Short video news piece on one of Detroit's historic apartheid walls. Some screen time for our friend Rev. Faith Fowler and a good introduction to some of Detroit's troubled past in terms of race and ethnicity.
We just loved this quote from our gold medal winning Fordham: Rose Hill Team!
The whole Fordham team fell in love with Motown Mission, everyone we met, and the beautiful city of Detroit. The whole experience felt blessed from the start, and it only continued being charmed from that point on.
Great article about McKendree University's spring break trip to Motown Mission! Here's part of what Breann T. had to say:
“Having never been there before, I obviously heard the stereotypes but I didn't want to judge the city based on stereotypes,” she said. “When I went there, it was in worse condition than I thought it would be. But at the same time the people there are much nicer than the way they're stereotyped. I learned that there are still people in that city. There are still human lives and those lives need to be treasured just like you and I.”
Check out the full article HERE.
Is It Safe?
From time to time stories arise in the news that make some of our Motown Mission participants ask, "Why would we go to a place like that?" Recently one of those articles showed up again on Forbes.com and we've received some questions about Detroit being the "most dangerous city in America."
Our first response is always this: we would not be inviting groups to Detroit for mission and service experiences if we thought it was unsafe. This includes volunteer time spent at both our accommodation and project sites.
Our second response is always this: in our 9 years of Motown Mission trips we have not had any incident of crime, serious accident, or natural disaster that has negatively affected any volunteer team. And for this we always say prayers of thanksgiving!
Our next responses always circle back around to our biblical understanding of mission, justice, and shalom - what are the scriptural understandings of safety and security and calling that we rely on in this work? For us, we are here specifically because of the struggles Detroit faces. We are here to be a part of communities reconstructed, neighbors lifted up, and an alternative peace-filled reality exemplified in the name of Jesus Christ.
And those are the things that give us a deeper safety while welcoming friends to this city - by knowing our neighbors, and by neighbors knowing that we are there for the good of this place we are welcomed and protected by them. By working with well respected partners in these communities we are grafted into the conspiracy of goodness that is already happening here.
More than the 24-hour security personell at our homebase church, more than the on-site staff from partner organizations at worksites, more than any locks or gates we can hide behind - it is the relationships that we foster that bring the love of Christ and true safety to us and to the people of Detroit.
We hope that along with the stories about Detroit's struggles, folks will also check out the following to get a well-rounded understanding of this place we call home! Thanks for the questions and for your willingness to join us in these efforts.
Some OTHER Forbes Articles, And More
Detroit SOUP (Because Amy Kaherl is a friend of ours!)
So last year, on those weeks when the Tigers weren't in town, we brought Motown Mission teams to a "Hack Night at OmniCorpDetroit." It was great and fun and awesome...but we realized that that doesn't do much to explain what a hack night with OCD is. So we thought we'd tell you about it here!
OmniCorpDetroit (omnicorpdetroit.com) is a hacker/maker space located in an old vegetable storage warehouse in Eastern Market, Detroit. They describe themselves as, "an intense group of designers, artists, engineers, musicians, thinkers, do-ers and makers that get together to build new things as well as share and collaborate within the Detroit community." And we thought that sounded like a fun group to hang out with.
So, during a Hack Night at OCD, Motown Mission teams come in to the maker space, meet some of the OCD members, and are invited to try out any number of project stations set up for the evening. These stations are designed to teach participants how to make something, hack something, or just have fun. They've included:
- Business Card Synthesizers
- Laser Etching
- Bicycle Repair Techniques
- Lock-Sport! (unlocking puzzles that look a lot like padlocks)
- and of course, Potato Launchers!
Throughout the night there is music, projects, and the very special FAYGO FLOATS treat, a real Detroit original.
So, this year we hope you'll get a chance to try out a Hack Night with OmniCorpDetroit with us at Motown Mission! If interested, just note that on your Group Info form and be prepared for some maker fun!
What a great day we had on Saturday with the Hands4Detroit volunteer day! Liz led a great project with 60+ volunteers and now the Marston Garden is ready to go for the Spring! Check out the photos below and be sure to join us for our next event, the Noël Night Service Day on Saturday, December 1st.
We are excited for the upcoming Hands4Detroit event on October 6! And in preparation for the garden Motown Mission will be building on the Metro UMC Marston Street property - Liz Lanni has been getting to know Mrs. Delores Bennett. Mrs. Bennett is a fixture in the North End Neighborhood and helps maintain playgrounds, gardens, and more for the residents. We want to thank her and her team for welcoming this project and being eager to partner with Metropolitan church to make the garden a success and an asset for the children of the neighborhood!
Groups who sign up for weekend Motown Mission trips this year will have some opportunity to keep this garden up, build some more beds, and work side by side with Metro UMC neighbors. So join us!
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Motown Mission Sets Eight-Year Record
DETROIT, Michigan (August 13, 2012) - In its eighth year as a Christian mission trip destination the Motown Mission Experience has completed its largest service season to date. Between March and August Motown Mission hosted almost 600 participants from 35 churches around the country - a 200 person increase from 2011. Motown Mission, a program of the United Methodist Young Leaders Initiative located in the Detroit Renaissance District, has now contributed over $842,000 in volunteer time and project materials to neighborhoods and ministries across Detroit.
Begun in 2005 as a one week trip for Middle School students from Birmingham First UMC, the Motown Mission Experience has grown into a premier mission destination for United Methodist youth and others. While in Detroit, teams are housed at Metropolitan UMC and work with ministry partners around the city like the Joy-Southfield Community Development Corporation and the NOAH Project. Work projects include home repairs, green deconstruction of vacant buildings, tree planting and urban gardening, feeding work, and helping lead the Metro Kidz Day Camp at Metropolitan UMC.
This year 10 youth groups from Michigan Area churches participated in service weeks along with 11 other UMC groups from as far away as the Dakotas Conference. Fourteen other groups from various Christian churches helped fill out the Summer during which Motown Mission hosted its largest single week ever with 130 participants in mid-July. Plus, another 16 church groups donated and served meals to the Motown participants throughout the season.
Each afternoon Motown work teams were encouraged to explore the City of Detroit through excursions to Belle Isle, the Detroit Institute of Arts, La Gloria Bakery and more. Each evening Motown Mission staff led sessions about the history of Detroit and devotions to help participants connect their hands-on work to our scriptural calling to partner with the poor. Once each week all participants were treated to a Detroit Tigers baseball game or other fun cultural event.
With a grant from the United Methodist Union of Greater Detroit and a Crowdrise.com project that raised over $5,000 the Motown Mission Experience was also able to hire 12 interns to serve as coordinators for this ministry. These college students from around Michigan and beyond led projects, hospitality, and devotional programs during the Summer. They also lived together in an intentional Christian community house in the North End neighborhood of Detroit, and spent Friday afternoons meeting with ministry leaders in order to discern God's call in their lives.
In 2013 Motown Mission will be expanding both its Spring Break and Weekend Mission Trip offerings in order to welcome even more students to Detroit for "economic disaster recovery work in the love of Jesus Christ." For more information about Motown Mission please visit www.motownmission.org
Carl Gladstone, Motown Mission Director
Not many people take the opportunity to stop and smell the roses. Particularly, when you are the gardener sometimes gardening tends to become more of a job then anything else. The same goes for residents of a city sometimes. People become so busy going about their daily lives (chores) that they don’t get an opportunity to stop and enjoy their surroundings. As a resident of Detroit, someone who was born and raised in the city, I have seen more of Detroit in the past two months then I have in probably the last five years and it amazes me how little I know about the city that I’ve grown up in. I knew more about the Metro-area suburbs then I did about this city I’ve called home.
These past eight weeks have been just an eye opening experience for me. I’ve learned so much. The pride I have for my city has grown by leaps and bounds of the Superman variety. Each day for me, whether I was working on a project site with a group or going on an “excursion” with my fellow interns has been filled with new experiences and discoveries as well as the development of new relationships. Sure, there have been some difficult days, and I’ve had to do the particularly difficult job of balancing work and play. There have also been days that I’ve said to myself, “What we’re doing is not enough, we can do more,”. But I have to remind myself daily there is only so much that one person, one group, one small start-up organization can do and that change takes time. And I’m not using this as an excuse to do as little as possible. What I’m saying is that we’ve got to have patience. We’ve got to know that as an individual at times our impact may seem insignificant, but the little that we do in a particular moment, allows us (or someone else) to come back later and do more work thus facilitating a larger impact.
It’s truly inspirational when your boarding a house or cutting down an overgrown empty lot and an entire family (mother, father, children, etc) immediately comes outside to help and pledges to keep that space from becoming decrepit again. There have been multiple times that, no sooner then we have finished our work, younger children run outside because they are finally able to ride their bikes now that mom and dad can see down the street.
The work that is getting done at Motown Mission is just awesome. Not only does Motown Mission help heal a wounded community, it does so in a way that enables young people to learn life lessons and develop skills valuable to the workforce.
- Ephraim Tolbert
The scene surrounding Metropolitan United Methodist Church is usually a quiet one. Set smack dab on Woodward cars whizzing by is the typical sound. Until one Thursday night a circle of people enclosing hands sparks the attention of passers by. A group of suburban kids gather next to a garden across from the church in a dangerous alley. In the midst of prayers flying up about growing food and the safety of children a man pulls himself closer to his first floor window and listens to the prayers. As the group finishes praying the man thanks them and says he will take the garden as his own. He sees the revival of Detroit happening from his own window. He is ready to take the plunge into renewal, just like the kids whose safe homes are only 30 minutes away in the suburb.
We were fortunate enough to host a team from Under 1 Ministries in Canton from Connection Church one week. They were given directions and information about the city one night to drive around and cover they city in prayer. The scenes were incredible. As we drove past the Detroit Police department there was a circle of kids praying for prisoners, police officers, safety and millions of other prayer requests. In the front of a Detroit high school suburban high schoolers pray for the safety and passion of other high schoolers. A feeling of community with Detroit and with the Lord ensues through traveling around the city and lifting it up in prayer. It was an incredible feeling and experience for the group.
It is a small picture of the power of prayer and the delight of serving in a place so close to your home. Big things are happening in Detroit and with prayer and the Lord we can be a part of the revival.
Posted by: Amanda on 7/24/2011
Who gets up in time to be at church at 5:30 am on a Sunday morning? A mission team who is TOTALLY EXCITED to be headed to Detroit! Oh, and Pastor Dan! Loved ones and friends gathered to send us on our way this morning and helped us creatively packed the belongings, tools and snacks for five people into a mini-van. The trip was fast, safe and delightful and we managed to arrive in time to "check-in" to our rooms at the Metropolitan United Methodist Church AND visit the Detroit Historical Museum before dinner. Don't get us wrong - we're roughing it - floors and air mattresses, locker room showers, etc. But, the building is exquisite and the city has already captured our hearts.
The theme for Motown Mission 2011 is "Revived." Our exploration of the Detroit Historical Museum emphasized the theme for us as we learned more about the regional roots of the city. This year, Detroit is celebrating its 310th birthday. Began in 1701 by a French immigrant named Cadillac, Detroit quickly became known as a city where immigrants could own a piece of land for "ribbon farming" (each piece of land held waterfront property and was 2-4 acres wide, reaching up to 80 acres inland. Immigrants from around the world came to know Detroit as a place where hard work paid great dividends.
By the early 1800's it was one of the most prosperous places in the world. By 1910 it was the auto capital of the world. Hard, industrious work had paid off! Between 1910 and 1930 Detroit's population increased by 300%, but local governments voted on zoning regulations that continued to increase the segregation between whites and all minorities.
With the civil rights movement in the 60's the tensions rose to unprecedented proportions and Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I have a dream..." speech was first preached in Detroit after 200,000 people walked down Woodward Avenue (the street we're staying on!) In 1967 race relations came to a head and the "race riots" (according to the whites at the time) or the "uprising and rebellion" (according to the blacks). Much of Detroit was destroyed and the tensions between races can still be felt.
Now, community leaders, non-profit organizations and development programs are all focusing on how to bring revitalization to the city that is loved by so many. Detroit is in a transition time: between the industrial age and the technological age, between hollowing away the core and building up a broken city, between division and healing.
Hence, Motown Mission 2011's theme: Revived. This week we seek your prayers and support as we work to revive one small neighborhood in Detroit. We ask for your prayers that we would also revive our connection with the Spirit of the One who sent us to this city. Please pray that we have the strength to do the work we are called to and hearts that are open to those we meet.
Highlights from Monday:
- Working in the Brightmoor neighborhood, a neighborhood where people are making the choice to live there in order to revitalize the neighborhood. They understand the power of community and their motto is "Brightmoor by Choice."
- Exploring the Brightmoor neighborhood because it felt like the whole neighborhood was a rescue mission.
- We worked with Mr. Jackson, a courageous homeowner who is making sacrifices for his family and his neighbors.
- Homeowner Dawn, Professional Clown
- Watching Amanda demolish overgrown trees with a pair of dull clippers.
- Sharing baked goods prepared by First Church members with our new friends from Minnesota.
- Witnessing the dedication of the work team as they cleared an entire city lot sized field with a dull manual weed whip.
- Experiencing homeowners catch our vision and join in the work that we were doing.
- Starburst fueled, deep theological discussion with the Waukesha First work team.
- Eating Goldfish crackers in the van!
- Experiencing the Heidelberg project: art made out of re-purposed items making bold statements about a vision for Detroit.
- Hot showers and tacos.
- Reading notes, prayer cards and blog comments from our friends and family at home.
Today was so awesome!
We woke up feeling refreshed after a full night of sleep and joined our new friends from Minnesota and Michigan for breakfast in the dining hall. We loaded up the vans and headed toward the Brightmoor neighborhood.
In the growth boom between the 1930’s-1950’s, there were so many people moving into Detroit for the manufacturing and automotive industries that housing became its own industry. With the greater need for housing, communities developed on the outskirts of the city. Brightmoor is a neighborhood that was outside the city limits and had no zoning codes so inexpensive, primitive housing was created to provide living space for the industry workers, many of whom came from Appalachia after losing jobs in the closing coal mines. As people established themselves in the city of Detroit they moved “on and up” and the already primitive housing of Brightmoor became a breeding ground for drug trafficking and gangs.
Now with the declining population of Detroit, city officials are looking at “right-sizing” the city. If this happens, Brightmoor would be a community outside of the city limits leaving residents without essential services or the option to relocate from the places they call home. Today, the Brightmoor community is making a concerted effort to reclaim and revitalize their neighborhood.
Today, we began to be a part of this revitalization work with the Brightmoor Community Development Association. While we came thinking we would be demolishing abandoned homes, instead we are demolishing overgrown city lots. What we are learning is that it is not about the weeds and boarded up doors, it’s about safety for children and a sense of hope for a community.
This is really difficult work, both physically and emotionally, and we are grateful for the words of encouragement sent through email and blog comments that sustain us. Please pray for the Brightmoor community, the work teams here this week and the city officials faced with difficult decisions.
Thank you for your support. Feel free to leave us a comment or ask a question via email.
Highlights from Tuesday:
- Nine people from the block seeing our work and coming out to join us in the clearing of brush and overgrown yards.
- Hanging out with the neighborhood kids and learning about their lives and teaching them how to do yard work.
- Finding a candy cane in the middle of a field...to go along with the Christmas tree we found yesterday.
- A fantastic blues concert with the members at Metropolitan UMC and the surrounding community. The harmonica and piano duo were phenomenal.
- Tom and Zella doing dishes with smiles on their faces.
- Our prayer drive in the city visiting and praying for a police station, a homeless shelter, community gardens, a medical center and abandoned buildings.
- Finding two praying mantids.
- Speaking with one of the homeowners on Patton Street, Dawn, about her experiences in the Brightmoor neighborhood and hearing her passion and her conviction that one voice can make a difference and is making a difference.
- Finding a house with scripture passages painted on the boarded up windows on our way to the work site this morning.
- A refreshing gift of lemonade in the afternoon from a neighbor on Patton Street.
One of the gifts of having a small, deeply theological mission team is that day three began early (smaller group packs up faster!) with a drive through of the Brightmoor neighborhood so that we could see and experience more of the community we are serving. While we saw the usual burned and/or boarded up houses, we also saw a beautiful new elementary school still under construction, a well-kept community center and some strong concentrations of newly constructed homes for low income families. To see seven or eight newer (1-15 year old) homes on a block meant that we also saw neighborhoods that were more well cared for than if there was less "buy-in" on a block. Another sign of hope for us was a house that was abandoned and boarded up but which had inspirational quotes and scriptures painted on the boards, sending a clear message to those around that this was not an abandoned and forgotten house, but a home that was being reclaimed by the neighbors as a beacon of hope.
That glimmer of hope was the story of our day. We have now cleared the equivalent of five city lots on one block of Patton Street in Brightmoor. While the work is important to creating a sense of safety for homeowners and their children (no one and no thing can hide in the overgrown fields), the sense of community that our work is bringing to the block is far more important and impressive. Today we had NINE different residents on the block helping us with the work! One offered us gasoline for the lawn mower and then the use of his lawn mower (and lemonade as a refreshing break!). Another homeowner had recently had a stroke, but sent two of her sons out to help us haul branches, weeds, and vines. Another homeowner has allowed us to use his garage to store our tools at night. Another came out and began hacking away at the huge weeds and bushes with us! We are also gifted with the realization that our presence in the neighborhood is offering a bit of the idea that everyone has something they can do to make a difference. Three homeowners on the block have been out in their yards doing cleanup work while we have worked in an adjacent lot!
For those of you who journeyed with us last year, this year is turning out to be a very different kind of experience. Last year we worked with one family and were able to connect with them in a very deep way. Many of us expected that this year would not offer us that same kind of personal bonding experience but we are quickly finding that instead of bonding with one family, we are bonding with an entire neighborhood! We have now talked to almost every homeowner on the block. The kids all know we're around and want to be with us either to work or to entertain us when we take a water break. It's hard not to love the neighborhood when you meet and work alongside the gracious and grace-full people living here. This week, we've joined them in saying, "Brightmoor - by choice!"
Tomorrow will be day three on the worksite and with the sore muscles we have today, we realize it will be a painful one. Pray that we might have positive attitudes and remember the reason we're here. Please also lift up the homeowners we are working with. They want to do the best to care for one another and their community and we hope that you will join us in praying that they will continue to build on the energy of this week. Keep your email and blog posts and questions coming. Our group may be small - but everyone here knows that we're well-loved because of your ongoing and up to the minute support.
Highlights from Wednesday:
- The taste of the wonderful and nutty dessert we ate on our evening excursion at Shatila, a Middle Eastern bakery.
- Hearing about the stories of other abandoned homes and commercial properties being stripped and turned into greenhouses.
- Pulling up on Patton Street this morning to see that the neighbors had continued working after we left yesterday, cutting down additional trees and mowing lawns.
- Spending time with the neighborhood children and the younger children on our work team from Minnesota. Their energy is contagious and it is fun to see their excitement to learn about yard work.
- Seeing a city lot cleared in a matter of a couple of hours.
- The look on Mr. Jackson’s face when members of our team left him a new lawn mower to help take care of the neighborhood.
- Tom, Zella and Emily cleaning the men’s bathrooms at Metropolitan United Methodist Church.
- Seeing one of the teenage boys giving one of the young neighborhood kids dating advice.
- A beautiful Swallowtail butterfly flying around the back yard this morning.
- Sharing cookies and Bing cherries with the neighborhood kids at lunch.
Our block in Brightmoor has only one lot left that is overgrown with weeds, grape vines and unidentifiable ferns! This morning began with our team tackling the backyard of a house that has sat abandoned for over three years. This house is next-door to Mr. Jackson, one of our closest friends from this week. We had to literally cut, chop and saw our way into and through the yard. The backyard looked like a jungle and there were a few grape vines that were so wrapped into the trees and fencing that we discussed a reproduction of "Tarzan." Come to think of it, "Tomzan" could be the Detroit remake!
While this kind of outdoor yard clearing is not what we thought we would be doing, we are finding great satisfaction in the very obvious progress we are making and the impact it is having on the neighbors. This morning we arrived to find that one neighbor who began the week being a little standoffish, had cut down the two large, dead trees in his front yard to make his lot look much nicer! Our demolition of the urban jungle gave way to the start of the demolition of the house. The goal: tear the house down to just the studs and then create a greenhouse. From urban jungle to urban garden.
This process of gutting abandoned buildings and turning them into greenhouses has become common in the last few years. One neighbor shared with us that recently a local church was turned into a greenhouse for another neighboring community!
While it may sound odd to many people, this new project will mean more to this neighborhood than you can imagine. Detroit is a food desert. You will not find a Pick N Save, Sentry or ANY grocery store chain within the city limits. (Did we tell you that Detroit is 173 sq. miles, almost double the size of Milwaukee?!?) On the other hand, McDonalds, Burger King and other fast food restaurants flourish as they are able to provide inexpensive and quick meals for families on small budgets and with limited time as parents work multiple jobs.
Consider your typical experience at the grocery store. Think about the building you walk into, the variety you have to choose from and the nutritional value represented in each aisle. Now, think about what your grocery shopping experience would be like if you were purchasing your weekly groceries at gas stations, liquor stores and the rare locally owned shop that has been able to stay in business. The image is not one that brings much satisfaction, is it? It doesn't bring much good nutrition either!
A neighborhood greenhouse means fruits and vegetables that are difficult to find in the city being found on the dinner table. It means a level of nutrition that the kids who are working with us are not getting at home right now. It means lower grocery bills. It also means a sense of pride and community among neighbors, including the children we have been working with all week. A greenhouse on their block will be a place for Elijah, Shania, Emily and Elaina to put into practice all they are learning about nutrition and gardening at school and in local day camps.
Tomorrow we hand off our neighborhood to another workgroup as we head into two days of work with the organization, Greening of Detroit. It is with a little sadness and regret that we won't be returning there tomorrow. After all, we were in Brightmoor - by choice!
Please pray for the work team that will continue our work as we want "our" neighborhood to really be the best it can possibly be for all of our new friends. You can pray for us that we might find the strength and energy to push through the sore muscles so we have a strong end to our work week. You can join us in praying for the hundreds of thousands of people living in this food desert and those like it around the world. Tomorrow we hope to have news for you about an organization that is doing something to help with the issue.
Thanks for your texts, comments and emails. It's great to have the reminder that we are carrying our church, our families and our friends with us.
May you know God's grace - and may you be overwhelmed with gratitude for what you have.
Highlights for Thursday:
- Playing adults only four square.
- Seeing the edible play scape garden for kids in Brightmoor.
- Enjoying the murals painted on abandoned buildings.
- Experiencing the vacant house turned into a theater.
- Walking down the sidewalk on Beaverland Street after we finished clearing the overgrown grass.
- Learning about the different ways community members are using gardens to sustain themselves.
- Sharing stories about the week at worship.
- Rock ‘n’ Rye Faygo floats.
By the speed with which we all rose this morning, it seems pretty clear that fatigue has set in for the week. Rain greeted us this morning, which is a welcome sign for gardeners, less so for weary mission trip volunteers.
The gift of the day was to discover that we were headed back to Brightmoor, although to a different neighborhood. Today we met, Scott, an employee with Greening of Detroit. Our work was based on a simple concept, create safe sidewalks for the neighbors and help to make the area a more desirable place to live. The work; however, was intense. Edging sidewalks, pulling up soaked sod, and collecting lots and lots of garbage. Scott's hope is that by re-creating clean sidewalks in the neighborhood, the homeowners will begin to take a greater pride in their community and the kids will be safer (people currently walk in the streets because the sidewalks are so overgrown.)
Scott also oversees community gardens in the neighborhood; some which are used to feed single families, some of which are open to the community, and some of which are used to sell at local farmers markets. The scope of the project is really quite large. One garden area was a park with a spiral herb garden and a theater/stage created out of an abandoned house. Another area was a butterfly garden created in a lot next to a homeowner who loves butterflies. The garden was her idea and was created under her leadership. While we also saw a garden called "The Second Chance Garden," created and kept by those who are returning home after an incarceration, the most impressive garden was for the children.
A special grant allowed for an "edible playscape." Minty, the turtle is a small patch of wintergreen, surrounded with painted rocks. A tunnel of cucumbers, a teepee of pole beans, a circle fort of corn and a maze of collard greens creates an amazing, fun and creative place for kids to play and learn about nutrition.
As we walked through the neighborhood on our garden tour we realized how close we were to our previous worksite. The house that we referenced earlier in the week as one of our highlights (the one with inspirational quotes on the plywood that boarded up the doors and windows) was created by a work team with the Greening of Detroit! Tomorrow we will be doing a similar project; boarding up an abandoned home so that it cannot be used for unsafe purposes, and then painting murals on the outside so that it isn't an eyesore for the neighbors.
What we learned today is that the city of Detroit has a list of "demolition properties" that is a mile long and very little funding to pay for the projects. Often neighbors will board up a house until it is demolished, but as we heard from some community members, houses go on and off the list quite often. It only takes a phone call to remove a house from the list, which is easy enough for someone who is using it to make, grow or sell drugs. It's far more difficult and costly to get a house added to the list.
While it doesn't seem that something like a can of paint could really make a difference in a neighborhood, the feel that we all used to describe this community was "hope." After four days of work, "hope" is probably the best word to describe what we have experienced. It's also what has carried us.
As we head into our final day of work, pray that we are re-energized by the vision laid before us. Join us in praying that the mural we have discussed will offer back to the community a portion of what we have received from it - a new view of beauty, a sense of hope for something better, and an awareness that God is not done with Detroit.
Exhausted but grateful,
Tom, Zella, Emily, Amanda and Kris
A social group in a specific geographical location, a group with common characteristics or simply just people coming together for a mutual interest. I have heard all of these words used in an attempt to communicate what a community is and how it is supossed to function. The funny thing about the word community is that everyone seems to have their own defintion, which may be due to personal experience, but how does this relate to God? How should our relationship with our LORD Jesus Christ be reflected in how we live in community with others? How can we love God by loving others or better yet how can we serve God by serving others? Youth groups have come from so many places this year to the city of Detroit to serve God but that also entails serving others. I was personally encouraged by all of my group leaders from one of the service weeks. A leader is to lead but also a true leader realizes they are to follow Christ. I feel that there were leaders who did this and also cared for their students. There was a night, after an exhausting day of service, where it seemed like everything went wrong. That night we had personal sicknesses, one person after another and other issues that created frustration. Obviously, this can lead to discouragement and a hopelessness, which is easy to consume you. The best part of my week then was that next morning. That morning, a leader wanted to make an announcement to everyone right before breakfast (I had no idea what he was going to say). Then God spoke through him and encouraged people to continue fighting the good fight despite of crisis that was going on. That was a moment of seeing God's love overcome any challenge we face. After that we communicated with God that we are here for you and you have purpose for us here. So, back to community. Community can be described in many ways but still be empty if it's not selfless. The Good News is that God can pour into it if he is exalted by our relationship with Jesus. Community is not due to locality nor due to some social characteristic but a community is built and sustained on God's love. A community puts God first in their hearts and actions, builds each other up, prays for one another, and sacrifices for one another. This is one of the most encouraging moments of my summer. If you ask me, what are ways you know God was in that community? I would say to you, I've heard it, I've felt it and I've seen it...
Ken & Marea...
I remember the first day I stopped by their house before any volunteers had began working on it. Rodney and I were driving over a door to drop off to replace the old one. The house was a disaster, windows were broken, the door was burned and mostly missing. The front of the house had black from the fire all across it. Then Ken pulled up in his car, and stepped out to introduce himself to me. He started talking about his front yard, and how he had began to cut it down like our volunteers had been doing with other houses in the neighborhood. He had done his best to keep the grass and plants in his yard tamed, even while his house was completely burnt out. This showed me his dedication from day one. Obviously, we worked the most with Ken and Marea, and they worked the most with us. They were in it for all the right reasons and then some, showing up almost every day to work side by side with our volunteers. Ken was definitely tried over the summer when someone stole from his house again. They even stole the brand new door we installed. Still, he was determined to claim his house for good, and we proved his place in the neighborhood by the end of the summer. I wish Ken and Marea nothing but the best in their lives, and hope that they will one day have the house they have been waiting for.
Our friends over at the Michigan Area Reporter put this together last September. We hope you enjoy hearing the story of Motown Mission as reported to Michigan United Methodists!
One of the most important parts of this story is the group of volunteers from local churches who made up our hospitality/dinner teams. If your church would like to help out in this way please email us at email@example.com.
Summer 2010 was an amazing summer in Detroit! God has reached the lives of the people of Detroit and the participants who came from across the country. While at Motown Mission Experience groups are able to dive into God’s word each and every day. Each day at MME, groups experience a time of morning devotion and an evening worship hour, complete with music, scripture and prayer! In order to share where and how God revealed himself this summer I took a few minutes to talk to some middle school students who came to MME this summer. I spoke with Tyler, Taylor, Elise, Kristen and Chloe.
Sarah: For some of you, this was a new experience, staying with your youth group in Detroit for a week. What was that like?
Tyler: I thought it was awesome!
Taylor: Yes, I think we all got to know each other a little better because we did everything as a group. We got to do fun things together and it helped you know people better.
Sarah: Where did you see God during your week at Motown Mission?
Elise: I saw God in several places actually, but mostly in three major areas; at D-Town Garden, at Metro UMC in all of the amazing interns, and at Cody High School, where we really did make a difference in one boy's summer.
Kristen: I saw God in all the people who came to help us at our work sites.
Sarah: Did you grow in your faith with God while at Motown? How?
Kristen: Yes, my faith with God did grow while I was at Motown Mission. It was a life changing experience to be helping people.
Chloe: Yeah, it showed me so much. I learned how God loves everyone and even though the media shows Detroit as "hard-core," "unforgiving," and "dangerous," the people there are really nice and good Christians. I also learned how to trust God more. I used to think “How can he be such a great guy, if he lets all these bad things happen in the world?” But then I realized that working together to fix these things brings out the good in people. It strengthens relationships between us and God and us and other Christians.
Elise: Yes, I did grow my faith with God at Motown. Seeing how much a group of kids can make a difference is truly a wonderful thing to behold, but we can only do it with God's help.
Sarah: Thank you so much for talking with me! I am so glad you enjoyed your week at Motown Mission and that you were able to walk away with more than just a few fun memories. God is here in Detroit and I am so excited to see what He will do in future summers.
Have you ever experienced déjà vu and in actuality was reality? This was my experience these past two summers doing Motown Mission Experience at the Joy-Southfield community. I lived in that area during my young adult years where my father pastored a church. It was a thriving Polish Catholic community where neighbors went to Mass every morning and we shared faith together, despite our religious differences. Little did I know that my faith journey would take me back to the “old neighborhood.”
Our youth at Metropolitan UMC raised money to participate in being “missionaries” to the city. We did cleaning, painting, raking yards, putting in new appliances, and talked with our neighbors while working. This past summer, I worked right down the street from where my parents had lived during part of their retirement years and grieved in my heart for what has happened to the deterioration of Detroit. I also felt blessed that God would give me opportunity to come and share faith and works with my former community. Though I was out of my comfort zone for certain types of repair work, I knew God had given me this opportunity to experience change that can take place, both personally and in community.
That is what serving God is all about –change, transformation, and healing in the name of Jesus. I would encourage others to come to Detroit and see what God will do in you and through you. Perhaps your déjà vu will be reality!
Rev. Cathee Miles
Metropolitan UMC, Detroit, MI