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.
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).
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
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.
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.
Written by Mike Schmitt
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 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.
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
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
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.
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.”
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!