of hope and strength?" After 11 years and $2 million worth of contributions and time - how is our presence here becoming a part of the resiliency of Motown?
Some of our past participants have had some ideas about that. Sara was here earlier in 2015 and she wrote about her experiences for a class. Hopefully you've got some reflections of your own. Share something with us, ask us some more questions. And above all know that the grace and justice we know from Jesus is alive and well here in Hopetown - Detroit, MI.
Carl Gladstone is a deacon who founded Motown Mission in 2005, when he was a youth pastor at Birmingham First United Methodist Church. Gladstone is a graduate of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary and Albion College. Gladstone's other claim to fame is his childhood appearance on "America's Funniest People."