The Story of a Summer in 10 Photos

Mitchell Eithun, Spiritual Life staffer, tells his story of being on staff at Motown Mission through 10 photos.


Ten of My Favorites Photos from Summer 2017

This summer I had the privilege of being the primary photographer for Motown Mission. Here are ten of my favorite photos I collected and the stories they tell.

#1: Patchwork


Before volunteer groups arrived in June, I was on a walk near our staff house and I saw this blown-out church building. The words “I will build my church” cry out from the ruble. This phrase is from Matthew 16:18 in which Jesus tells Peter that he is that rock that “I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” This scene is striking juxtaposition between the holy and the broken.

Detroit is a patchwork city. Move from one block to the next and you drift from privilege to poverty or blight to delight.  This building made the goal of my summer clear: with the help of God, build the Church. Psalm 74 says “Have regard for your covenant, for the dark places of the land are full of the haunts of violence.” The haunts of violence permeate the City of Detroit, but thankfully God’s covenant made through Jesus Christ makes everything new.  If we simple show up we can take part in the ways that God is moving through the dark places.

#2 Band Names



From week to week our volunteers contributed their gifts to our nightly worship service. One particularly memorable night was Friday during Week 1, when we had three guitarists, a cajón player and more singers than I could than I can could count. It was a beautiful sight. During other weeks, other groups formed our creative volunteers played with band names like “Ali and the Gatorade Bottles,” “Pure” and “Got Him?”

#3: Fruit Salad



Our daily fruit salad crew begins at about 6:45am in the morning. Our dedicated volunteers not only completed long days of labor in the city, they also completed Motown Mission chores such as preparing meals and cleaning bathrooms. It was so helpful to work with joyful groups ready to serv!e!

#4: The work of Brightmoor - a Detroit neighborhood



One of the most meaningful projects I worked was during Week 2 with the Redford-Brightmoor Initiative, which works in some of the most impoverished neighborhoods in the city. In many ways the project symbolizes the work that Motown Mission strives to do. The volunteer group renovated a prayer park in the Brightmoor neighborhood. They cleaned and weeded the green spaces and painted old church pews to serve as benches.

“Pray Here! Watch What God Will Do!” the sign exclaims. This park is a beautiful way that the Church has lived out its call to be present outside the “four walls” of the a building. In the process of cleaning and pruning, the dark places are made new just as God makes us new.

#5: God's Hands at the Foundry House



This is one of my favorite pictures from this summer. “God’s work. Our hands.” is the motto of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). At the Foundry House, home of mission interns, I was struck when I saw a volunteer wearing an ELCA t-shirt while “mudding” drywall. She was literally using her hands to do God’s work. Just like mudding drywall, ministry is messy, but if we put our hands and hearts to work, amazing things can happen.

#6: Sanctification through Service



A pair of shorts, a personal glove, and a Bacardi bottle. Those are three things I found in a field during our first day with Resource Community Development Corporation. As volunteers cleaned a blighted lot all I could think about was how the project was as a metaphor for sanctification.  Sanctification is the process of being made holy. John Wesley described the experience of sanctification as being "habitually filled with the love of God and neighbor.” Just as this lot is trimmed and garbage is removed, God works through us to trim us and helps us release our baggage. As Jesus says, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener” (John 15:5).

The process of sanctification can be painful. In our walk with God and each other it is easy to become stubborn, complacent, or—worst of all—comfortable. But just like clearing blight from a field, when we allow God to prune use and clean us up, beautiful things emerge. After cleaning the lot, the neighborhood became safer. In our hearts, Jesus explains that when one of our demons returns, “it finds the house swept clean and put in order” (Luke 11:25). This  project was a wonderful parallel to the ways in which works through His people!

#7: You Make Beautiful Things



At Arts & Scraps, an educational non-profit in Detroit, our volunteers prepared science kits for children in poorly funded school. The kits are made from recycled materials donated by large corporation. As the singer Gungor proclaims, God makes “beautiful things out of the dust.”

#8: Matching T-Shirts and Celebrities



There were two celebrity encounters that I caught wind of this summer. In Week 5, Geneva Lutheran from Geneva, Illinois caught up with Mitch Albom. The Detroit native was promoted his new musical “Hockey” and his eye caught the group wearing their Motown Mission T-shirts. In Week 7, Chevy Chase UMC from Chevy Chase, Maryland was enjoying sweet treats at Detroit Ice on Woodward Ave. when they were approached by the cast of new movie Detroit, which was being premiered that evening at the Fox Theatre. Again, they noticed the group’s matching T-shirts. Those shirts were a good idea.

#9: A Big Pulpit to Fill



Central UMC, farther down Woodward Ave. from our home at Metropolitan UMC is the home of the first Protestant congregation in Michigan.  The church has a history of social activism, including opposition to the capital punishment in the 19th century and a push toward racial integrate in 20th century. Today the building houses the NOAH project, a homelessness ministry whose goal is to Network, Organize, Advocate for the homeless. Our volunteers worked with their bag lunch program. Here they are pictured in Central’s pulpit, where Martin Luther King, Jr. preached during the civil rights era.

#10: A New Way of Doing Mission


During Week 8 I met Rev. Elizabeth A. Hill, District Superintendent of the Blue Water District, a district of the Detroit Conference of The United Methodist Church. Their district joined together smaller churches who had a few youth to come together and form a larger team. This was a cool way to do ministry in the 21st century. She her husband Dick originally met while attending Metropolitan UMC and were filled with fantastic stories about the magnificent church building. Together we snuck on the roof of Metropolitan UMC and received a great view of Woodward Ave.



Different angles reveal different perspectives, but our earthly perspective will always be lacking. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13:12, “Now we see but a dim reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.” This speaks to the ambiguity of the human condition how truly difficult it is to fully understand God’s intentions. But home marvelous is it that we are caught up in God’s beautiful redemptive plan!

Likewise, these pictures only tell part of the story. Why not come to Motown Mission and experience Detroit for yourself?

Register online for the 2018 summer season of life-changing picture-perfect moments.