The other day I was blessed to have the opportunity to visit the Detroit Historical Museum. That visit, along with the fact that the city just celebrated the 315th anniversary of its founding has gotten me thinking about all of the people who have come to Detroit throughout the centuries, and how myself and all the others that I have had the privilege to work with this summer are part of that story. From the beginning explorers setting up a strategic fort along the détroit (“the strait” in French) to pioneers and fur-traders looking to make new lives for themselves to former slaves seeking freedom in Canada to the thousands that migrated to find work in the automobile industry to the numerous immigrant groups that have made Detroit their home in recent years, we have all come here with our own expectations of what our journey in this city would look like.
However, one thing that my summer in Detroit has taught me is that God has a way of challenging your expectations and helping you grow in ways that you may not have even realized were places in which you needed to be stretched. As one of my favorite passages of Scripture tells us, there is a time for everything, and I certainly thought that I knew what purpose my time in Detroit was supposed to serve. Nevertheless, God had other plans, His plan, and I must say that I am glad that some of my expectations went unmet this summer. Well, unmet in the way that I was expecting them, at least, but let me explain.
Coming to Detroit, this was the first experience that I was going to have working for a missional organization, which I saw as the perfect opportunity to work on discerning what I’m supposed to be doing for the rest of my life (how’s that for great expectations?). I also believed that I would leave an expert on the city of Detroit, having seen all the sights and experienced all it had to offer. Finally, I was planning on providing every single volunteer that came to Motown Mission with a flawless and deeply spiritual mission experience here in the city.
Needless to say, not one of these expectations has been fulfilled in the way that I was hoping. Instead, God has used my time in the city of Detroit to accomplish far more than those few things that I had dreamt up. First of all, instead of simply discerning what my next major steps in life are, God helped me to learn how to trust in Him more and be patient for His plan to come into fruition. Especially in times of trial (like that three-hour traffic jam), I was able to lean on His grace and focus on how to best stay in a mindset that would be pleasing to Him. This allowed me to do likewise in terms of being patient with not knowing what my whole life’s plan is. I know that if I stay focused on how to best serve God where I am and with what I currently have, He will provide in due time exactly what I need.
And sometimes what I needed this summer were moments where everything wasn’t perfect (I like to refer to them as hiccups) when I was reminded that God still works through our messiness and mishap. I did hit wrong notes while playing piano during worship, and I did forget to put out the cream cheese for the bagels in the morning (a couple of times), but in the end God still worked through my hiccups and the Holy Spirit was still alive and active at Motown Mission.
Working through the brokenness of this world is also something that God does in many beautiful ways in this city. I will leave in just a couple short weeks by no means an expert on Detroit, and not for lack of trying. The city simply has so much to give that three months is not long enough to experience it all. Music, art, parks, restaurants, historical sights—Detroit has them all in such abundance. More importantly, Detroit has a spirit that is unique, complex, and inspiring. It has communities and residents that refuse to give up on their city and on God. They are caring, resilient, and creative, and will gladly share their city and their stories with you.
So I will leave Detroit not an expert, not with a decided career, and not having done a perfect job, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. God has given me so many blessings this summer and I am extremely grateful that Detroit, Motown Mission, and all of our volunteers were a part of my journey. I may have had great expectations coming to this city, but God made it so that I had a phenomenal experience in the end (not a bad upgrade, huh?).
Alyson is an upcoming junior at Albion College studying Music and International Studies.