Thursday, October 23, 2008

Pioneering a Presence

Is there hope for Detroit? When we got home that night, Christin was praying for Detroit and the Lord took her to Isaiah 32:14-20.

14 The fortress will be abandoned, the noisy city deserted; citadel and watchtower will become a wasteland forever, the delight of donkeys, a pasture for flocks,
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.

(Will you join us in praying this passage for Detroit?) The exciting news is that there are people who are sowing their seed in Detroit. Bob calls it "pioneering a presence."

We had the chance to spend the afternoon with a guy we met at the b2g conference in Seattle, Nate, who has chosen to move into inner-city Detroit. He lives with a young couple and another girl who is working in the education system. Their home is literally a light in the darkness. They are surrounded by abandoned, burned homes.

Nate is involved in many things where he is meeting and forming friendships with people. Because there are no grocery stores in the city, most people have to do their grocery shopping at convienence stores. This obviously is unhealthy and expensive. Community gardens have sprung up all over the city to provide a place where people can come be a part of something as well as reap the benefits of their time. Nate is involved with a garden that also has a beehive. I asked Nate how you would go about buying or leasing the land for the garden. He said you just go plant a garden on a vacant lot! Nate also told us that other countries have done case studies on Detroit because it is in such bad shape. Other countries, unbelievable...

Nate took us to a part of Detroit called the Heidelberg Projects. In the mid 80s, a man named Tyree Guyton began cleaning up vacant lots throughout the city and used the refuse they collected to begin public art projects. From the website: "Guyton not only transformed vacant houses and lots, he integrated the street, sidewalks, and trees into his mammoth installation and called his work, "The Heidelberg Project", after it's location on Heidelberg Street. Despite numerous awards, the city demolished parts of the Heidelberg Project installation in 1991 and again in 1999. Still, the Heidelberg Project continues to exist, evolve, and grow - providing hope and inspiration to the local community and the community of the world." (

As a result of budget cuts, all art programs were removed from the public school systems. Guyton's projects provide a place where community members of all ages can come and express themselves through art.

Later that night, we met more people who are living in the city as nurses, tutors, students, etc. We spent the evening hearing them share about their communities and their heart and passion. I was so struck by one of the guys' prayers, "Lord, everyone has given up on Detroit, but we will NOT." How exciting! Detroit has a long way to go before it becomes a fertile field again but the Lord is working there.

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