February 2012 - Vol. 57.

Seeds of hope for a new generation in Detroit 
YouthWorks-Detroit is an inner-city ministry in Detroit, Michigan, USA. YouthWorks equips young people to love God and others through a life of Christian service and leadership. YouthWorks serves as a bridge, uniting Christians from different cultures and traditions. It serves not only the at-risk youth and poor who participate in its programs, but also the volunteers who staff this ministry. It offers opportunities for individuals and groups to participate in short-term mission trips and for young adults to spend the summer interning in its Detroit Summer Outreach program. Word of Life community and also Kairos North America, a regional youth ministry of the Sword of the Spirit, provide pastoral support and training, and recruiting volunteers from Christian communities and outreaches around the world. 

Signs of  hope and transformation
by Joshua Rock, Director for YouthWorks-Detroit 

Detroit was once known as the jewel of industrial America – one of the finest, wealthiest urban centers known to man. Yet after decades of misspent funds, greed, neglect, and devastation, the city as a whole appears like the carved out husk of one of its myriad abandoned buildings. From the outside, Detroit might appear no more alive than a decaying stump of a once majestic oak tree. “Who saw this house in its former glory? Does it not now seem like nothing?” (Haggai 2:3).

But as in the days of Haggai, God says to us, “Be strong. Be strong and work, people of the land” (Haggai 2:4). He is doing something new among us, and even these ruins will rejoice to the song of a God who brings life from the dead. So let us be strong and work, for God himself is with us. 

[Joshua Rock is the Executive Director of YouthWorks-Detroit. He is married to Yvette and is raising his family of four children in Detroit. He moved to Detroit in 2001 after doing a Detroit Summer Ooutreach (DSO) internship in 2000.]

The following personal reflections are written by Gappers and participants of YouthWorks-Detroit. You can read more reflections at http://youthworksdetroit.tumblr.com/archive.

True Freedom in Christ
by Emily Ferstle

In the past several months, the Lord had been speaking to me very clearly about what he wanted for me in the next step in my life. I had been volunteering with my church’s youth group, and at a youth minister’s retreat I heard Ed Conlin speak. When Ed talked about his life and ministry in Detroit, his testimony resonated with me. God made it clear that he wanted me to be a part of Detroit Summer Outreach. The Lord’s call was clear and direct. However, the sacrifice required in answering this call scared me. 

A big struggle throughout my life had been obedience. The idea of giving up control over my own life to some authority was terrifying – even if that authority was God himself. When I recognized this fear in myself, I prayed that the resistance to handing over my pride – my will versus God’s will – be dissolved. So, despite my fear, I agreed to join the DSO staff for the summer. 

The cultural adjustment in the first few weeks was extreme to say the least, but nothing compared to the spiritual transformation I have experienced since then. When I was baptized in the Holy Spirit, the internal conflict between my own will and my desire for the Lord vanished; the battle within me was won for me. When the Holy Spirit came upon me, my resistance fled way. 

I now see that this battle was never mine to win. I could not overcome my human fear and rebelliousness on my own. Only the grace of the Lord, through the Holy Spirit, could accomplish this conversion within me. This is true freedom. By allowing the Lord to overcome my delusion of what it meant to be free, I now better understand and experience the true freedom that Christ offers through life with him.

[Emily Ferstle is currently living in Detroit and is actively involved in Detroit community outreach. She served on staff with Detroit Summer Outreach in 2011.]

Radical discipleship
by Simon Luyts

Living in Detroit this past summer and participating in Detroit Summer Outreach (DSO), was an awesome experience. Before coming to Detroit, I did a Gap-year in Monterrey and I was afraid that my experience would be too similar, but the contrary was true. It was a completely different experience and they have complemented one another perfectly. Outwardly, Detroit is perhaps not the nicest place in the States, but God is definitely at work here. When you walk down the streets and talk to the people, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that there is a God –  a God who, throughout all the misery, never abandons his children – a God who uses the poor and the outcasts of the society to show the rich what life really is about –  and a God that reveals the real pearl of great price. The Lord has also shown me that material wealth doesn’t bring you far in reality as a man or woman of God. It is rather an obstacle in the race for the Kingdom of God because poverty, combined with trust in God, is a powerful gift that can free you to serve without seeking reward.

I think that DSO is a powerful tool that God uses to educate his children. It is a huge blessing and perfect opportunity to become a radical disciple. In this short amount of time, I have experienced being transformed as a person and I am able to see a closer paradigm of Christ who became poor for my sake and who died to give me new life..

[Simon Luyts is originally from Jerusalem Commuinity in Belgium. This past summer he participated as an intern in the Detroit Summer Outreach program. He had served for a year in the Kairos Standing in the Gap Program in Monterrey, Mexico, before moving to Detroit in the summer of 2011.]

On a Sunday in late September after a tremendous thunderstorm, as my wife and I drove towards home, we witnessed the brightest rainbow arching over the city of Detroit.  As we came off the highway exit onto Trumbull St., we looked towards downtown, and we could see the Renaissance Center and other downtown buildings literally through the end of the rainbow.  For 30 minutes we watched, and the rainbow neither faded nor dulled in intensity. While our country and even our city suffers from various and sometimes tragic setbacks, we cannot deny that this is a time of special grace for Detroit, and that God’s promises are resting upon our city. And, like the rainbow, maybe you have to be here to see it.  - Joshua Rock  [photo by Yvette Rock ©2011]

“My Cup Runneth Over” (Psalm 23:5)
..by Ellen Karagoulis
“The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace.” – Psalm 29:11
My best friend’s little brother once sang happily to himself, “I have everything I need, I have a wallet to put my stuff in! I have everything I need.” If it’s just that simple, then why do I get so overwhelmed? Contentment is having what you need… just for today.

Mission work in Detroit is intense, to say the least. You see the enormous poverty, and feel the crushing burden to help in some way. I have had many times, like today, where I’ve reached my “boiling over” point. Before I came here, I never could’ve imagined that, “my cup runneth over” (Psalm 23:5) was sometimes similar to reheating soup too long in the microwave. Sometimes you are quite literally suffocated by the Lord’s “blessing.” You give and serve and help faithfully until you explode, and then, miraculously, you get up again and do it another day. “It be like that sometimes,” as some of our young people say here.

As I’m learning now, being the Lord’s servant is not a full time job. A full time job is 40 hours a week. No, serving the Lord is like a lifelong Tour of Duty in the military. You serve all day at your job/ministry/vocation (i.e. moms), and then you come home and serve some more (or, as our moms know, you never leave!)  It’s not like you can say to the world, “I put in 8 hours of sanctification, now it’s time to rest (or backslide) for 4 hours before I go to bed.”  If only vice made you feel rested after a hard day of holiness….

Many of my friends have given up the Christian life because they astutely recognized it requires EVERYthing. When God is done working in and through you, there is none of the old you left!

Lest you despair after reading this, let me leave you with some hope (because I’m obviously still living to tell about “it”!) What my lapsed Christian friends have failed to realize is that once they have run out of themselves, they can ask God to fill them, and they start giving Jesus; and he is in infinite supply. Rather than a mug of overheated soup, this transformation can be compared to yesterday’s stale coffee being rinsed out with fresh water. You fill it and fill it until it’s replaced the old dregs and is now usable again.

Once I learned to give up the fight (or, rather, am learn-ING), I could see the glorious joy of having my own self-centered life sucked out of me. Since I’ve already explained everything with quirky metaphors, I’ll leave you with one more: our very valuable color printer/scanner/fax/copier broke this week. We turned it off and turned it on again, and when that didn’t work, we had to hang in the towel and despair for the lack of a printer. But lo and behold! We discovered we were part of the “Canon Loyalty Program” and they replaced our dead and lifeless printer with a sparkling new, up-to-date model for the mere price of the ink to fill it.

Sometimes we have to surrender ourselves in order to be transformed into our most glorious and beautiful selves. Yet, we find that the cost is never as much as the value. So I will say to my Lord, “Fill ‘er up till it runneth over!”

[Ellen Karagoulis is originally from the Work of Christ community in Lansing, Michigan. She is currently living in Detroit and serving as a Women's Mission Leader for YouthWorks-Detroit. She and her fiance, Erik Sellstrom from Word of Life community in Ann Arbor, plan to marry this coming May.] 

Noel teaching at Cornerstone school in Detroit
Man Up!
by Noel Bradley-Johnston

This past October, we took our youth group kids to a concert event called Man Up Detroit. It was organized by a group of Christian Gospel rappers including Lecrae, Trip Lee, Tedashii and a few others, who together are called 116 Clique, and were part of a tour that is hitting the major cities of the USA. The theme of the event was to inspire within the young men of the city a sense of what it means to be a man of God. There are a lot of not-so-good male role models in today’s society, and more so in the hip hop culture, and it was a great event that showed how different being a “modern man” and being a man of GOD really is.

Although it was an inspiring event for our young people, it also really got me thinking about myself and my life. How do I live as a man of God? Do I even? It was time to face the facts! And the fact is that I’m not anywhere near perfect in any aspects of Godly manhood. In fact, in some areas I’m actually quite bad. And this has really struck me, because I hadn’t thought of it like this before now. It’s really opened my eyes to the work I have ahead of me, and I thank God I have a GAP year to allow me to focus my attention on these issues without any distractions.

[Noel Bradley-Johnston is Irish (he has the passport to prove it). He grew up in Belfast, Northern Ireland. He first applied to the Kairos Standing in the Gap program at the age of 16. When he turned 18 he was accepted to the program and is now serving as a year-long Standing in the Gap volunteer staff worker in Detroit for 2011-2012.] 

See also > The Greening of Detroit by Dan Propson

Photo credits: (c) 2011 by Yvette Rock and Melanie Reyes.
Some personal reflections

Seek first his kingdom
by Bianca Bronson 

It wasn’t until high school during my two summers with YouthWorks-Detroit’s StreetTeam Leadership Program (summers of 2006 and 2007), that I actually took this “Christian” walk seriously. Not only was it a paying job (something so many youth desire), but the thing that most got me was the Christian leadership aspect of the program. 

The two summers I worked on StreetTeam were when and how I truly learned what it is to have a relationship with God and when I learned of his love, and so much more. I could not explain how much this program impacted me – especially the interns. 

One thing that really touched me was hearing the interns’ testimony and them just being completely “real” with us. That stirred up the desire in my heart to know God on a deeper, more personal level. It was powerful just talking to the interns about why they decided to spend their summer in Detroit working with us, and hearing how they felt called to serve and share God’s love. That really touched me. I was able to see his LOVE in action. 

Since then, my life has not been the same. I realized it was more than just a set of “rules;” it was about knowing this wonderful, loving God for yourself and having a relationship with him and sharing this wonderful gift with others.  Those things actually encouraged and influenced me to go where I’ve gone and do what I’ve done thus far.

Not only is God using me to help his children grow, and learn more about him and his love, but he is also using all this to call me into a deeper relationship with him, a whole new place in him. And this new place is beautiful. My desire, hope, and prayer is to one day (soon) come back and do a summer as a DSO intern. 

[Bianca Bronson is originally from Detroit and is currently attending Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, Michigan. In 2006-2007 she was a youth worker with YouthWorks-Detroit's StreetTeam Leadership Program.]

My second family in Christ
by Christopher Parish

Christopher (right) on football field with Chris Diroff 

I've been part of StreetTeam for two summers, and then got involved with the youth group program. I have been so blessed to be able to worship and share in my men's youth group. Growing up with one parent in the household, it has been a struggle at times. But being able to talk and have a good time with guys who love and care for me is magnificent. 

God has opened new doors in my life. Not only have I met wonderful new people, but now I have become able to live my life for Christ. I have experienced overflowing love and care from my men's group. It has shown me that God has control over all aspects of my life. We learn from one another, and give each other feedback. My youth group is like my second family, because of the bond we closely share with one another. I can truly say that I wouldn't be the young man I am today if I weren't a part of the youth group.

[Christopher Parish is from Detroit, and is currently a student-athlete at Bluffton University in Ohio. He worked on StreetTeam and joined the youth group program between 2008 - 2011.]

A Year to remember
by Tanesha Hill

YouthWorks-Detroit is an awesome organization. I help out with Bezalel Project and the youth group and I can see how we are changing these kids’ lives.

My life has been changing as well. I got my first job last March working as an intern at Covenant Community Care Clinic. My top highlight right now is helping with a mobile medical trailer here in Detroit. We go to different sites and offer free medical and dental screening. I love meeting the different patients and families and I love that we are there to help them in their time of need. I also enjoy helping lead them to Christ. 

I am realizing that this is the route God wants me to pursue. At first I thought my calling was education, but more and more I see how I am changing peoples’ lives it makes me want to do more. I'm now attending Wayne State University to become a doctor! 

[Tanesha Hill is originally from Detroit. She attended Cornerstone School in Detroit  – Joshua Rock was one of her teachers at that time. She has been actively involved with YouthWorks-Detroit since 2009. She is currently a part-time volunteer staff worker with YouthWorks-Detroit.] 

Summer of radical change 
by Chad Shellabarger

I hear the words “Detroit Summer Outreach” and I immediately associate it with radical transformation. Coming from a place that has never heard of this community or urban encounter, it was a “leave everything and come follow me” type of calling I received from the Lord. 

This program successfully touches on and molds nearly every aspect of a young man's or woman’s spiritual journey into an even more beautiful story.

I entered into this program with depression and cynicism and left with joy and love. This truly was a “summer set apart for a lifetime set apart,” and I simply pray that the Spirit within me will consistently overcome my flesh when I head back to univrsity deep into the refining fire once again.

[Chad Shellabarger is originally from Ohio and is currently attending university in Huntington, Indiana. He served as an intern with Detroit Summer Outreach (DSO) in ther summer of 2010, and was on staff with DSO in the summer of 2011.  Over the past couple of years he has also participated in a few week-long mission projects in the Urban Encounter program in Detroit.]

God’s Smuggler
by Mary Schaefer

Last autumn, as part of our GAP training, we read the book God’s Smuggler, by Brother Andrew. In this book, there was a monkey to whom the main character was very attached; it was his best friend.

The time came for him to release the monkey into the wild. Once the monkey was removed from his life he felt lonesome and disconnected, as though he lost the one thing upon which he could depend. However, this was also the moment he started to recognize his need for something more: God. Once he developed a relationship with God, he found a purpose and was able to hear God’s call on his life.

What are the monkeys in our lives? The things that we look to for comfort, for acceptance, for love; the things that draw us away from God?

[Mary Schaefer is originally from the Work of Christ community in Lansing, Michigan. She was an intern in the Detroit Summer Outreach (DSO) program in the summer of 2009. This year she is living in Detroit and serving as a Kairos Standing in the Gap volunteer staff worker  for YouthWorks-Detroit.] 

Anna (right), with Jaci and Hannah, on their way to a summer camping trip

Diamonds in the rough
by Anna Bode

When I was about to leave Minnesota to embark on my new journey in Detroit, I felt that God wanted me to let go of all my treasures which I was clutching so dearly – my family, close friends, my community of believers, financial stability, all the comforts and familiar things – and leave them behind. God was gently asking me to open my hands and let them go. At first I felt angry with God that he would do such a thing. But then a small hope began to grow in me – God was asking me to let go in order to place something even greater in my hands.

And he did. He has shown me new treasures – treasures that are hidden in deep and rough places, but yet still shine with a beautiful brilliance beyond what the human eye can see. I find these treasures from him when I am invited into the homes of the kids we work with here in Detroit and receive such warmth and hospitality from their parents. I see the treasures most, though, when I am handing out bagged lunches to men and women who are homeless and who smile and say, “God Bless you!” or when I am overwhelmed with the profound truth of God’s mercy and goodness that I experience from the people I meet at the soup kitchen – people who have so little. Everyday, when I look past the worldly brokenness of Detroit, the Lord surprises me by lavishing me with his treasures in this city. He is so good!

[Anna Bode is originally from Minnesota. She was an intern for Detroit Summer Outreach (DSO) in the summer of 2009. She returned to Detroit in the summer of 2011 to serve for a year as a Kairos Standing in the Gap volunteer staff worker.]

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