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.
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.
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
It’s amazing how God is working! I received this text today:
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
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 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.
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.”
And where would Jesus be?
And what were my plans for Easter?
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).