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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!”