Taylor Sams and Miles Scarboro, 2021 Graduates
What happens when two students (Taylor Sams and Miles Scarboro), that have never been on a mission trip, lead a team to a place they have never been? Well, they see God’s providence in action! Truthfully, this city team began as a far-fetched dream with a great deal of obstacles before us. Where do we find a team? How do we get sufficient finances? With what pastors should we partner? What should we do if our car breaks down in the middle of Detroit? Yet God’s sovereign and gracious hand perfectly guided the Detroit City Team together. Within a matter of weeks, the Lord burdened three awesome students (George Marks, Karis Martin, and Markena Wilson) to join the team. After much prayer and preparation, we became official. The flights were booked, the money was raised, and the pastors were contacted. We were headed out to Detroit!
Before serving in any ministry, especially one so unfamiliar, we knew that determining our purpose was essential. At first, our temptation was to view ourselves as the “savior” of these churches. We assumed our team would be the catalyst for transforming a small, dying church into a thriving body. Although I’m being mildly facetious, our purpose certainly placed far too much emphasis on our own abilities and exaltation. Thankfully, after more discussion and prayer, our team devised a new strategy. Instead of being their “savior”, we would just act like the church. Crazy concept, I know. But as we read in Ephesians 4:16, every believer is a vital member of the body of Christ. Although some roles are different, each connect to and benefit one another. Therefore, our team sought to pour into a local church body while they also poured into us. Our goal became quite simple. The Detroit City Team existed to listen, learn, and love. We were to serve as learners rather than saviors.
By God’s grace, the Detroit City Team was ready! For our first week, the team joined the ministry of Dave Doran, Jr. at Resurrection Church. Amazingly, Pastor Dave has lived in the Detroit area for his whole life and has carefully designed his ministry to fit the environment. After learning about Resurrection’s influence on the surrounding community, Pastor Dave sent us out to various church plants. During that week, our team had the privilege of visiting six churches. While visiting each church, the team helped with any maintenance tasks and had greatly impactful conversations with burdened, driven pastors afterwards. Although each church was different and faced a unique set of struggles, we could easily recognize their overwhelming heart and love for the Lord.
As the week came to a close, the team met together to reflect, discuss major lessons, and pray together. After hearing each member talk, two lessons were most evident. First, each church displayed a deep connection toward their community. All too often, churches remain within their own comfortable, Christian bubble. The community beyond the church walls is kept predominately unknown to many long-time members. Yet as we visited these Detroit church plants, each pastor placed special interest in those around them. Many of the pastors served in local community centers, fellowshipped with other churches, and removed unnecessary barriers to gospel conversations. Instead of playing it safe and doing the bare minimum, these pastors heeded the active command of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) through consistent and revolutionary evangelism and discipleship. In addition, we witnessed the necessity and beauty of serving sacrificially. During our various conversations with the pastors, not one portrayed church planting, church revitalization, or ministry in general as an easy task. In fact, many of these leaders faced loneliness, hopelessness, betrayal, turmoil, and confusion. Yet even through tiring and busy schedules, they still pushed forward. Why? Mark 10:45. Christ came to earth not to live an easy life but to serve humbly and sacrificially. As believers, we get to be partakers of this same privilege. As one pastor put it, “trials will come, so make sure you have thick skin and a soft heart.”
For the second week, our team traveled to Hamtramck, a small town within the Detroit city limits. Even though it is only two square miles, Hamtramck is home to the largest Muslim population in the United States, along with nine other European countries. The two countries with the highest representation are Yemen and Bangladesh. Despite preconceived notions of the dangers that may be present in a city with a high Middle Eastern population, Hamtramck is one of the safest communities in the Detroit area. It was exciting for us to get a small taste of what everyday life is like in a place that feels more like a foreign country!
Our team had the privilege of meeting with the pastors and several church members of Grace of Hamtramck, as well as with other believers that live within the area. It was encouraging for us to learn about the different ways in which the body of Christ has come together to reach out to their community. The outreach ministries within Hamtramck include urban farming, weekly park ministries, teaching English as a second language, and the current production of a thrift store on the main street. In each of these ministries, by God’s grace, relationships are formed, opening doors to further gospel advancement.
A lot of what we learned during the first week at Resurrection Church was very evident throughout the second week in Hamtramck, such as the importance of the global church and the necessity of the local church. Even amid such cultural differences and obstacles, Grace Church stayed united together with the purpose of worshiping God, discipling believers, evangelizing unbelievers, encouraging one another in Christ, and caring for those who are in need physically and spiritually. Because of Islam’s ingrained influence on the community in Hamtramck, the spiritual need there is immense! Truly, the laborers are few. But the laborers present are fully invested.
In all, the Detroit City Team was an amazing opportunity for our team to leave the “Bible Belt” for a short period of time and witness the important need for church ministry. May we all portray the same passion as these pastors, relying solely on the commands and promises of God. Paul describes the need and beauty of ministry best in 1 Corinthians 15:58 – “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”
If you too have a story of how God has used you this summer in ministry or evangelism, please leave a comment or consider writing a post of your own at www.bjucgo.com/submissions
*If RSS feed is not working for you, please add it to your app or software manually by adding this url:
The CGO Blog
Written by the CGO staff, with guest posts from students and other faculty/staff at BJU to provide thought leadership for missions in a new millennium.