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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.

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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. 🙂


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.


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.


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.