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Rise Up – Building Bridges

July 18, 2015

Okay. The days are getting longer here in Detroit! Yesterday, we were up by 5:30 and home at midnight. No time to blog because we were having, oh, I don’t know, the best day ever. So I’m grabbing a few minutes here at Cobo, trusty Tim Horton’s cofffee by my side.

Yesterday was our Proclaim Justice Day, our chance to get out into Detroit and build bridges with the wonderful people of this community. We served in a wonderful little neighborhood in northeast Detroit, just north of Seven Mile. As a result of the economic struggles here in Detroit, this once-vibrant neighborhood has become the victim of abandonment. Those unable to keep up with mortgage, tax, and insurance payments have been forced elsewhere. The homes they leave behind go uncared for. Until we showed up – or, better, until God showed up. We cleaned up two abandoned houses, removing garbage beyond imagining and hacking down overgrown foliage. It was good work. But we also met Naomi, a resident of the neighborhood for 47 years, a remarkable woman of faith who spent her years as a teacher and administrator in the public school system. We met Frank, a generous man who even let me borrow his weed wacker. We left feeling like we’d not only done some work, but built a bridge toward this neighborhood’s healing.

The Mass Gathering last night was the best yet. Nevermind the surprise performance by the Motown All-Stars (two Temptations, a Miracle, and a Capitol), the speakers were amazing. Pastor Rani Abdulmasih spoke powerfully about building bridges through Christ to the Muslims in his community. Sarah Funkhouser, erstwhile YAGM, told powerful stories of her time teaching in Jerusalem. Pastor Emily Scott talked about her dinner church ministry in Brooklyn, how we build bridges over food and fellowship. She admitted her uncertainty about how to bridge the gaping chasms in our world, gaps created by race, wealth, gender, and on and on, but claimed in certainty that the One who bridged the gap between God and us can cross the greatest divides. Pastor Scott said the first step is simply to not turn away – to look at the other and imagine what Jesus can do between us.

Pastor Steve Jerbi closed the night and brought the house down. He told us about Darius, a young man who should’ve been in Ford Field with us last night. Darius wasn’t there because his family’s 75-year-old neighbor, a white man gripped by the demon of racism, gunned down Darius, a black boy who was simply taking out the trash. There were 30,000 of us listening to Pastor Jerbi, and not a dry eye in the house. But we were not left sharing the grief that Pastor Jerbi still so clearly feels. He gave us Jesus. He reminded us to claim Jesus, to meet the hatred of racism head on with the power of Jesus’ love. He told us that we don’t always build bridges to the places we want to go, but to the places Jesus needs us to go. And that Jesus, who has conquered the great divide of death, goes with us. Thanks be to God. We claim Jesus.

And now, I’ve got some Saturday to do. See y’all soon!

From → NYG 2015

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