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Thaddeus Hambrick

I’ve got an extra special feeling about this Saturday in Detroit! Join us and help make it special! The picture below is of my friend Thaddeus. Thaddeus used to be a dealer and went by Pony (because of his pony tails). He encountered the risen Christ through relationships and love at the CommuniD BBQs in Detroit. He stopped selling crack and started following Christ. For Thaddeus, following Christ meant losing his income (selling crack), his friends, his home and eventually his life. People he used to work for had him killed because he stopped selling. Following Christ is not free. Sharing Christ isn’t either. Thaddeus and I talked many times before, during and after his decision as well as after people began trying to kill him. Although he often shared with me the difficulties he was facing, he never once second guessed his decision to follow Christ no matter the cost. What an amazing brother in Christ who is now worshiping in Heaven!

Here’s a link to this Saturday’s Facebook event: http://www.facebook.com/events/154480478055957

Thaddeus in the summer Thaddeus in the winter

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Jesus and Wiffle Ball

Here’s a picture.

Here’s Bob and Dave (white homeless men) teaching Zane (4 year old son of a working single black mother) how to hit a wiffle ball at the Elevate Detroit Mt. Clemens CommuniD BBQ today.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. But I think this one’s priceless.

Jesus is all over it.

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No rain… Again!

Matthew 8:26 (NIV)

“He replied, ‘You of little faith, why are you so afraid?’
Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.”

Mark 4:39 (NIV)

“He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.”

So often I’ve read this passage and pictured that night out on the water.  I used to arrogantly and piously scoff at the disciples.  “Look how dumb they were.”  “How could they still not get it?!”  “How could they not understand that they were safe with him?!”

I’ve grown since then though… a little.  The verses just before this are Jesus teaching them how much it will cost them to follow him.  He tells them they will be homeless.  He tells them they will have to miss important, meaningful family moments.  He’s teaching them it will cost them their livelihoods, possibly their families and surely their plans.

He hasn’t given them any comfort.  And shortly thereafter, here they are… on a lake in a furious storm in a boat that’s about to be swamped.  They’ll drown.  Danger is all around.  And they run to him.  They wake him.  They beg him.

They don’t doubt his ability to save them like I used to think.  What they doubt his awareness of the situation.  And they seem to have an idea of how he will save them when they ask.  I’m curious to know what they were expecting.  Maybe they were expecting him to raise the boat out of the water.  Maybe they expected the water to suddenly be held back from over the rails of the boat, similar to Moses crossing the Red Sea and God holding the water back.  Or maybe… they were expecting him to calm the storm.

Whatever their expectations of his actions, they were afraid.  Stressed.  Terrified.  And they were begging him for help.

In five years of CommuniD BBQs, I have no idea how many times God has calmed the storms for us.  I have seen clouds part, literally.  I have seen rain inexplicably surround a park without falling on it.  Twice.  Countless times we have seen and reaped the benefits of those words, “Quiet! Be still!”

Last Saturday.  It was raining.  The forecast called for heavier rain as the day went on.  No relief.  No hope of a break in the storm.  Just cold, miserable rain.  We had three CommuniD BBQs scheduled for the day; Detroit, Hazel Park and Southfield.  I got phone calls from all three leaders asking what to do, when to call it off, etc.  Three leaders who’ve watched these storms calm in the past with me all concerned, maybe even afraid that we’ll get rained out.  I talked them through it, encouraged them, reminded them of miracles of the past and God’s faithfulness in the present.  At the end of the day, all three events happened.  Not a drop of rain fell where it wasn’t supposed to.  Not an once of falling water was left to disrupt God’s plan for the day.  A miracle.  Again.  Amazing.

This Saturday.  It’s raining again.  It’s grey.  It’s cold.  It’s miserable weather.  The rain wasn’t supposed to let up until at least 4pm.  It looked like it would linger on long past then.  We had two CommuniD BBQs scheduled for the day; Detroit and Pontiac.  I looked outside and thought, we might get rained out today.  Again, I got calls from leaders.  Again, anxious, nervous, expecting the rain to continue.  Again, I reassured them reminding them of God’s faithfulness in the past.  What they didn’t know was that this time, I was feeling the same way as they were.  I was nervous.  I was afraid.  I was grasping onto those memories with them.  I was needing the reminders every bit as much as they did.

With the shakiness in my soul of a one year old walking, in faith I continued to encourage them (and me).  I set out from living in Pontiac to drive to Detroit.  Wipers on.  Heat on.  Cold rain.  Answering calls, replying to texts and when no one else was asking me, I was still praying, hoping… no rain.  “Lord, I’m trusting you against my gut instinct of fear.  I will speak in confidence that you will again calm the storms; hoping you do.”

We are such forgetful people.  We are so quick to lose our faith.  We are so quick to be afraid.  And we run to him saying, “Lord, our event will drown!  Don’t you care?  Won’t you help us?  Aren’t you paying attention?”  I don’t think he was bothered that the disciples asked him for help.  They needed help.  What he rebukes them for is their fear and lack of faith.

I can scoff at their lack of faith all I want.  I mean, they could see Jesus right in front of them after all.  But I am every bit as deserving of that scoffing myself.  I may not yet have seen Jesus physically in front of me.  But I have seen the fruit of his words, “Quiet! Be still!” countless times.

So today… AND last week… God held back the clouds!!  In these last 2 Saturdays we’ve seen over 500 people share a meal together.  There have been 5 CommuniD BBQs in 4 locations with 14 partnering groups.  It’s been an incredible couple weeks!

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen God work miracles with the weather on Saturday afternoons.  Five years and we’ve cancelled only 4.  That’s quite a track record of good weather!  And yet every time I can hardly believe it!  Our God still calls the storms!  And He creates space for His Body to form and love at a common table.

My God… YOU ARE AMAZING!!

Shared by Mike Schmitt.

No Rain in HP

The day dawned gray, the forecast was bad…rain, followed by some more rain, then some rain.

We prayed. We went up to Kensington to meet up with Heather and hook up the trailer to her Suburban…still raining.

Heading south on John R, we looked ahead and saw brighter skies. We arrived at Green Acres Park… NO RAIN!!

It didn’t rain a drop. Not one, until we were packing up to head home!

Great day! Awesome God. Thanks to ALL, new faces and old, who braved a miserable forecast and came to be a part of the Hazel Park CommuniD BBQ!! YOU ALL ROCK!!

Shared by Jim Sterner.

Hazel Park and a beer tent

We’d been blessed weather-wise for every BBQ so far…no rain in spite of bad forecasts, warmer than expected temps, very blessed. This Saturday wasn’t looking good though. No problem, God’s taken care of the weather every time. We went ahead and fired up the grill and the skies opened. Harder and harder it came down.  All the pavilions were being used so we were looking hard for a plan B. One of our HP BBQ family came running up and said she’d talked with the people using one of the pavilions and we were welcome to use the end of their pavilion. Plan B had arrived and we took off, lit grill, tables and people scrambling across the park. All eyes were on us as we set up at the end of the music pavilion of the Madison Hts. F.O.E. picnic. God is good…but who is this big dude with the seriously unhappy face coming our way? As we talked (talked=did our best to be able to stay where we were) we found out that the invite didn’t come from anyone in charge of this rather BIG (all three pavilions, beer tent, 200+ people) picnic, but rather from the DJ. After a short conversation, one that went from terse to pleasant, we were given the official OK. God is good!
We talked, mingled, bought raffle tickets, watched horseshoes, got a shout out over the PA from the Madison Hts. F.O.E. president Brian, and had a chance to meet and connect with a group of people we’d have never met without the “unwanted” rain. By the way, the rain stopped as soon as we’d gotten under cover and the sun came out shortly after. Yes, God is good. His plans, not our plans!

Written by: Jim Sterner

Jim & Donna Sterner are the point leaders for the Hazel Park CommuniD BBQs

Guest Post from Cole Yoakum

As read on our old intern, Cole Yoakum’s blog:

I was at a communi-D barbecue the other day.

I had some friends who were at their first barbecue ever. They had heard me talk about it a little bit, but this was the first time we were all able to come out together.

When they got there some of us split off to go play ball, others sat down with a group of young girls and paint nails, another sat and had good talks with some of the other kids who were interested in neither.

I started to notice how cool this was.  Here were some kids who were playing football with some guys who like hanging out in that community.  These little girls were having a couple older girls in their early twenties having a great time painting nails with them.  And others were sitting around enjoying hot dogs with their neighbors.

It was a cool thing because all of us just showed up and immediately gravitated toward the things that we loved and good at.  It was a lot like church that way. We showed up and were able to just go where we felt our gifts were best used.  For some that was football, others were gifted for the grill, others were called to paint nails.

No one was competing. No one was saying, “real ministry looks like grilling.” or “Football is for stronger Christians, nail-painting is for lesser Christians.” There was none of that.  We were just playing in a park, people going where they felt gifted.

It amazing how often what you are gifted for is also what you enjoy.  The guy at the grill wasn’t standing there saying, “This stinks.”  He was there because he was good at it and it is what he wanted to do– what he enjoyed.

This is how church should be.

I heard a story once about a guy who was hired to change a stagnant congregation into a force for Jesus in their city. Ministries were competing, folks were thinking of church as a job instead of a community. The first thing he did was bring all 100 full and part-time staffers into a room and tell them that they were fired, but that they may apply for any job at the church, whatever job they wanted, and if the job they wanted didn’t exist, write up a job description for it.  After two weeks, everyone had been hired back, but into jobs that they wanted and felt called to. From there the church erupted into the community, spilling over the love of Christ everywhere they went.

Church isn’t meant to be competitive. Ministries not meant to fight or gossip. Kingdom work is like the park.  You show up, you find what looks best for you, and you put yourself there to love others.

Nate & Katherine foster care

It’s amazing how God is working! I received this text today:

Hey Mike,

Remember the little foster baby we had with us at our meeting in pontiac? Well, we still have her and brought her down to Detroit today for a parenting visit with her father. Nate and I both thought he (the dad) looked familiar and after chatting with him a bit we find out he has been coming to Second and Selden BBQs for a long time now and lives right around there….how ironic!!!

Going to those BBQs is what made me want to do foster care because I saw the state of the way these people were living and knew they were having babies they couldn’t care for…little did I know we would have one of those babies in our home. 🙂

Christmas in July

Back in July, a previously homeless elderly woman, raising 3 grandchildren under 5 years old, from the Detroit CommuniD BBQs was living in an abandoned house.  She finally got approved for Section 8 and was able to move into an apartment.  Through conversations and relationships built at the Detroit CommuniD BBQs, people were able to collect and give her furniture, dishes & beds for herself and the kids. Thanks SO MUCH to those who built the relationship, saw the need and did what they could!!

Immediately afterwards she cooked dinner for the people who brought over the furniture and things.  Through that conversation she shared her desire and need for a fresh start in life.  Everyone prayed together and she gave her life to Christ!!

God is good!!

Hazel Park??

REALLY GOD?  HAZEL PARK?

I was sitting at a church planters conference last fall and out of nowhere it happened-HAZEL PARK… there it was in my journal! All CAPS, zig-zaggy lines around it, highlighted in yellow! No need to ask where it came from, but WHY? That was THE question.

First a little bit of a background to set the stage.  I’m follower of Jesus… more and more each day! Trying desperately to reflect Jesus and be His hands and feet and occasionally succeeding.  But that hasn’t been the case most of my life.  For the biggest part of my adult life I was a good guy, loyal and true to my incredible wife Donna, I love being a dad and was involved with all the stuff that was raising kids (they’re 22 & 24 now).  But Jesus was not a part of my life in any significant way until the last seven years.  So my being at a church planter’s conference was a stretch.  At this point in life, planting a church was NOT something on my radar, but the opportunity to hear some awesome people speak on the topic was too good to pass up.  More background! Why Hazel Park? I had NO connection to Hazel Park other than my daughter being a new resident of the city.  But that wasn’t it.  I went home that evening with Hazel Park burned into my brain.  A day, two days, a week passed.  Prayers to our awesome God went out constantly asking “Why Hazel Park? And what are we supposed to do there?” He was silent on the details, but He was adamant that Hazel Park SHOULD NOT! WOULD NOT! COULD NOT be ignored.  He revealed a few things.  Possibly a small church plant or a home church (and that kinda told me why I was at the conference)?  But a church plant wasn’t quite it, at least for now that wasn’t it.  There was this constant questioning in my prayers and a steady, unshakable thought at the forefront of my mind.

I needed to share the whole Hazel Park thing with my bride of 35 years.  She’s heard some pretty off the wall ideas over the years and this one was off the wall for sure.  I rambled on as I explained this vague, but simultaneously specific call God had put on my heart.  As the words spilled out of my mouth it all sounded so weird, so vague, so out of focus.  I began taking drives through Hazel Park to see if I could get some clear direction, if I could hear God tell me specifically what He wanted.  Still nothing definite.  Another week passed… a month and the unmistakable call to Hazel Park kept on, but NO IDEA WHAT!

Fast forward to early winter.  On a cold Saturday morning I received an email completely out of the blue about a meeting at Landmark Community Church… in Hazel Park.  It was a planning meeting for a Kensington Spring Serve Project.  This Spring Serve would involve building a home for a deserving family.  The picture became a bit less fuzzy.  The meeting was in Hazel Park, but the home was slated to be built in another city.  Through it all God would not let Hazel Park leave my thoughts.  Over the next several weeks, through a series of turns and twists (God is SO COOL that way) we arrived at the decision to build the house in Hazel Park…something I knew would happen from that first meeting.  The focus was sharpening.  Over the next few weeks my wife and I stepped into the role of building community relations in Hazel Park as it related to the home build.  One morning, standing under the blast of a hot shower it came to me… a CommuniD BBQ in HP! What better model to build community! I figured we’d do a BBQ over the next 3 months, introduce ourselves to the neighbors, build the house and call it done.  NOT! When we talked with Mike after a Wednesday service, and walked through the idea he was in complete agreement with one exception! It would NOT end after the build, with God’s lead it would continue indefinitely.  Again the soft focus was sharpened a bit more.

The house is good, a deserving family has been blessed, relationships were started, and God was glorified.  Still Hazel Park is a consuming focus for us.  We have four BBQs behind us, residents are bringing food to pass (some of whom are recipients of the Landmark food program-pretty awesome), we have a diverse palette of God’s Community coming on the second Saturday of the month, we have baseball games, a volleyball court in need of repair (but with a vision to fix it up), we’re building relationships in Hazel Park… and this is only the beginning! Still unclear where we are going next, the focus is still a bit fuzzy, but the call on our hearts to the City of Hazel Park is just as insistent now as it was many months ago when God first put it on my heart.  All of this from a moment in a dark room, listening to God.

5 Year Anniversary Luau & Pig Roast Press Release

5 Year Anniversary Luau & Pig Roast Press Release

Elevate Detroit, a nonprofit organization that specializes in creating community-building events across southeast Michigan is celebrating their fifth birthday on June 16, 2012.

The organization, launched in 2007, began when a few friends wondered what it would look like to haul a grill into Cass Corridor, Detroit and share a meal with the homeless people they found there.  Since then, they have added four more locations (Pontiac, Flint, Mount Clemens and Hazel Park) and provide approximately 1,200 meals/month across southeast Michigan.  All of the meals and supplies are provided completely by people who attend the events.

The celebration will be at their Detroit CommuniD BBQ location: Robert Redmond Plaza at the Corner of Second Ave. and Selden St. The event will be luau themed with a pig roast from Coal’s BBQ.  The festivities begin at 1:00 p.m. and will go continue late into the afternoon.

A “typical” barbecue

Sometimes people ask me to describe what a Communi-D barbecue is like. Usually they imagine an outdoor soup kitchen: line up, get served, sit, eat, leave. I tell them that is hardly the case, that we enjoy getting to know our friends in each location, there is no server-served, sometimes there is music or inflateable slides for kids, or tons of balls and sidewalk chalk. Sometimes people bring their pets. Sometimes the three-year-old little girl walks to the barbecue by herself. It’s never as predictable as lining up and never as bland.

But, for those who are curious, I did my best to take mental notes of everything I could so I could do my best to lay out what a “typical” barbecue is like.  I hope this helps and I imagine that these feelings will be echoed by anyone who has been to a barbecue.

Friday night Mike Schmitt and I were watching the Tigers game at Rochester Mills. In between games of pool and cheering on the Tigers/Brandon Inge I asked Mike what barbecue he was planning on going to. “Detroit,” he said. “I am taking my little cousin. She has been interested in going for a while and she finally has a free weekend to go. You?”

“Hazel Park. Jenny hasn’t been to that location yet, so I want to take her there and show her that.”

“Cool.” Mike said, pulling out the triangle and racking the balls.

I picked up my girlfriend at noon, fought a strange amount of Saturday traffic and drove to Hazel Park. We climbed out of the car at Green Acres Park and walked toward the pavilion that Elevate Detroit commandeers every month.  A couple of guys were had just lit the grill and were spraying lighter fluid on it laughing.

I walk up to Jim Sterner, one of the organizers of this location and a friend from Kensington. We hug and I introduce him to Jenny.

Jenny and I walk into the pavilion where there are already 30 people sitting and talking. We find a table and sit down. We are only in place for a few moments before Jenny jumps up and runs over to pet a fat Chihuahua that someone had brought with them. She fawns over the dog and they share a few dog stories.

The limits of Jenny’s love for animals was quickly tested when a man from the neighborhood walks across the park with a colorful Macaw on his shoulder. Jenny loves animals, but hates birds. She quickly retreats saying “the bird was looking at me.  Made me uncomfortable.”

“Hi! Are you Josh?” Another neighbor has walked up from the far side of the park, pan in hand.

“No, I don’t know Josh.”

“I brought brownies. Do I need to tell someone?”

“Well don’t tell too many people, because I want to make sure I get one!” I said.  She didn’t get it. But I showed her to the tables where we set the food.

“I made these this morning!” She exclaimed, very proud of her batch. “I have never been to a barbecue before but my neighbor down the street, she can’t be here today, but she told me about this and I said, ‘ooo I can make brownies! So I did!”

“That’s great!” I said. “Hope I can get one!”

She nodded and smiled really big. “You better hurry there are delicious!”

Walking back, Jenny and I passed an elderly couple.  Both were well-wrinkled and beginning the bend that seems to come with time. They were sitting at a table with some others, telling stories. They were the life of the table!

I noticed that they were both wearing Obama 2012 hats. I slowed down and leaned in, “I like those hats!” I said.

She gave me a big non-toothy grin and launched into a story about getting a life-sized cardboard cutout of Barak Obama from one of his old campaign headquarters. She said that she had called her son to come over and put it up in the living room on a hook on the wall.

The punch-line was something about her son having some objection to “hanging Obama.” The table erupted in laughter.

Jenny and I took our seats next to a woman who had been passing around petitions. We looked over her petitions and signed the ones we agreed with. Then we started talking about her family. This lady had grown up in Hazel Park and had a grown son who lived in Hazel Park as well. She was, however, a little upset that her other son has decided to move to Sterling Heights, so far away.

This reminded me of the moms I knew back home who were upset when their kids moved the ten miles from Beebe to Searcy—a similar distance. It was neat to see, the day before mother’s day how mom’s are the same wherever they are.

There was a family sitting behind us that were Iraqi immigrants. We met the month before and it was great to see them again.  They bring their newspapers in Arabic and read while their kids play with the soccer balls that we bring every time. I waved and them and we smiled at each other.

I was lucky enough to get a brownie. I don’t like touching my food so I went to cut it with my plastic fork. This was immediately thwarted as my fork broke in half as well as three prongs busting off. We all laughed at how hardy these brownies were.  Jenny laughed at me because I had to suck it up and touch the brownie. And it was delicious. But hardy.

We went to leave after some time. I shook hands with Jim again and we were walking out.  I noticed there was one more brownie so I ate it. I doubled back really quick to find the girl.

“Hey! It looks like all your brownies are gone!  You should bring more next month!” She was overcome with excitement and ran over to the pan. Peering in to confirm it, she grabbed her pan and held it out. “All gone!”

Bugs and Aliens: A Nelson follow-up

A month ago I wrote a post about a man I met at Elevate Detroit’s Communi-D barbecue in Hazel Park. I didn’t ever get to post it on Life After Death (to self) but you can read the original on the Elevate Detroit blog.

The story was about Nelson, an older man who was slow to talk but began pouring his story out to me. Some of that was interesting autobiographical information: where he lived, his family. Other parts were a bit odder: defending the world from alien invasion and being offered the medal of honor.

Ultimately it didn’t matter what he was talking about. He was just filled with joy that someone was interested in listening. That was the point.

I have been asked about him several times now and every time I have to say, “I haven’t seen him in a month, there hasn’t been another Hazel Park barbecue.” Well, Saturday was second weekend, which is when we host the barbecue there so I was excited to get back and find him again.

We walked up a little early, the grill was just getting started and people were beginning to gather. He wasn’t there yet. That was okay. We were early.

I waited around a bit. I looked around for some time, but there was no sign of him. I waited. Eventually the grill was cooking, we went through the line, talked to a lot of other people, but I didn’t see Nelson at all. I was a little disappointed. I was honestly looking forward to sitting with him again, hearing more of his stories.

Or, I thought, maybe I want Nelson here for some other reason…

It was true. I wanted Nelson to be there for reasons bigger than being friendly and fun conversation.  I wanted Nelson to be there to show me that barbecues were working. I wanted him to be there to confirm that we were really bridging gaps, enhancing life for people in that community, having some earthly (and by extension heavenly) impact.

It was a moment of real humility when I looked around at the 50+ people who were having fun, eating burgers, petting each other’s pets, speaking different languages, serving each other and realized I was wondering if what we were doing was “successful.” I had set up Nelson as a litmus test for success that was unfair and inaccurate.

I just shook my head and had to smile.  I sent up a small apology prayer, took a bite of my hot dog and began a great conversation with the woman at our table who was passing around political petitions. She told Jenny and I about growing up in Hazel Park, how lucky she was that all of her children were in the area still and that many of her friends have lived her for 30+ years. She began pouring her life into me, just as Nelson had.

Nelson did show up that day. He walked up and sat down at the table with us. “Nelson!” I said. “How are you?”

“Did I meet you here last time?” He said, looking a little confused.

“I… um… yes,” I said, sticking my hand out, “I am Cole.  This is Jenny.”

My litmus test for success didn’t remember me. But for the second month in a row, Nelson came to a park where neighbors, kids, pets, people and friends all converged for food, a good time, great friends on a beautiful summer day.

Success.

We Blew Up a Birthday, God was Pleased

This Saturday I was at Elevate Detroit’s barbecue in Pontiac.

If you didn’t know, basically Elevate Detroit just starts barbecues in communities in order to create events and spaces for neighbors to meet each other, churches to serve together and community to grow. Pontiac is the location that I work with the most since I am going to be moving there soon and starting M6C. It tends to be lower-income, mostly former blue-collar workers who have been laid off from any one of the many factories that used to be here, but that’s a different story.

The barbecue was going well. We had plenty of food and the kids were playing on the giant inflatable slide that Kensington brings out for each event. People were standing around talking, a lot of us were playing with kids. It was a good time.

People were beginning to leave and we were starting to run out of food. We were clearing off tables and discussing taking down the slide—another great barbecue accomplished. About that time, two cars pulled up and parked on either side of the park. One was a family with a few young kids. It seems like eight people climbed out of the small car and looked around a little confused.  You could tell they were surveying what we were doing in the park and weren’t sure what to do. But eventually the dad reached in the car and pulled out two balloons and a foil pan: they were having a birthday party in the park. It was obvious they weren’t expecting a huge crowd to be in the park at the same time. They skirted the park and headed toward a vacant picnic table.

The second car was a woman in a beautiful red formal dress. She explained that she had some food, but wasn’t able to stay since she was on her way to her neighbor’s Confirmation ceremony.  I wasn’t sure what we were going to do with any more food since we were starting to pack things up, but I told her I would take it off her hands. We walked to the car and there, in the back seat, was a birthday cake.

“Is this for the confirmation?” I asked.

“No, that’s for the barbecue.” She said, handing it to me.

“Okay.”

I took the cake and walked over to the family that had just walked up. “Are you here for a birthday?”

“Yeah,” they said, “Do you need us to leave?”

“No, not at all.” I said.  “Actually I was going to see if we could share anything with you?”

“How do you mean?” the mother asked.

“Well, it seems like you’re having a birthday, and I happen to have a giant birthday cake, a couple cases of pop and a giant inflatable slide if you’re interested.” The little birthday girl’s eyes lit up. She had been surveying the fun on the slide since they pulled up.

“Can I?” she whispered.  Mom nodded and the little girl was off.

I brought over the cake, the cases of pop and extra plates, napkins, silverware and other party necessities.  Before they knew it their table was full.  The girl enjoyed a couple of turns on the giant slide before we had to pack it away and I hope had a better birthday because of it.

I love that God is a party guy.

Often you hear people make jokes about God at a party or Jesus wearing a tuxedo t-shirt. Usually it is in jest, but I think there is some truth to that. God likes a party. You’ll recall it was Jesus who brought the wine to the wedding, God said he wanted a big band playing in his house (the Temple) and Jesus hosted a 5,000 person fish fry.

The bible also says that when the Kingdom is spread on earth, there is a party in Heaven.  That means that when I give a guy a ride, when you help a friend in need, or when a little girl’s birthday party gets a shot in the arm from a group of strangers in the park, God is partying in Heaven.

I want to live a life that continues to expand the kingdom on earth, which will continue the party in heaven.

Barbecue, Bugs, Aliens

I went to the Hazel Park barbecue this week. I missed the kick-off for various reasons, but wasn’t going to miss week two. So, after work on Saturday I hopped in my car, grabbed a couple cases of pop and some cupcakes and drove down 75 to Green Acres in Hazel Park.

I worked my way around seeing all of the different things that were going on. A lot of families had brought balls and games: soccer balls, cones and bats for small-scale baseball, a bean bag toss.  It was a beautiful day so many people from the neighborhood had brought out their dogs so I made sure to meet the ones who were friendly (the dogs that is).

Eventually I settled at a table with a burger and a hot dog in front of me. After a moment I was joined at my table by an older gentleman who kept his eyes straight down, but was obviously feeling me out for conversation.

“Hi,” I started. “I’m Cole.”

“Nelson,” he replied and he cautiously shook my hand.

“Nelson, do you live around here?”

“Well,” he said, eyes shifting. “I don’t know if  I should tell you.”

“Okay…well, um… what do you do for a living?” I was obviously jumping to the next question in the rolladex to inspire deeper conversation.

“Disability,” he said, which isn’t uncommon.

“Oh, I am sorry to hear that.” I said.

“They said I am not fit to work!” he said, pointing to his head. “But I don’t want to talk right now.”

“Okay,” I said.  “We don’t have to talk.”

Without missing a beat, Nelson said, “I live down that street.” And pointed a block away.  “But I shouldn’t talk about it.”

This is how conversation went with Nelson for some time. He would shake his head, tell me he didn’t want to talk, then launch into another conversation point. Once that was exhausted, he would again tell me he wasn’t interested in talking.  Eventually it just became a natural part of the conversation, like a sigh or a hand gesture.  Despite not wanting to talk about it, Nelson told me about his wife, kids, his career in food service and the mental disability that he believes came about as the result of stress after being help up in a store robbery.

He also told me about summers in Hazel Park where he would have to fight off alien invaders. These alien invaders have the whole world fooled into thinking that they are insects called cicadas, but he knows the truth. He told me that the whole world has him to thank for stopping the invasion. He was offered the medal of honor, but refused it because it didn’t seem right for some reason.

Of course, if you’re reading this you begin to understand that Nelson has some issues that I can’t diagnose. But that is okay. From the time Nelson sat down to the time I had to leave was about an hour and a half. I wonder when the last time was that someone was willing to sit and listen to him talk about whatever he felt like and be engaged and ask questions about his fantasies.  It may have been a very long time.  I believe it was because his whole attitude, body language and demeanor changed over the course of our conversation. He became more open, his eyes were more engaged and his attitude totally changed.

I began to realize, or rather reinterpret his “I don’t like to talk about it” to mean “no one likes to hear about it” because it was obvious that he liked to talk about it.

After lunch, we parted ways.  I told him that I hoped to see him next time and he said he would like that very much.

Easter in the Park

I have a friend. For this post, I’ll change his name. Let’s call him John. This is not because this post is will be inflammatory by any stretch. It is simply because I haven’t asked him if I can share this story.

John is born and raised in Detroit. John is in his early 20s. John is on parole and he won’t tell me what for. John is homeless. Though he has family in the area, he can’t live with them. He often stays with friends so he doesn’t have to sleep on the streets. John runs drugs sometimes to make money. As a young, African-American felon on parole in Detroit, this is his only foreseeable option. No, it’s not a good thing to do. But I’d like to see you do something different in his situation.

John is smart. John is witty. John enjoys being the life of the party and revels in the spotlight. John loves reading Psalms and has several memorized. John also enjoys singing. On at least one occasion, John has led others (including myself) to the throne in singing worship at a CommuniD BBQ in Detroit.

The Saturday after last Easter.

I was at the CommuniD BBQ in Detroit. I was sitting with John and we were eating. I asked John if he did anything special for Easter; went to church, had dinner with his family, anything. This is what he told me,
“Well I worked Saturday night (which means he was running drugs). I got off about 8:00 Sunday morning. I knew it was Easter and that’s a really big day for churches. So I figured none of the churches would be here with people in the park. I had a pocket full of cash from working and nothing to do. So I went to the store, bought a loaf of bread, some ham and some mustard. And I came here to the park and made sandwiches for anyone who was here and we just kind of ate together.”

As he told me this, I was more than moved. I was speechless. I was thrilled for him. He was sharing with others as there was need. He was focused on others instead of himself. He was living out the call of Jesus in his life. Yes, he got the money from running drugs. But how many of us make our money from indulging and profiting off of the gluttony or materialism of others? This friend of mine was beginning to take steps in the way of Jesus.

Our conversation went on and was good. I’ve thought about that story and shared that story many times over the last year.

This past Saturday night I was in Charleston, SC. I was talking with a guy in his early 20s who has been dreaming of creating community like elevate Detroit and Micah 6 Community are. He’s never seen anything like what he’s been dreaming about. He’s never heard of it and he’s never heard of anyone else doing it. Needless to say, our conversation was a powerful one. He was thrilled, inspired and excited to learn of others doing similar things to what he’s been feeling called to create. It was inspiring and so encouraging to me to get to be a part of that with him.

I told him the story of my friend John that I shared above. And then I said, “You tell me. Who was more like Jesus that day? We, the church people worshipping God in our buildings with our worship services? Or the homeless drug runner that gave all he had to share what he could with others in need. Where was Jesus that morning?”

Then it hit me. Easter Sunday was right around the corner. And it was about to happen again. “I knew it was Easter and that’s a really big day for churches. So I figured none of the churches would be here with people in the park.”

Ouch.

And where would Jesus be?

Ouch.

And what were my plans for Easter?

Ouch.

So here’s the plan… Let’s not be the same church that worships a homeless man on Easter and neglects the homeless man we claim to be friends with and love.

This is not a CommuniD BBQ on Easter Sunday. This is a worship service at 2nd & Selden. And we need your help.

We will sing songs of worship to our resurrected savior.
We will hear a short Easter message.
We will share communion.
We will share a light lunch.

We need help on Easter Sunday, but we also need help getting ready in the days before. If you’d like to be a part, please call: (313) 444-0463.

For more information, join the event page: http://www.facebook.com/events/241288699301917

— We need chairs. Bring your folding chairs, your lawn chairs and your dining room chairs.
— Lunch will be ham and cheese sandwiches and bottles of water.
— Please don’t bring extra food than that. The focus will be easy to distract from celebrating the resurrection of Christ. And we don’t want that to happen.
— We need people to get together Saturday evening and make the sandwiches ahead of time.
— We need someone who will take pictures and video. Actually, we need a couple people.
— We will need people who will serve communion.
— We may need someone who can lead us in singing worship (waiting to hear back from someone now).

Pilate

Pilate.

What did Pilate do that was so wrong?

I’ve been wrestling with this question a lot this Lenten/Easter season. I am spending this year reading through the gospels. I use YouVersion and often listen to the passages aloud. In January I read through all four gospels. I spent February focusing on Matthew, reading it over and over. March was similarly spent reading Mark. Now April will be spent reading Luke. And May will be spent with John.

At the beginning of Lent I also started reading YouVersion’s “40 Days of Lent” reading plan. It’s been interesting. As I’ve read through the plans side by side I sometimes end up reading the same chapter a second time in a day. Other times I may read the same passage in parallel gospels in the same day or days apart.

Beginning today I’m also going through “The Story of Easter” reading plan. So now during Holy Week I’m reading three different reading plans all involving the life of Jesus. Two of them focus on Easter and the events leading up to it. And this week I’ll be reading the full gospel of Luke. It’s overlapping reading plans. You get the idea.

You may think (Or I would’ve thought) that the repetition or overlapping nature gets boring. But it has been quite the opposite. Reading like this has been like hearing the same story over and over again from different perspectives and in different orders. I feel like I’m getting a bigger and deeper picture of the characters in the story. Not really repetition at all.

However, I have digressed. Back to my question: What did Pilate do that was so wrong?

Having grown up in the church, I remember hearing the Easter story as a kid. I remember thinking the Jews, Pilate and everyone there was so evil except for Jesus and maybe that guy that carried his cross for him because he was forced to do it.

Over time I’ve learned to place myself amidst the crowd. I’ve pictured myself or understood myself as one of the many voices in the jeering crowd. I’ve spent hours meditating on the thought that it was my sin that nailed him to that cross. And after nailing him there with my sin, it was His love that held him there.

But what about Pilate?

Pilate was still my scapegoat. I was ok with placing myself in the massive crowd; even if it was out of sin. At least I wasn’t the only one chanting for Jesus’s execution, right? As long as it’s not only my voice shouting for his death, that seemed bad, but tolerable. I can handle that.

Pilate’s the one that could’ve really done something though. Pilate didn’t have to listen to us in the crowd. Pilate had the power to set Jesus free and silence the crowd. Pilate could’ve done something, but didn’t. And for that… I’ve always thought of Pilate as the worst one there. It’s one thing to be an ignorant peasant and demand an innocent man’s execution. It’s another thing to be an educated citizen of the most powerful empire in the world and condone the death of the innocent by a lack of action. “Yes,” I thought, “Pilate is the worst one there.”

So what did Pilate do?

Pilate questioned Jesus. (Matthew 27:11, Mark 15:2-4, Luke 23:3, John 18:33-38)
Pilate was amazed at Jesus. (Matthew 27:14, Mark 15:5)
Pilate found Jesus innocent. (Luke 23:4, 23:13-15, John 18:38)
Pilate questioned the Jews and gave them a chance to request Jesus be released. (Matthew 27:17-24, Mark 15:9-14, Luke 23:22, John 18:39)
Pilate had Jesus flogged in an apparent attempt to pacify the Jews. (Matthew 27:26, Mark 15:15, Luke 23:16, 23:22, John 19:1)
Pilate declared Jesus innocent again. (Luke 23:22, John 19:4, 19:6)
Pilate was afraid and questioned Jesus again. (John 19:8-10)
Pilate declares that he has the power to crucify Jesus or to free him. (John 19:10)
Pilate tried to set Jesus free. (Luke 23:20, John 19:12)
Pilate gave in to the crowd and handed him over to be crucified. (Matthew 27:24-26, Mark 15:15, Luke 23:24-25, John 19:16)
Pilate had a sign made declaring Jesus was “The King of the Jews” and had it posted in all three common languages of the time. (John 19:19-20)
Pilate stands firm to his declaration of who Jesus is. (John 19:22)

Here’s what Pilate did: Pilate took the time to learn who Jesus was. Pilate believed and declared Jesus to be innocent and the King of the Jews. In other words, Pilate believed Jesus. Yes. I think we’ll see Pilate in Heaven. But Pilate gave in to the pressuring demands of a sinful society. Pilate did not stand up for the innocent like he could have. But instead, Pilate stood by and allowed the innocent to die.

Now… Who is the worst in this story? Pilate? Or the Jews in the crowd? I still think Pilate.

But I can no longer place myself in the crowd. I am not an ignorant uneducated peasant. I am an educated citizen of the most powerful empire in the world. I am no longer a Jew in this story… I am Pilate. I am Pilate because every day I sit and do nothing. And through my passivity, the innocent are allowed to die. I am Pilate every time I do not do all that I can.

Let’s, as the body of Jesus, stop being Pilate. Let’s stop letting our passivity, apathy and complacency condemn the lives of the innocent. Let us stop killing God’s children with inaction! Do something. Bring your friends along. Do something together. And keep doing it.

http://one.org
http://invisiblechildren.com
http://ijm.org
http://bloodwatermission.com
http://20liters.org
http://thepeaceplan.com
http://70x7outreach.org
http://elevateDetroit.com

This list could go on and on and on. Don’t start tomorrow. Do something now.

Harding Group!

The first week in March, Elevate Detroit was lucky enough to play host to a group of college students from Harding University.

These six students traveled to Michigan to spend their spring break learning about the situation, hope and history here in the Detroit area.  They saw a lot and were able to experience many different aspects of the way Jesus is being spread through this city including, but not limited to:

–          Visiting several churches including Awakenings Movement, The Green Room, Rochester Church of Christ and Kensington Community Church.

–          Hearing about the outreach and love being shared with prostitutes through 70×7 ministries.

–          Cleaning up parks in Pontiac and Detroit.

–          Seeing community development through Central Detroit Christian and Grace Centers of Hope.

–          And watch Cole run around like a crazy person as he is trying to build Micah 6 Community.

We here at Elevate want to thank everyone who came together to make this happen, want to thank the students that came to encourage us and see the work that we are doing here.

Different Community, Different Challenges

Elevate is up to five barbecues in four cities: Flint, Pontiac, Detroit and Mount Clemens.

One of the things that I get to do for Elevate is travel around and visit all the different barbecues, meet the different leaders, and get to see the different things that groups are doing that are working in their contexts.

This weekend I went to visit the Flint location which meets at Riverside Park, next to UM-Flint on the last Saturday of every month.  Flint has a very good network of shelters and warming stations in place right in the downtown area, four within walking distance of our park.  Most of their shelters are for men, and there are others services in place for women and children in town.  This being the case, transient populations are pretty low.  Usually the homeless people are regulars at the shelters, and they all know each other pretty well.

Contrast this with Mount Clemens.  There, the summer months see a higher poor or homeless population because it isn’t so hard to stay outside.  But once winter comes, most of those people are moving toward Detroit which has a greater number of shelters.  Therefore, depending on the time of year, the numbers at the Mount Clemens barbecue may ebb and flow.

Just as with anywhere, different trends like these influence how to build community.  Thus, what happens over time, is that each barbecue takes on an identity and look of its own as it changes to best impact its community because what works in Flint might not work in Pontiac or Mount Clemens.  Or, one Detroit barbecue might not even look the same as the other Detroit barbecue.   Real work in different communities can’t be cookie cutter.

The beauty of the Church (and barbecues) is that it can change depending on its context, and as long as you are faithful to proclaiming the message of Jesus, the method by which you do that is flexible.

Pray that our leaders take risks and try new methods to better serve the communities they are building up.

Tacky Christmas Party!

That’s right ladies and gents!  Bust out those musty and dusty sweaters with the cats, santa hats and reindeer with light up noses and come on out to Elevate Detroit’s Tacky Christmas Party!

The party is at Como’s in Ferndale from 6-10 on December 20th!  Everyone is invited because 10% of all profits that night go to Elevate Detroit; and as we expand to doing more bbq’s, mission trips… We can really use the extra support!

Santa will be attending early in the evening, so bring your family out for a great time for a greater cause!

Thanksgiving Day

When I came to know Mike and become more familiar with Elevate one of the things that we started imagining was a Thanksgiving and Christmas barbecue at Second and Selden.  Elevate had done a Christmas last year and Mike was passionate about doing that again.

As came closer and closer to the Thanksgiving cookout I was beginning to worry a bit.  We had the chairs, tables, trailers and some workers, but I was concerned about having enough food.  We hadn’t done a whole lot of soliciting or putting feelers out there to see if anyone was bringing anything to actually eat.  Luckily we had left over chilli and wings from our rained-out barbecue on Tuesday’s episode of Chizzy Cam.

I asked Mike and Amanda about food for Thursday in our weekly meeting.  They both just looked around and said, “I don’t know.  I think it will be there.”  I expressed some concern and pressed it a bit. “Do we know if anyone else is bringing anything?”  “Um, no, I am pretty sure we have a few turkeys.”  So, I just sort of trusted them and trusted God– both of whom had been doing this kind of work longer than I have. 

We pulled up to the park on Thursday morning, unloaded the trailers, set up chairs and the food started coming.  First a couple here and a couple there.  Then it just kept coming.  Eventually we had four full tables of food, a table of deserts and a whole other table of drinks.  Multiple turkeys, multiple hams, trash bags full of rolls, (literally) 85 pounds of mashed potatoes and more food than we could have imagined.  It was more than enough to feed the 200 people there. 

We all ate, laughed, had a fun meal together.  When it came time to pack things up we still had a ton of food left over.  More than we knew what to do with.  We agreed to pack it all up and take it a couple blocks away to the Detroit Rescue Mission.

I mentioned on Chizzy CAM the other night that I come from a background where you have to work hard to make things happen.  If things don’t go right, it’s because you didn’t work hard enough.  God works in a different way.  He likes to make things work in spite of your efforts.  These things are God confirming that he is on the side of what you are doing.  Do what you can, and God will do the rest.

It would be impossible to personally thank everyone who brought food.  Many people stopped on the curb, handed us food and drove off.  But we do want to take the time to thank the people and organizations who we are able to thank:

Buffalo Wild Wings– The locations at Troy and Flint donated 225 wings a piece.  Thank them when you go in.

Café Sonshine  – I literally walked in for lunch and the owners asked if they could cook us a giant pot of chilli.  They are the best.

Kensington Community Church  – they lent us the use of 50 long tables and 294 folding chairs as well as two of their trailers and a truck to haul it all down there.

Elevate on Chizzy CAM

There has been a lot going on at Elevate Detroit in the past week. I am going to be posting several updates in a row to catch you up on all of our newest developments!

Last Tuesday night Elevate Detroit was featured on a local television show called Chizzy C.A.M.(Charity, Arts and Music).  Chizzy CAM brings in guests from the Detroit area who are working to make a difference in the city. We were asked to do a barbecue outside of U-Detroit Café, where Chizzy CAM is filmed, but we arrived and realized the rain was going to keep us inside.

Mike, myself and others were interviewed about the things that the barbecues were doing in the city, what our plans were for the future, etc. It was a great night. We were able to make contact with Brother Al who I talked to at length about the work that he is doing for the homeless in the city as well. That man is a servant for God!

You can watch the whole interview and video here: http://www.ustream.tv/embed/recorded/18689737

Christmas Lights for a Cause FUNdraiser

Christmas Lights for a Cause FUNdraiser benefiting Elevate Detroit. http://ow.ly/7CcNK

Haiti Group is Back!

Team Make Haiti Happen 2011 is back home and will be hosting a debriefing party. Event is open to all so check it out!

Looking for A Few Good Ovens

Looking for a few good people who are willing to reheat some precooked dishes for our Thanksgiving BBQ…

New Relationships-the HUB

I love working for a nonprofit. 

In the business world, anyone who is working in the same field as you are is considered competition.  When it comes to nonprofits though, they are partners and friends working toward a similar goal.  Often times it is easy to call up a person or a group and say, “Hey, I want to learn more about what you do!”  To which they reply, “Come on over.”

Such was the case with my time at The HUB of Detroit.  If you were to create a short list of people who are doing good work in the Cass Community, the HUB would be on it. The HUB takes bike donations, does repairs and sells them at low cost back to people in the community.  Additionally, they teach classes to students about how to take care of a bike, and once a student finishes their classes, they recieve a free bike.  Adults who need a bike or parts for their bike can come, donate time, and upon completion recieve the bike parts that they need.  It is a program that has been largely successful and has helped countless people with reliable and affordable transportation. 

I emailed this HUB through their website and asked if anyone had anytime to sit down and talk.  I recieved a reply from Jason Fiedler, and we made plans for Monday. 

 

The HUB is located only a couple of blocks from our Second and Selden Barbecues and Awakenings Movement, a new church plant meeting in the DSA, one of our partners.  I pulled up and knocked on the door–a heavy metal door with a map of the Cass Community painted on it by hand.  After a mintue the door opened, “Cole?” 

“Yes.” I replied.

Jason pushed the door open and we walked in.  He offered to give me a tour of the place.  Through several more locked metal doors he took me through the shop that is the store-front, the storage, where they keep their donated bikes, the room where they strip the bikes, the room that is holding the 100+ bikes they are giving away for Christmas and finally the workspace where they teach classes every week.

The place is big, old, drafty and cold.  I was expecting something else entirely and was underequipt in my flip flops.  Jason, across the table from me, wore a coat, scarf, and gloves. 

We talked for a while about the history of the HUB, what they set out to do and how they felt like they were accomplishing those goals.  I asked if he had any clue how many bikes they had given away since they started. He was unsure, but knows that they’ve given away 500 kids bikes in the past two years because he decided to start keeping track, but as far as adult bikes, he didn’t know.

From there we talked about the hurdles they are working on: keeping stock, the inability to do pick-ups (since few of the people who work there own cars), and general funding problems. We also tossed around a couple of possibilities as far as projects, ideas and things that we could partner on. I am excited about those options and I am sure will be writing more about those soon.   

I left the HUB confident, a little more informed and, again, just excited about the people that God has called up in this city to do great work for a people in need.

November 2011 Newsletter

What a month!! This newsletter’s going to be a bit longer than normal, but we’ll be as brief as we can. PLEASE read it all!

This month:
– Haiti trip
– Intern Cole
– Pontiac
– Thanksgiving
– Chizzy CAM

WE’VE MADE HAITI HAPPEN!
This past Friday (November 4th) we said au revoir to our brave and fearless Haiti crew.
Derick, Amanda, Lindsey and Alex will be returning back to Detroit next Monday at 2:30 in the afternoon with surely a tan (or burn) and many stories and pictures to share.

Stay tuned for future trips next year to Africa, back to Haiti and possibly somewhere stateside. Stay tuned at: www.alittlegracemi.org or e-mail

Cole the Intern from Arkansas…

Check out his autobiographical blog post and the video of his initiation ceremony here: https://elevatedetroit.wordpress.com/2011/11/04/announcing-me-the-new-intern/

Pontiac CommuniD BBQ!?!? Yes!! (click for Facebook launch event)
Thanks to partnerships with Kensington Community Church – Orion Campus, Rochester 1st Assembly of God and Faith Church in Rochester Hills!
Launching November 19th and on the 3rd Saturday of every month after. 1:00pm in Baldwin Park (at the corner of E. Howard St. & Edison St.)
For more info e-mail or call (313) 444-0463.

Thanksgiving:
Many of you were at our Christmas Day sit-down BBQ this past December. Tables and chairs to sit 90 people weren’t nearly enough as we sat around and had a family style meal outside under the beautiful late December sunshine.

We plan to do the same the same this Thanksgiving Day. This time we should have plenty of tables and chairs to go around. We will need lots of help setting up and tearing down before and after the CommuniD BBQ.

Bring lots of hot, cooked food!
For more info e-mail or call (313) 444-0463.

Chizzy CAM… TV and a BBQ
…is an online TV show every Tuesday evening from 8:00-11:00pm. It is filmed and aired live from the uDetroit Café and at http://uDetroitcafe.com. Chizzy is the name of the main host and CAM stands for Charity, Arts and Music.

Tuesday, November 22nd Chizzy CAM will be featuring elevate Detroit and the CommuniD BBQs!

As a part of this feature we plan to have a CommuniD BBQ outside the uDetroit Café. We could use lots of help running and supplying the BBQ that evening. We have NO idea what to expect numbers-wise. So… true to our Spirit-led, organic style… pray about how much to bring and bring that. And we’ll see what the Lord has in store. We need people to arrive at 7:00pm to setup and get things going. I do not expect the BBQ portion to go all the way until 11:00.
For more info e-mail or call (313) 444-0463.

There are lots and lots of other events at various points in the oven. And none of them can happen without all of us working togheter. Please let us know your gifts/strengths and we’d be happy to put you to work!

For more information about elevateDetroit, A Little Grace or the events we’re doing, e-mail mike@elevatedetroit.com or check out the Facebook fan page or our Twitter feed.

Grace and peace,

Mike Schmitt, Amanda Vizzini and the team
(313) 444-0463
mike@elevatedetroit.com
amanda@elevatedetroit.com

Like us:
http://www.facebook.com/elevatedetroit
http://www.facebook.com/alittlegracemi

Follow us:
http://www.twitter.com/elevatedetroit

As Dorothy Day said, “If you have two coats, one of them belongs to the poor.”

Announcing (Me), The New Intern

Greetings readers of this fine blog and supporters of elevate Detroit with A Little Grace. My name is Cole Yoakum and I am the newest edition to the Elevate/ALG team.

I grew up in central Arkansas, but about five months ago really felt God leading me and prodding me to move to Detroit. So, on August first I sold everything that I owned (literally) and drove to Detroit. I have spent the last three months working for Kensington Community Church as a church planting intern, but had a strong pull toward on-the-ground relational work. They were kind enough to release me to work for Elevate Detroit and that is how I arrived at where I am.

I have been doing some minor ghost writing around this blog for a couple of weeks now and cannot wait to start filling out more official duties here at Elevate.

My background is mostly in social work. I have most of my degree in Social Science from Harding University, worked for a year as a staff supervisor at Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter and for a brief time at a drug treatment center in central Arkansas. I have been brought in as a Marketing guy for Elevate which will be interesting because Elevate is a more organic and relational fundraiser than I am used to, so this will be an adventure.

Thank you guys for allowing me the opportunity to serve in this way. I cannot wait to meet and get to know the broader community that makes up Elevate Detroit. Lets do coffee!

You can find me at:
www.coleyoakum.wordpress.com
coleyoakum@gmail.com
cole@elevatedetroit.com

NOTE: Mike and Amanda may link to an incriminating video of someone who looks a lot like me singing a terrible song that no one remembers. Don’t believe it.

Added by Mike… you be the judge…

Cole Yoakum the intern’s official initiation process from Elevate Detroit on Vimeo.

As with any good organization… we like to see what your strengths and weaknesses are before we hire you. And by hire… I don’t mean pay.

Cole’s gifts? Not rhythm or singing. 🙂

A Little Grace Fundraiser

A Little Grace (the missions branch of elevateDetroit) has a fundraiser tomorrow! Join us at Valentine Vodka 5-9pm. http://ow.ly/d/o5x

Fire, Faith & Loss

This past Saturday I walked down to Robert Redmond Park at 2nd & Selden in Detroit’s Cass Corridor.

I started talking to a man named Ken in front of the park. Ken was walking down Selden with a back pack and a tired expression on his face. I asked how he was doing, and he simply said “I’ve had better days.” I understood that saying well, not knowing the reason behind his response. I inquired in the most sincere way I could convey. Ken went on to share a story I wasn’t expecting. Ken’s apartment and everything he owns in it was lost in a fire just a week ago Friday. He explained that his drunk neighbor had accidentally started a fire in the apartment above him. The ceiling then fell in and set fire to his apartment. Ken said, “I was just concerned about getting outta there.” He grabbed what clothes he could find, a bag and his dog came with him. At this point, I could only nod and apologize for his recent tragedy. I asked where his dog is now. Ken said, “He’s at my friends house, ran away twice now because he’s scared of that place, but he’s ok now.” Ken shared how thankful he was, that his girlfriend wasn’t with him that night, and that he’s safe, that his dog’s safe.

He went on to explain the hassle of contacting shelters and help agency’s around the city looking for help. His frustration in a system that expects him to have his I.D birth certificate or social security card before they will help. This man lost all his material possessions a week ago and needs a roof over his head.

The sympathy in my heart, I could only attempt to convey with body language. I asked him, “Do you see God in any of this, and if so…how?” He paused and replied, “Man faith is all I do have now, literally…I have nothing else but these clothes on my back.” I said “And your dog.” We both laughed. For a man that just lost everything he owns, he sounded…thankful for what little he does have.

I asked if he was hanging around the park for awhile to get something to eat. He said, “Yeah, yeah I plan on it.” Before I left the park I waved and smiled at Ken, and he did the same.

If I were that man, would I say the same? Would I remind myself of the faith I have, or focus on what I lost?

– Alexander Tourtillott

Haiti Fundraiser at Sherwood Brewery

Hey everyone, eat at Sherwood Brewery tonight and help one of our mission teams get to Haiti. http://ow.ly/72qGN

In addition to being fiercely committed to building a loving, growing and vibrant community here in the city of Detroit, we know that there are many places around the world that need to see that kind of love as well.    This is one way we can help make that happen. This group going to Haiti is taking that love with them.

Help us support them!

Prayer Team Story

With all the preparations and hard work that goes into the CommuniD BBQ I thought everyone should take a moment, take a deep breath and get ready to join in the celebration with us and in heaven.

We have started setting up a prayer table in the southeast corner of the park at Second and Selden this past Saturday. We were unsure how it would go or be received by those in the community, but if anything is worth a shot, it’s prayer.

On its first official day a man named Michael walked up. He wanted to pray for the strength and confidence to do the right things with his money. He laughed and reassured us that he didn’t have a lot. In the past he had given to the church but recently was using it for more destructive things. He had even gone as far as to have anointing oil poured over his wallet.

As the conversation progressed it became clear that Michael was sober but under the impression that he was saved because he gave money to the church. “God doesn’t want your money,” we said. “He wants your heart.”

We could tell by Michael’s initial reaction that he was stunned and a bit curious. This gave way to a sense of disappointment because he was counting on that as a means of atonement. We talked to Michael about the message of the gospel and his reply was “I want that.”

We prayed with Michael. He renounced his old life and told God he wanted to be a new man because of what Jesus did on the cross. When he had finished this prayer he started stumbling backwards saying “I feel it, I feel it!”

We gave him a Bible, read a couple more scriptures with him and continued our conversation. As we wrapped up, Michael jumped on his bike and rode away shouting for joy and pumping his fist in the air.

What an awesome way to start a new prayer team! We created a list that day of people and needs in the community to pray for. The prayer table, chairs and materials will be staying in the green trailer. Needless to say, we’re going to keep it going.

– Story by Scott Wakefield

Being Jesus

“Everyone needs compassion. A love that’s never failing.”

I love this song. It’s one of my favorites.

I’ve probably sung it a hundred times. Maybe more.

This is Friday night though. Normally I may sing it on a Sunday. I may sing it on a Wednesday. But I bet this is the first time on a Friday. Certainly the first time the night before a CommuniD BBQ.

Read those two lines again:
“Everyone needs compassion. A love that’s never failing.”

We all do don’t we? I know I certainly do.

Tomorrow, when we each get together at 2nd & Selden, let’s look at each other and everyone we see throughout the day with those eyes.

“Everyone needs compassion. A love that’s never failing.”

The next line says, “Let mercy fall on me.”

Lord, let mercy fall on us. And let us pour it out as an offering to you. Let each of us experience your mercy and unfailing love through each other’s compassion freely shared amongst every one present at 2nd and Selden.

– Post by Mike Schmitt
Twitter: @mikeschmitt
Blog: http://schmittmike.wordpress.com

Charles

On Saturday, August 27th, I met a man named Charles.

We were at the Detroit CommuniD BBQ location. The lines were long and people were starting to get impatient. A few of us decided to grab some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and hand them out down the line to appease the crowd a bit.

I handed a man one of the sandwiches, to which he replied, “Hey! Where is the meat?”

I quickly fired back, in a humorous fashion, “Don’t complain, its free.”

“Hey!“ he said, a big smile crossed his face. “I like you.” This led to some fun conversation between him, a few others and myself. Eventually I continued to move back down the line. The barbecue was a success as usual. We fed around one hundred people and enjoyed the afternoon with our friends at the park.

Later that afternoon, as things were winding down, Charles walked toward his bike to leave. I came up beside him and thanked him for coming. “I really like how cool you are with everyone down here, you seem so real and genuine. Where do you go to church?” he asked. I told him. “So, you’re all religious people?”

“I don’t think that I am religious.” I responded. “I just have a relationship with God. I talk and pray to God all the time. I am not restricted to rules and regulations I just love Jesus and that is why I do what I do.”

Charles began to really unload on me. He started to share with me about addictions that he has and how he wants to be free from these addictions. He said he believes in God and Jesus but never really knew what to do with all of it. I told him that Jesus can free him from those addictions and change his life around.

I told him that I didn’t always live like I do now and that I have sin and struggles in my life too. I told him that living for God is a daily thing that we have to work at and commit to. I shared some of the testimonies of people in my life that I know that have been freed from addictions by Jesus.

“I really do want to be better,” he said. “But when I went to church a couple times it was so uncomfortable. I really didn’t understand it and how this Jesus thing works.” I asked him If I could pray with him and he agreed. Charles and I took each others hands and I thanked God for Charles and for his life. I thanked God for Charles’s desire to seek him. I prayed for the spirit of addiction to be removed from Charles’s life and for his heart to soften and open to the work God is going to do in his life. I asked God to give Charles ears to hear and eyes to see exactly what he wants him to see. I thanked God for our time together and for the work he is doing in mine and Charles lives.

“I want to thank you for something,” he said. “I want to thank you for showing me how to pray. If I got anything out of today it was learning to pray, thank you.” I told Charles that he can pray anytime and anywhere for anything and God is listening. I then told Charles if he wanted to he could pray right now to ask Jesus into his life. He told me that he wanted to. We joined hands again and Charles prayed for Jesus to forgive him and to come into his life. He also thanked him for his family and the things in his life. He told God that he wanted to do better in his life.

We finished, and with child-like eyes Charles said, “I can’t wait to pray tonight at home! And…and… I want to pray every single day from now on!”

He said he can’t wait to come back and tell me how well he is doing with his drug addiction. I told him that I pray the drugs begin to make him feel sick when he uses them and that the Holy Spirit convicts him when he has drugs around him. I also told him that I pray those people that he uses drugs with start to fall out of his life and good people come into his life to make him better.

Charles and I hugged and he rode off on his bike towards home.

-Story by Heather VanSweringen

Newsletter – A Little Grace partnership

elevateDetroit newsletter – CommuniD BBQs, A Little Grace and more

It’s been a long time since we’ve sent out an e-mail newsletter (just over two years in fact!), but we just sent one out. We’re going to start sending them regularly once again. If you’d like to get on our e-mail database, let us know.

Let me introduce you to Amanda Vizzini. Amanda is basically awesome. Basically. Amanda is married to Derick. Derick and Amanda live in Troy. They have a great little boy named Aiden. Amanda has been running a ministry called A Little Grace for a couple years now.

A Little Grace partnered with elevate Detroit and the CommuniD BBQs in September 2010. By November, they were the point people for the 4th Saturday events in Detroit. In December, A Little Grace began Dinner in the D.* In June elevate Detroit began partnering with A Little Grace for Dinner in the D.

After much prayer, thought and wise counsel elevate Detroit and A Little Grace have officially (and legally) merged forces. A Little Grace is what we will continue to call the global side of things (our 1st Haiti trip will take place this November) and elevate Detroit will continue to be local. Together we can do much more for the Kingdom of God than apart.

As elevate Detroit continues to grow, we are continuing to start more CommuniD BBQs as well as beginning to plan other types of community events that connect people to Christ. We are also well under way in laying the groundwork for a three phase fundraising campaign (which will begin this Fall) to open up the Dandelions Café and community house. As things develop and grow, so does the number of people involved.

Amanda and I are now partners in this work. As things progress, you will be receiving e-mails, phone calls and creepy stalker voicemails from Amanda (as well as possibly others) from time to time. I know you all will show her the same crazy love and ridiculous support you’ve shown me as we’ve ventured into this great unknown together.

Thank you so much for your partnership and brotherhood/sisterhood in this work in the Kingdom of God!

Mike Schmitt
mike@elevatedetroit.com
schmittmike.wordpress.com
Twitter: @mikeschmitt

elevate Detroit — Creating Communities that Connect People to Christ.
(313) 444-0463
www.elevateDetroit.com
elevateDetroit.wordpress.com
contact@elevateDetroit.com
Twitter: @elevateDetroit
Facebook: facebook.com/elevateDetroit

A Little Grace
www.alittlegracemi.org (currently under construction)
Facebook: facebook.com/alittlegracemi

Dandelions Café
www.dandelionscafe.com
dandelionscafe@gmail.com
Twitter: @DandelionsCafe
Facebook: facebook.com/dandelionscafe

* The idea of Dinner in the D is similar to CommuniD BBQs. Dinner in the D happens during the week and centers more on a partnership with a specific local church within the city of Detroit. Dinner in the D is on a much smaller scale than the CommuniD BBQs and is easy for a small group to adopt one day a month. For more information on helping make Dinner in the D happen, reply or call Mike or Amanda.

Mack and Outreach Love

I spent this afternoon at the CommuniD BBQ in Detroit. It’s August 13th, 2011. Today’s high is 80°F. Mostly sunny. It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

Today I met a man named Mack. Scratch that… today I met a friend named Mack. I’ve actually met him many times before, but never remembered his name. After today, I will never forget his name.

Mack is 26 years old. He will turn 27 on October 1st. Mack is African-American. He is probably 5′ 10″ tall; a little heavier than average build. He’s a good size to hug. Mack has a sweetness about him. It’s a childlike innocence. To meet Mack is to like him. To talk with him is to love him. I cannot help, but see Christ in his smile. It’s beautiful. He is beautiful.

Mack is currently homeless. Mack stays in a shelter in Cass Corridor. Mack comes to the CommuniD BBQs just about every week. He has for some time.

Today Mack read me a song he wrote. He has chords written out and everything. The song is called Outreach Love. Mack wrote Outreach Love to describe his experiences at CommuniD BBQs at 2nd & Selden.

I hope to be able to post the lyrics to his song soon. For now, I’ll say two things about it:
1. I was in tears after hearing it.
2. The only line I remember goes something like, “No one looks at me like I’m broken.”

To anyone who may read this… success. If the last four plus years of BBQs through winter and summer alike had no other benefit whatsoever, but to give Mack the experience of being seen by God as not being broken… success. Because in Christ, Mack is made whole. In Christ, I am made whole. In Christ, Mack is not broken. In Christ, I am not broken. In Christ, Mack is healed of his brokenness. In Christ, we are all healed of our brokenness.

God,

Thank you for Christ. Thank you for Mack. Thank you for Christ in Mack. And thank you for Christ in me. Thank you for healing our brokenness through Christ and His body… us.

I hope to post full lyrics to Outreach Love soon.

P.S. Get ready for one SERIOUS birthday party on October 1st.

Mack, Heather, Morgyn and friend last summer (8/7/10)

Written by Mike Schmitt
Twitter: @mikeschmitt

Fred

I showed up to help at a barbecue recently. Climbing out of my car I see my friends, walk around and say my hellos to everyone. I noticed Fred, a regular with a big personality and servant’s heart hanging in the back. I saw that he had a bandage wrapped around his knee and he was limping a little bit.

We talked and prayed together. He said he had hurt his knee pretty bad that week but that he was so excited to come to help at the BBQ that he could not stay home. Despite his injury his love for others and desire to serve shined through, limping and all. It was just one more example of how people from the suburbs are not the only ones who come out here to serve.

As the BBQ progressed and everyone had a full plate or a full belly I caught Fred out of the corner of my eye again. Only this time he was on his knees, his hurting knees. As I moved toward him and saw one of the most beautiful sights my eyes had ever seen. He was holding the hand of a precious seven-year-old and praying for Christ to come into her heart and guide her and direct her in all her ways. This prayer went on for a solid 3-4 minutes. All around the two of them was laughter, noise and they were just still, as if no one else was in the park. They were worshipping God and calling out to Jesus. The little girl was receiving the prayers. Her eyes were shut tightly and her head was tilted up.

When it hit me what was going down, I thought to get what I could on video. It’s not often we can capture an image that so closely mirrors the heart of this ministry in such a tangible way like this.

After they prayed the little girl wrapped her arms around him and said, “Thank you, Fred!” I started crying. Fred walked over toward me and said “She just walked up to me and asked me to pray for her, so she could know God.”

– Story by Lindsey Fischer

What it’s all about

Some of you may have seen the tweet from @lindseymfischer that looked something like this:

@lindseymfischer Little girl accepted Christ into her life today at the #CommuniDBBQ @elevatedetroit http://yfrog.com/klgr3luj

Here’s a picture of brother Fred praying with her. This is what it’s ALL ABOUT! Here’s a homeless friend of ours, a brother in Christ called into ministry by the Spirit, leading a little girl into a relationship with Christ on an August afternoon. We are blessed beyond measure to be a part of the movement of the Spirit of God in our city!!

Thank you, LORD!!

Brother Fred Thompson leading a little girl to Christ today!!

2 of 2 Posts of Thoughts on the Detroit Reverse BBQ

Last Tuesday was a fantastic afternoon. 50 students and leaders from Detroit Reverse walked from Wayne State to 2nd & Selden. There were about 250 people at the BBQ total. A homeless man named David helped show about 5 students how to grill and together they cooked the food for everyone. All told there were 400 hot dogs and 240 hamburgers cooked and eaten by everyone there.

All of the students did an awesome job connecting with people and engaging in conversations all over the park. It was both encouraging and inspiring to see kids from the city and suburbs alike side by side moving, doing and loving in the Kingdom of God in Detroit. If those students are at all a sign of things to come, this city and region are in for much greater things than this.

What started 4 years ago as a wild idea thrown out amongst friends was met with a shrug and a “let’s try it.” We had no idea what God had in mind.

Today that wild idea has transformed into a movement of the Holy Spirit that is helping to reshape the way you, I and a lot of our brothers and sisters in Christ see the world, our region and most importantly, God’s people. None of it would happen without every one of you stepping up in all sorts of roles and helping wherever God calls us.

I am so honored to serve our precious Christ alongside each of you. Truly, thank you for obeying your calling, joining arms with each other and myself and fighting the dark one for the hearts and lives of God’s people and God’s city.

1 of 2 Posts of Thoughts on the Detroit Reverse BBQ

1 of 2 Posts of Thoughts on the Detroit Reverse BBQ last Tuesday…

I dropped my truck and the green trailer off at the park Tuesday morning at about 8:30. I recognized a man (unfortunately I can’t remember his name) talking to a woman from coming to the BBQs pretty often. I went over to say Hi to them, make sure they knew about the BBQ that afternoon and ask them to look after my car while I was gone.

Upon walking up to the pair, before I could even say anything, the man asked me if the BBQ was that morning or in the afternoon. I told him the afternoon. He asked what I was doing there already. I told him I was just leaving the vehicles there and that I had to go to Wayne State for awhile before I’d be back for the BBQ. He said, “Well you don’t need to worry man. We’ll watch your @#$! for you. No one’s going to mess with it. We just finished sweeping the park up getting ready for you guys (at which point he pointed to the large pile of dirt next to him that had clearly just been swept). We picked up the trash too, but you know how people trash it around here. It’s picked up for now though.” He went on to point to a truck parked along 2nd Street and said, “Mama and Papa are over there working on fixing the benches too. You know they’re the ones that are always fixing the wood on all these benches for you guys.”

Now, go back and read that last paragraph again. Let the implications sink deep into your thoughts and hearts. A homeless man was at that park with a broom early enough to have finished sweeping it by 8:30 in the morning. Why? To clean the park up for “us.” And he wasn’t alone. There was another man and woman there working on replacing the wood on benches over by the tables. Again, why? For “us.”

Let us not think for a moment that we from mostly white suburban churches are the only ones working at resurrecting Cass Corridor or any other place we go. Let us never forget that we who don’t live in that neighborhood are the guests. We’re the guests. The homeless man is not a guest at a BBQ. He is the host. We are the guests coming over to a friend’s home and bringing something to share at the Kingdom party that our friend is hosting every Saturday.

Davey reminds me of Ghandi

This afternoon I was at the Community BBQ in Mt. Clemens.  I got a chance to meet a man named Davey. Davey was at one of the BBQs we did last summer partnering with the Macomb County Coalition Against Homelessness (7/16/09). He didn’t know today’s BBQ was put together by the same group as last summer.  So he started telling me about going last summer and how good it was to have been there. His brother won a tent in a drawing that day.  He said it was good because that night it poured rain, but they didn’t have to get wet.  It was a great reminder that what we do now has long lasting effects in the future that we may never see. But it matters.

I’m reminded of something Ghandi wrote:

My dear,

Almost anything you do is insignificant, But it is very important that you do it.

It’s the bigger picture that counts. As human beings our individual everyday acts are insignificant, but as a whole and over the course of time that insignificant looses it’s -in and becomes significant.

That’s why it’s very important you do it. Not for yourself, but for humanity; Countless insignificant acts are significant – they do make a difference.

Think of it like this, the steps you take today are insignificant in the long run, but they help you achieve the long run.

Almost anything you do is insignificant, But it is very important that you do it.

Truly yours,
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

Join us this Tuesday @ 8pm to learn abou

Join us this Tuesday @ 8pm to learn about a GREAT 1M/5K/10K race supporting @elevateDetroit!! 🙂 http://ow.ly/5Ae3w

When Truth is the Enemy of Truth by @don

When Truth is the Enemy of Truth by @donmilleris http://bit.ly/eGxe1u // Good read. Such a great point.

Pre-Independence Day BBQ

Pre-Independence Day BBQ

This is 4th of July weekend. It is one of if not my favorite holidays of the year. This weekend we celebrate our independence.

And yet for many people in our area, there is no independence. There are many who feel like they have no independence to celebrate. There are many who feel dependent. Unwillingly dependent.

Some are dependent on drugs. They made a bad choice a long time ago. They gave in to peer pressure or they chose to deal with hurt the wrong way. In any case, they’ve been hooked for years. They thought they were in control. By the time they learned they weren’t, it was too late. They’re dependent on a substance that’s killing them slowly. Those who want out can’t seem to get out. And those who don’t want out have fallen so far into their dependence they can’t even remember what independence was like.

Some are dependent on family and friends. For one reason or another they haven’t been able to make it independently. They feel like they’ve failed. And maybe they have. Now they live their life depending on others to do things for them or give them things. Every day they live with the fearful possibility that their welcome will run out and they will be pushed away. They will be left alone.

Some are dependent on handouts. Those “handing out” don’t like it. Those dependent on the handout don’t like it either. Nevertheless, that is the life they have. They spend their time standing on street corners with signs and cups. They spend their time in line at soup kitchens and shelters. They spend their time looking for the next handout. And a handout is all they’ve got. Their eyes are shamefully heavy. They live their life in the margins of the world. Their life is for the most part a wasted life. Not because they proactively are wasting it. But because their life is wasting away as time goes by; they see no choice. It seems all they can do is stand and wait for the next handout. Their gifts, their dreams, their potential… wasted. Unused. Unappreciated. Unvalued.

The announcement of the Kingdom of God is that there is hope. For the addict there is healing. For the failure there is a second chance. For the marginalized there is value and treasure beyond words. We are all, every person, created images of a Holy, beautiful, creative and loving God. God may be invisible to our eyes. But we have the chance to see reflections of him in every person we cross paths with. And we have the opportunity to love Him with every eye we look into, with every hand we embrace, with every ear we lend.

How will you celebrate your independence? And how will you encourage and celebrate the independence of others? Whether you are in town this weekend or not, whether you have the opportunity to go up north or to a family BBQ or just stay home and enjoy the long weekend, remember the grace we have been given in our independence. Remember that there are still those who are fighting for their independence. Remember that you, every one of you and me, can make a real difference in this world and the next. It is our choice. Will we join the fight?

Let us celebrate our independence. Joyfully. And let us not neglect fighting for the independence of our brothers and sisters who have yet to gain theirs.

I hope to see each of you this weekend at 2nd & Selden. If you’re going up north or can’t come, remember our dependent brothers and sisters in prayer. Prayer is perhaps the greatest weapon in our arsenal.

4 Years

Hello all,

What started as a question posed on Facebook amongst a few friends has transformed into a movement that no one expected.  God has carried it far beyond the dreams or visions of anyone who was at that first fateful BBQ at Woodward & Willis.  There are now community meals shared regularly in 4 locations across southeast Michigan.

What began with a handful of friends and acquaintances having just read a book is now a moving, breathing and growing collaborative effort of churches, ministries, community groups and individuals helping to fill our region with the hope and love of Christ.  People from across city and suburbs alike are joining together in community… to the tune of 1000 people a month.  That is far beyond what any one or even a few of us could do.  That is only possible because all of us have worked together to do and share as God has called us to.  If we all do what we can do, there is no end to what God can do through us.

In the scheme of things, 4 years is less of an accomplishment and more of a beginning point.  Thank you to everyone who made this beginning point possible.  It’s been an amazing ride so far… I can’t wait to see what God has in store for the next 4 years!

Grace and peace.

Mike

 

Blog comment

Blog comment by Dawn Flower

I love helping out & cooking for our CommuniD BBQ’s!

We always have a good time rain or shine. The Lord has blessed us and we wish everyone everywhere to know there is help and love. Jesus loves everyone of us the same. It should be known world wide that the Lord sees no difference in me nor my brothers or sisters. No borders for the love of Jesus! No ethnic boundaries, no status preference. Just LOVE! I will give until I can not give any more. I have been blessed and I shall forever pay it forward!

Easter Brunch CommuniD BBQ

Received from Armond on 5/6/11 through a series of @replies on Twitter:

He begins by responding to my general post asking people to define Hell…

Define Hell: Detroit without positive people like you all.

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.  Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?  And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you? And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the Least of these my brothers, you did it also to me.’” Matthew 25:35-40

Even though I am a twenty four year old black man, I cried like a baby on Saturday April 23, 2011.  Everything I ever believed changed that day because of some friendly people at a BBQ. I was homeless at that time, but it changed my perception of the possibilities in life. For the longest time I was raised up thinking that ALL Caucasian man hated me, or something, because of my skin color.  Yet the day before Easter, the things I thought I knew suddenly changed due to some friendly folks who were kind to me and my baby son Chad and gave him some toys and food.

But even more importantly they were helping other folks in a currently disadvantaged position.  For the first time ever, AND I DO MEAN EVER, I saw and felt a presence and love energy unlike anything I have ever felt before.  And in less than one hour it shook me to the very roots of my belief system.

Less than two Saturdays later, I now have a temporary place to stay and wash my clothes and keep my body clean, a Gym membership to increase my fitness and a whole box of books to further my studies to become a better vessel for God.  I even have a temp job distributing materials door to door for hospitals and other companies.

Even though none of these gifts came directly from these people at the BBQ, that day sparked a new era in my life because it boosted my faith and love ten-fold as even as the bright sun illuminates the land after a bad storm. I GIVE MY MOST SUPREME THANKS TO THE GOOD LORD FOR GOOD FOLKS LIKE THIS! THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!

All i know is that I gave my letter to some woman named Amanda and good things started happening.  I know she had to be praying for me and I appreciate every bit of it because I needed it so much.

To follow Armond on Twitter: http://twitter.com/scienceandart23

Fads / Trends

Someone asked me, “How do you keep Community BBQs from becoming a fad?”

I thought it was a great question, so I thought I’d share my answer here:

Good question.  I have an answer, but I don’t know if it’s right at all.  I guess I actually have a theory.  And time will tell if it’s an answer.

Slow the roll.  I don’t promo it.  I don’t encourage people to come every week.  In fact, I encourage them not to.  I encourage people to come once a month.  And I let them know why.  I encourage people to come once a month so that they will continue to come consistently and not get burned out on it.  Relationships take time and consistency to develop and build.  Relationships are our goal (not numbers or food).  When people ask me to come and talk about the Community BBQs, I’m more than willing.  I’m thrilled to.  But I don’t seek out new partners, volunteers, resources, etc.

This does a couple of things…
1.  There can be no doubt that it’s growing because the Spirit is at work through it and leading people towards it.  That means that I can be certain this isn’t happening because I pushed and made it happen, but because it’s God’s will.  And if at some point it is no longer God’s will for this to be happening, then I hope I don’t hesitate to see that, shut it down and let it go.

2.  The buzz is lessened.  Fads come about because of buzz.  Trends come from experience.

A fad happens because something seems cool and everyone’s talking about it so everyone goes and tries it at the same time.  But people aren’t really excited about whatever the buzz is about.  They’re excited about the anticipation.  You see a spike in popularity, but it’s short-lived.  It isn’t really for many of the people who were trying it out.  So they don’t stick around.  You wind up developing over inflated expectations and structures and find yourself left with disappointment and decline.  Basically, people who have no idea what they’re talking about are excited about it and talking.  This creates buzz.  But that buzz tends to be sort of an ignorant thing.

A trend happens slower, but more solid.  A trend spreads because people who have been there, done that are sharing their experience with someone else. And it’s a completed experience they’re sharing, not the anticipation of an experience.  Since they’ve been there, done that, they’re not sharing the experience with just anyone and everyone; they’re sharing it with others whom may be interested in it also.  That someone else then comes and checks it out too.  They experience it and pass the word on again.  This is more slow and subtle than a buzz.  It’s more of a hum.  When something’s buzzing, it’s almost never a good thing.  But when something’s humming… well that’s the good stuff.

I suppose only time will tell if I’m right though.  🙂

 

Detroit-Hiroshima

Detroit-Hiroshima

Link to Glenn Beck on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gcSgWLaJuNE
Link to Free Press article about Bing’s reaction: http://www.freep.com/article/20110301/ENT03/110301012/Bing-knocks-Glenn-Beck-Detroit-Hiroshima-comparison
Link to Patrick Reyes blog post: http://patrickreyes.net/2011/03/02/maybe-glen-beck-was-right/

So I’m a few days behind with the whole Glenn Beck thing…
It’s March 4th and although I’ve had a couple articles and a blog post bookmarked for a couple days now, I’m just catching up.  But really… I don’t feel like there’s much to say.

For you who don’t know yet, you can click through the links above and read for yourself or I’ll try to give a quick recap here:

Basically Glenn Back compared that last 50-60 years of Hiroshima’s history to Detroit.

Hiroshima was hit with an atomic bomb in 1945.  Scientists thought the city would be uninhabitable for decades.  Instead, they people decided to rebuild their city.  Now, 66 years later, Hiroshima is a thriving metropolis.  Beck points out that, yes there was some government assistance in rebuilding Hiroshima.  But the majority of the work, time and money it took to rebuild came from individuals who loved their city and would not let it lie in ruins.

Over this same time period Detroit has gone from a vibrant and thriving metropolis, the “Paris of the West,” to ruins.  Beck says that bad and corrupt government, corporate and union policies are what destroyed the Motor City.

Basically… yes.  I would also like to point out that he neglected to mention white flight.  White flight, in my opinion, was the catalyzing factor that enabled, encouraged and brought about bad and corrupt government, corporate and union policies.

But why is this news?  Anyone who lives in Southeast Michigan and is honest with themselves knows this to be true.  We’ve known this for decades.  We’ve watched this, we’ve experienced this and we’ve lived this for decades.  This isn’t news for February 28th, 2011.  This is old news.

Detroit today is not the Detroit that is comparable to Hiroshima.  Or maybe it is, but the timelines are just askew.  Hiroshima came to its ruin in 1945.  Detroit came to its ruin more gradually culminating early this century.  But the phrase “will the last one out, please turn out the lights” will never apply to Detroit.

Detroit is being remade.  Yes, there are some governmental changes that are helping Detroit to be remade.  But not for the most part.  For the most part it is people, individuals who have decided they love their city and are not willing to let it fall to the wayside.

What Glenn Beck is missing is the current.  The current of Detroit has changed.  The river of wealth, knowledge and education is now beginning to flow the other way.  We, together, are stemming the tide of escapism, white flight and neglect.  We are stirring a new direction for our city.  There is a new tomorrow and more importantly, there is a new today.

There’s a song by Robbie Seay Band that says,

“And it might not be
The prettiest thing that you’ll ever see
But it’s a New Day
Oh baby it’s a New Day”

This is Detroit.  And this is a New Day.  And we have a new current.  The current is a city on the incline.  The current is a city that is being remade from the ground up through grassroots efforts and community organizers who are encouraging people to love their city and their neighbors.  And what is most exciting to me about the current is the strong role the body of Christ is playing in it.

We have people reversing white flight.  We have people sharing with other as they have need.  We have people beautifying their homes, their blocks and their city.  And they’re doing it for no other reason than to show the world that it’s a beautiful place and should be treated that way.  We have CCS, the DIA and the DSO.  We have food and restaurants galore.  We have urban prairies with deer, pheasants and chickens roaming free.  We are number 2 in the nation for fishing rod sales.  By consumption, we are the potato chip capital of the world.  We have more registered bowlers than anywhere else in country.  We have Critical Mass, Noel Night, the Auto Show and DEMF.

We may have inherited the problems of our parent’s Detroit.  But this is not our parent’s Detroit.  This is a New Day and it comes with a new current flowing in a new direction… forward.

Glenn Beck was right about where our problems came from.  But he’s missing where we are now.  A lot of people have been up in arms about what Glenn Beck said about Detroit.  I see no problem.  He’s right.  He’s just a bit behind the times.  There’s no point in denying our history with all of its victories and all of its defeats.  To deny one’s history is to deny one’s current state.  And I’m proud of our current state… or should I say… City.

A few links to good things: http://elevatedetroit.com (blatant self-promotion)
Palladium Boots / Johnny Knoxville video: http://www.palladiumboots.com/exploration/detroit
Requiem for Detroit by the BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00rkm3y (no, not the video clip unfortunately, but I do have a DVD)

Christmas CommuniD BBQ

I’m so excited today is finally here!

We’re planning an outdoor family style dinner in late December in Detroit. From a logical perspective, from a rational perspective, it’s a dumb idea at best. From a Kingdom perspective… well I think it’s a Kingdom idea.

The idea is to have a family style sit down dinner. This isn’t us serving them. This is all of God’s family sitting at a common table and sharing a meal together in celebration of Christ. Christmas. It’s what the word truly means… celebration of Christ.

Close your eyes for a moment and just picture the park… The gazebo with holes rusted all over the roof. The light poles with no lights on top. The tags sprawling across the building wall. The dolphin.

It’s a place known in the neighborhood for crack and heroine dealing. It’s a violent place. A vile place. It’s a place I’ve been told that many neighborhood people won’t come unless “you’re here”. It’s a place I’ve been told that, “White people don’t belong here.” It’s a stronghold of a defeated enemy. And it’s being redeemed.

This is Christmas Day. Today there will be strings of lights and Christmas decorations. There will be tables all pushed together into one BIG table. There will be chairs lining all the way around. Hot food aplenty sprawling before our eyes and hungry bellies. Every color of person created (yes, even white people), every income level, every education level, every strength, every weakness, every addiction, every habit, good and bad, all beckoned to come sit together and share a common meal in celebration of our newly born and now risen Lord Jesus.

I don’t know what heaven will be like. I don’t know what God’s Kingdom looks like in its fullness. I hope we’ll be able to fly. That would be fun. But I do know that whatever it looks like… today we shall see a reflection… Yes, we shall see a reflection of Heaven. That reflection won’t be in rusty gazebo roofs, broken lamp posts or cement statues of oceanic mammals. It won’t be in strings of lights or piles of snow or sidewalk salt. It won’t be in decorated cookies or trees and it won’t be in pots of ham or green beans or dinner rolls. The reflection we’ll see will be in the eyes and hearts of every person around that table. Every glint of hope and faith and love in every eye glowing all the brighter as glint sees glint and love flows evermore like a fountain of life. We may not see what Heaven will look like. But in fleeting moments… if we’re paying attention… we’ll know what it feels like.

Grace and peace to each of you. It’s a deep honor to serve, love and celebrate Christ alongside each you. Truly… Merry Christ Mass

Shared meal

There is something innately spiritual about eating together. The only sacrament Christ left us with involves eating together regularly. So that’s what we do. We come together and share the love of Christ with anyone and everyone nearby.

Honest John’s

To all those who have helped make these BBQs happen over the years:

Robert Redmond Park is the park we’ve been BBQing at on Saturdays for the last three years. These BBQs started out with a small group of college students and friends on July 7th, 2007. They have grown to an inter-denominational movement amongst churches and campus groups across and throughout metro-Detroit and from as far away as Hancock, MI in the north to Austin, TX in the south.

The park is named after John Thompson’s brother. They were not biological brothers. Reverend Redmond (Robert Redmond’s dad and the pastor of Cass Community United Methodist) took him in as his own after John was orphaned as a young teen.

John Thompson is the owner of Honest John’s. Honest John’s is a bar/grill next to Robert Redmond Park. John has been EXTREMELY helpful to us through the years. He has held his restaurant open-handedly and allowed us to use anything and everything we’ve asked for. What’s more… we didn’t ask. He came to us and offered. He has offered repeatedly. He has considered it an honor and a compliment to his brother’s memory that we have been doing the work of Christ in his “brother’s park”.

John is going through a really rough time right now. Please take a minute right now and read this linked article: http://elevatedetroit.com/media/docs/honestjohnsarticle.pdf

Now… please pray for John and Irene Thompson. Please also pray for what we as a group and as individuals will do for him in this time. This is someone whom only a few of us have ever met, but whom has helped and supported all of us in working for Christ these last three years. This is our chance to show him Christ. This is our chance to give him something back after all he’s done for us.

This is an opportunity to shine the light and hope of Christ into a moment of darkness and despair. This is a chance to share love with a brother in Christ who has been beaten and burned. This is a chance to be who we’re called to be.

E-mail me with suggestions both for us as a group and as individuals. Feel free to pass along this message to others who have been involved in the BBQs or are familiar with Honest John’s.

It is an honor to serve our God alongside you. Grace and peace in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Mike Schmitt
(248) 259-1937
mike@elevatedetroit.com

Rabbis and women

The disciples learned from the Samaritan woman because they were there, they were present, and heard her connecting with Jesus.

The Samaritan woman connected with Jesus because a Jewish rabbi talked to her with love. And Jewish rabbis didn’t talk to Samaritan women.

A Samaritan woman, who was ashamed to be seen in public, suddenly had the courage and heart to go talk to a whole city.

A whole city was saved because a Samaritan woman talked to a Jewish rabbi. And she shared her story of what happened.

A whole city was saved because two people, who because of racial and cultural prejudices, should’ve been kept separate and should never have crossed paths. But they connected. And they shared their stories of who they were.

And 2000 years later their story is still inspiring people to connect with those they otherwise wouldn’t. Because a Jewish rabbi talked with love to a Samaritan woman and a whole city was saved.

Detroit’s motto (since 1805): Speramus meliora; resurget cineribus. “We hope for better things, it will rise from the ashes.”

Easter BBQ

What a great BBQ today everyone!! This has been a crazy month for some of us here with Elevate. April is the first time we’ve done a BBQ on the first Saturday of the month.

It’s been a bit crazy because the same group of leaders are now leading two of the BBQs each month instead of one. So these leaders have basically doubled their efforts to help. Then we got a call from a leader of one of the other weeks. They told us they’d done everything they could, but they just weren’t going to be able to lead this months BBQ nor could they find someone to do it in their place. They were going to have to cancel the BBQ for that date.

I really didn’t want to do that because we’ve just begun telling people in the neighborhood that we’re there every week now. And now just a few weeks in we have to cancel one? No, no… we can’t let that happen.

To make things even worse, this is Easter weekend’s BBQ. This is the weekend we celebrate the Last Supper, the crucifixion and the resurrection. Last Supper… the time when Jesus instituted eating a meal together and we were going to have to cancel the BBQ. Not cool.

Not knowing how it would happen at all, I made a decision the way I often make them… I said don’t cancel it, we’ll make it happen… all the while having no idea how it actually would happen… just going for it in the spite of common sense. Even yesterday morning, truth be told I still didn’t know what would happen.

And shame on me… after we’ve been doing these Homeless BBQs for almost two years and have watched miracle after miracle happen through so many different parts of the body of Christ working together as a body unified around a common vision of living out the person of Jesus in a humble park in the middle of Detroit, I still doubt.

And just to show me… God showed up. Just like he always does… The weather was perfect, the stomachs were full and there were people from Baptist, Catholic, Lutheran and Charismatic churches working together side by side throwing in a bit of extra effort than normal to make an Easter BBQ happen on a beautiful sunny day. We even had a visit from John of Honest John’s to tell us that if we ever need anything just let him know. He offered the services of his bathroom, water spicket and ice machine as well as anything else we need. I asked him about the building next door. For those who don’t know, there is a group of us who feel called to plant a church there. We’ve been having a hard time finding out who owns the place and how to go forward from there. I asked John if he knew what the address was. He said “No, but I can tell you who owns it.” I can’t even tell you how exciting that was. The body of Christ being the body of Christ, working out in the beautiful sunshine, watching God open doors right in front of our eyes… What a glorious day God put together!

–For those wondering… We’re still trying to raise money to buy a trailer to house all the BBQ stuff. We need about $2500.

–For those interested in hearing more about the church plant happening at 2nd & Selden, write to mike@elevatedetroit.com or check out it’s own blog which is still currently being put together at http://dandelionschurch.wordpress.com/

Shane Claiborne tonight

Shane Claiborne is speaking tonight in Ann Arbor. For those interested, check out: http://www.emergedetroit.org/calendar/shane-claiborne-ann-arbor

emergedetroit.org

Today I met with Carl from emergedetroit.org for lunch.  There definitely seems to be some ties between these websites of elevatedetroit.com (which is still coming), tenatatime.org (being developed), and emergedetroit.org.

God is moving here…  Happy St. Patty’s Day

Panel discussion and a New Partner

On Wednesday, March 11th, from 12-1 pm I (Mike) will be part of a discussion panel held on campus at OU with a few other people from around Detroit.

“Its purpose is to help inform students of the realities of poverty, but also to share with them how Jesus Christ offers hope in the midst of those difficult circumstances.  …  The point of the discussion would be for each of you to share what it is you do, how long you have been working at it, that sort of thing, and for students to be able to ask you questions about the issues surrounding what you’re doing.”

I’ll post more details of this when I get them.  (should be Monday)

We’ve got two more groups lined up to shift over to the first Saturday of the month beginning in April, one of whom is brand new to Elevate!

Updates

This blog is to keep thos einvolved with Elevate Ministries up to date.  We are using Twitter and facebook.   This will be a new way to tell you more about the things that we are doing.  Some of these posts will be purely factual, others will be stories and others may be asking for help.  

As always, your feedback, suggestions and criticism is always appreciated!

Mike