It was like entering a completely different world! When our vans rolled into inner city Detroit on a Thursday night in early June, we were met with quite a different landscape than what we were used to back home. After we settled into the church that hosted us for the trip, the dozen Darke and Preble County students noted the many abandoned buildings, the seemingly constant sound of sirens, and the missing section of fence around the church parking lot, which the pastor told us was stolen and presumably sold for scrap metal. We saw glimpses of the great need for Christ that first night in Detroit, but the next morning at the Central Detroit Christian Community Development Corporation (CDC) facility we learned even more about the city.
At the CDC on Friday morning, Nate, the volunteer coordinator, shared some shocking facts with our group about Detroit. We learned that less than three percent of third graders actually read at a third grade level, and that the high school graduation rate is less than sixty five percent. In Detroit, the number of liquor stores far outnumber the number of places to get fresh produce. Residents also struggle to find jobs, affordable housing, affordable car insurance, and public transportation. Nate explained to us that all of these factors and many more stand in the way of people escaping poverty, and that’s where CDC steps in to give people a hand up in navigating through these obstacles. After Nate filled us in on the needs of the city and how we will be helping the CDC make an impact in the community, we got to work.
For two full days, our group tackled a series of projects. Several students and leaders walked nearly eleven miles around the neighborhood passing out information for free door and window installations. Others from our group cleaned buses, chairs, and sports equipment that will all be used for the six-week summer day camp that seeks to teach students from kindergarten to third grade about Jesus, and at the same time close the educational gap by helping kids get caught up on their skills and reading levels. One big project was getting CDC’s garden ready by pulling weeds, tilling, and laying compost. The CDC has started several businesses in the neighborhood, which are run and staffed by members of the community. One of these is a fresh produce business that delivers fruits and vegetables throughout the neighborhood in repurposed ice cream trucks. The garden we prepared will also be used to teach children at the summer camp how to grow their own food!
During our three nights in Detroit the devotions with the teens focused on the story of Jesus healing a paralyzed man in Luke chapter five. We challenged them to identify what things in their lives leave them feeling paralyzed, encouraged them to surround themselves with friends that will bring them closer to Jesus, and invited them to be a friend like the ones in the story who went to extreme lengths to help their paralyzed friend encounter Jesus. Throughout our time in Detroit, we got to have great conversations with the teens about Jesus and witness them grow in their faith through sacrificial servitude.
Detroit seemed like a completely different world to many of us that recently visited, but the experience was also part of opening up a whole new world to the teens, one that involves compassion, service, and devotion to Christ. Our thanks go out to all of you who helped in any way to make this experience possible for local teens. You are helping to do a world of good!