A steady morning drizzle trailed off during the waning minutes of Michigan State's victory over Tennessee, and left the empty lot next to our neighbors' house a soft, muddy mess. But we would not be deterred. Luke, Mike, and I had met the folks who live right next to our church. The house next to theirs had been torn down shortly after we moved onto the block last fall, and a somewhat-flat swath of bare dirt remained. The woman of the house bought some grass seed to help beautify the lot. So with rake, shovel, pick axe, and hoe her husband led the three of us in an attempt to level the ground to prepare it for grass seed. The ground was soft from the rain, and easier to move, but also heavier. Our feet sunk in an inch or two. After only an hour of work we were all worn out!
I welcomed the soreness in my body the next morning, thankful for an opportunity to serve our neighborhood and interact with our neighbors. The folks that we were working with are the neighborhood parents—they take care of many of the young single men in the neighborhood who have nowhere else to go. We’re so thankful that it’s almost barbecue weather. More people outdoors means easier interactions with our neighbors.
Hello friends and relations. Welcome to the 6th episode of Motor City News
My time in Detroit is rapidly coming to a close, and with every thought of Detroit there is a twinge of sadness—is there a better word than bittersweet? I will officially be moving back to Rochester, NY the last weekend in May in preparation for getting married to the love of my life, my Beautiful Dragon, Belinda. We will be married June 18! There is much yet to do—find a place to live, find a job, finalize honeymoon plans, and of course there’s the wedding itself (and flowers, and rings, and… ;) )! But we know that a wedding is a moment, a marriage is a lifetime, and a soul is eternal. Perspective lowers stress.
It’s been a few months since my last update, and I want to share some great things that are happening, especially through New St. Peters, the church I go to on the corner of my block. Several new programs are starting through the church (and particularly the young adult group called NuVision).
- We are staring a free tutoring program for the community. The city is actually funding the program for each student from a particular list of struggling schools, but it is open to anyone.
- We are also in the late stages of planning a youth mentoring program, in an effort to reach out to many of the young guys in the neighborhood who have no positive male role model. The rate of fatherlessness in our neighborhood is upwards of 80%.
- One of the most exciting projects to me is a vision for come community housing development. The church has been gifted the empty lot on the corner across the street. Of the next five lots, two more are empty and three have abandoned houses. That’s six lots that are “up for grabs” in a sense. We’re imagining what our block could look like if we were to acquire those lots and redevelop them. Some storefronts with housing on the second level, maybe a large hall with a kitchen that we could use to better serve community meals and host celebrations. Mike has a background in community planning and urban development, and he’s created some awesome models that we’re preparing to present to a member of the city council! He’s also attending a meeting today with the church secretary where the city is explaining how faith-based organizations can acquire land for community gardening and development. It’s awesome to see the church mobilizing behind this vision for change and development.
Work. I’m still working as a substitute in the Hope of Detroit Academy. I do everything from art and music with kindergarten to middle school math. I get three or four days of work each week, which is perfect. I really enjoy my job. I’ve been around long enough now that some of the kids are opening up to me a bit. It’s exciting to be able to impart some real life wisdom that’s bigger than adding two and two.
As I’m thinking about leaving Detroit well, I’m taking some time to reflect on ways that I’ve changed in the last year. One small thing I noticed just last week. During the week I was in several different settings where I was the only white person among a large group of black people. And I didn’t really notice it until someone else pointed it out. I have become much more comfortable with my place in black culture (at least, Detroit Black Baptist culture). I feel like I belong. Part of that is my growing acceptance of my own ethnicity, part is my growing understanding of this culture, and part is the acceptance of friends that I have made here.
And the biggest news: Jamaica. In early March God dropped an opportunity to go to Jamaica this April right into my lap. Here’s the story. Northridge Church (where I attended during college, and will attend when I return to Rochester) is developing a vision for short-term missions projects under the leadership of Brad, a member of the small group that Belinda and I are in. The idea is to send a team from the church twice a year for several years to an impoverished community in Jamaica, in an attempt to help the community address its spiritual, social, and economic needs. The project is also focused on developing a spirit of outreach and service in the people of Northridge.
Brad realized that he and his wife would not be able to go to Jamaica twice each year, and so he asked Belinda and I to join the leadership team. We’re excited about being part of developing the vision of the trip and being able to have some influence in the direction of the church’s mission.
God has made Belinda and I missionaries to Rochester. A part of that is to connect the mostly-suburbanites of the church to its city neighborhood. I know how much God changes me when I participate in short-term missions. I wouldn’t be in Detroit right now if I hadn’t gone to Cairo. And so we’re delighted that Northridge is taking this step in missions—because people who have crossed a sea to serve might be a little more willing to cross the street.
I will be going to Jamaica April 17-23 on an exploratory trip. We will be staying in a mountain village called Darliston, Jamaica, and working primarily through a small church there. We will be working to set up and network computer labs in several local schools, doing some construction projects, helping to equip some of the local teachers, and generally getting to know the community to determine if it is a place that God would have us commit our church to for the next five to ten years.
Thanks for enduring a long update! I love you all. Peace be with you.
For the prayerful, please pray that:
· God would bless the new ministries of New St. Peters.
· For the unity, hospitality, prayerfulness, and peace of our house.
· For the wedding and marriage of Belinda and I to please our Father.