Thursday, October 23, 2008
A brief overview of our trip:
Sept 22-24 Lansing, IA for the Upper Midwest regional Collegiate staff meetings
Sept 24-27 Lansing, MI seeing friends and attending a counseling seminar
Sept 27-30 Ann Arbor/Detroit
Sept 3-Oct 2 Mackinac Island, MI
Oct 3-6 Chicago Oct 10-12 Lansing, IA Upper Midwest Regional Collegiate Fall
Conference It was a great trip but obviously, we can't capture everything on the blog. If you'd like to hear more details about something, please let us know. Thank you for your prayers and for continuing to invest in the ministry here.
I recently read this on the cover of a travel magazine and it seemed to sum up our trip perfectly. It reminded me of a Mark Twain quote, "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness." Sometimes we have prejudices or stereotypes that we don't even realize until they are proven wrong. This is how we felt about several aspects of our trip, but especially Detroit. We just read an article in the newspaper called, "A Wish for Detroit." The first sentence of the article said, "Detroit has been called the most miserable city in the country, we beg to differ." I had a preconceived notion of Detroit that included words like dangerous, ghetto, concrete block, and basically the last place I'd ever want to live. After our visit, my list of adjectives are drastically different.
We arrived in Ann Arbor, MI on Sept 27, just in time to catch the last quarter of the Michigan-Wisconsin football game! This adorable little college town was a flurry of blue and gold, despite the fact that Michigan was woefully behind. Our friends and hosts for the weekend, Bob and Ronda Adgate, were able to wrangle one ticket for the game and Bob convinced the ticket master to let us catch the final 10 minutes or so of the game. We had just walked through the gate when an interception turned the game around resulting in the greatest comeback Michigan has ever had at "The Big House." This exciting game kicked off our weekend and earned us the label of "football angels."
After the exhilarating game, the Adgates gave us a tour of Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan campus. The Adgates proved to be some of the most fun and gracious hosts we have ever been around. We instantly formed deep friendships with them that we know will continue for years to come.
Our time in Ann Arbor included lots of food, laughter, touring, late night talks and even a little tailgating after the Michigan game (we even met a Canadian man who insisted we come to all the Michigan games, eh!) From rooftop Italian dining to a feast of Middle Eastern food, the Adgates thoroughly spoiled us.
The next evening, we headed into Detroit for our first exposure to the inner-city. We went to a Middle Eastern neighborhood and I was surprised to learn that Detroit has over 300,000 inhabitants from the Middle East. All the restaurants and signs were in Arabic. We were there during Ramadan and once the sun went down, the town was a flurry of activity. The Adgates took us to a wonderful bakery where we had fresh baklava. I didn't even know there were that many different varieties!
As we drove farther into the heart of the city, I was shocked at how much the atmosphere changed. The Middle Eastern community was full of life and activity, but there was little life to be seen elsewhere. We drove about four blocks before I saw anyone on the sidewalk. The restaurants we drove by had a small handful of people in them. I felt like I had culture shock every time we went into or left Detroit.
Bob told us at one point Detroit had a population of over 2 million and today it's around 900,000. Political and economical challenges have driven people out of the city and into the suburbs and poor education systems and high property taxes in Detroit keep them there. When the middle and upper classes left the city, so did the banks, grocery stores and the majority of churches.
My list of adjectives for Detroit now included hopeless, lifeless, devastated and destitute.
15 till the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the desert becomes a fertile field, and the fertile field seems like a forest.
16 Justice will dwell in the desert and righteousness live in the fertile field.
17 The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever.
18 My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest.
19 Though hail flattens the forest and the city is leveled completely,
20 how blessed you will be, sowing your seed by every stream, and letting your cattle and donkeys range free.
Ok, moving on...
Chicago! Paul and Kristie Monteiro welcomed us warmly and invited us to join a "family dinner." They have a community of about 15 of their friends ranging from all ages and stages of life. Most of them live in the same neighborhood, intentionally. The group of friends shared a meal together and then shared their hearts and updates from their lives. At one time, Paul and Kristie had hosted weekly dinners but the group decided that if they wanted to focus more on outward community, they needed to meet less frequently.
We were so amazed by how quickly the group, not only welcomed us, but also reconnected with their friends after not meeting together for several months. Kristie told us that from the beginning, the group made a choice to always be real and communicate honestly with each other. The discussion we shared in that night revealed the fruit of that decision.
Another aspect of the group that amazed us was how closely knit it was when everyone was at different stages of life. There were a few young couples with kids, single young adults, young couples with no kids, and even nursing students.
We stayed with two girls we had met in Seattle, Joyce and Jen. They have a great apartment near the Monteiros, with a spare room they keep open just for guests. They obviously love to serve and host and share their city with new friends.
After a breakfast of homemade crepes and an assortment of jams, they took us on a neighborhood tour. We didn't realize that Chicago is was a neighborhood city. The girls have become involved in helping Burmese refugees. They showed us where the majority of refugees work and live. It's obvious talking to the girls how much they love the refugees and how God is blessing that. Jen got a call at her job asking if her company could help this group of refugees and she said well our company can't but my roommate and I might be able to! This decision has entranced them into the lives of these refugees. They recently received a multi-thousand dollar grant to publish materials that will be helpful for refugees coming to the city. They explained that the government has given permission for a certain number of refugees to be received in US cities. The capacity to receive the refugees is not always sufficient. The girls are also personally engaged with many refugees through tutoring and mentoring. A major part of their ministry is just befriending, loving and helping with their day-to-day needs, big and seemingly small. Joyce has connections with Loyola University and Jen is part of a non-profit tutoring program to inner-city kids. The girls’ hearts overflowed with love for their newfound friends.
That afternoon, they dropped us off downtown and of course, we hit the tourist attractions. We started with Chicago style pizza and then headed to the top of the Hancock building for a breathtaking view of the skyline and the lake. Next, we walked down Michigan Ave to Millennium Park. Our big city adventure concluded with a ride on the “L” back to the girls’ house. Christin had dinner with Eric and Jessie, two Auburn grads! They live and are a part of the community with the Monteiros. They talked about challenges and joys of their recent life after college transition.
Sunday morning, we went to church with Kristie (Paul stayed home with sick kids). The church service was focused on Jesus’ life and ministry and how we fit into that. Three individuals shared their own expression of this and what it looks like in their lives. It seemed to fit in with the continued theme of the weekend in regards to outreach and community.
We had lunch with Kristie and heard more of her background with the Navigators, her heart for 20-somethings and current involvement with b2g. The day wrapped up with extended time with Joyce and Jen in a fun, jazzy, local Chicago restaurant.
Monday morning, we toured Breaking Ground, a Nav ministry to the urban poor. Jeff Daniels took the time to share his heart and passionate for working with the poor. Breaking Ground focuses on job training and placement of inner-city youth and 20-somethings. They have found this to be the key to discipleship of this demographic of people. Breaking Ground holds classes to train people in life skills. We had the privilege of meeting Connie, whose story is unbelievable and inspiring. His life has been completely transformed through his experience and time with Breaking Ground. Because of his background, the connection, inspiration and power of the Gospel, he ministers to countless people who come through the program. Jeff’s vision and passion for Breaking Ground is a concrete expression of the Navigator calling.
Our time in Chicago reminded us of the church described in Acts 2:42-47.
After our tour of Breaking Ground, we headed back to Minneapolis, stopping in Wheaton for a quick lunch. We arrived back in Minneapolis late Monday night. The rest of that week was spent doing laundry, moving into Bruce's house and preparing for the fall conference.
There were about 400 students at the conference who came from four different states, North and South Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin. It is exciting to how how the region is growing every year!
Even though we were tired, it was great to reconnect with students and staff we had met at the beginning of our trip. It seemed our trip came full circle! We are excited about what God is doing in the lives of students and staff in the upper Midwest! And of course, ours as well!