The Story of a Brick4 min read

The Evolution of a Drug House

Family of God Lutheran Church in Southwest Detroit offers the forgiveness and renewal of the Gospel, the unconditional love of Christians, and refuge from the hopelessness of the streets. Wedged between two drug houses, with women standing on the corner hustling their bodies to buy their next fix, you might think we should be keeping a low profile, but our idea of a low profile is getting down on our knees to pray. Behold what the Lord has done.

The drug house
The drug house

A year ago, the apartment building next door was occupied with low income folks. Many of them came regularly to our little church on the corner for years. When the owner abandoned the property because of tax issues, it rapidly went the way of all the abandoned property in Detroit: stripped, dangerous, and attracting the worst sorts of predators and prey. Children stopped coming to Sunday school and volunteers had to park in the same space used by drug seekers and men looking for a ‘date.’ For the first time we had to hire security officers to protect those who came to serve. We began to lose some of our members who had been clean for months, watching them leave church and be lured into their former lifestyle at the drug house.

The worst came last spring, when a 12-year-old boy was gunned down near our back door at 5 a.m. He was a courier for a drug operation and a rival group murdered him. Sad, but almost as sad, the Fox 2 news report featured a mother, one from Family of God, who saw the shooting. How did she happen to be there at that time in the morning? Fox 2 didn’t ask, but we know the answer – drugs.

Our little congregation began to pray at every weekly Bible study (five per week) and on Sundays. We prayed for our Lord to bring this operation to an end. The answer to those prayers began when a rival group firebombed the three-story building and it burned to the ground. Nothing but a brick shell was left standing, but that did not deter the drug and prostitution efforts; they continued in the shell of that building and expanded into the two-story building just south of our church. This building was formerly a Roman Catholic ministry center. We continued our prayer efforts and made a few judicious calls to fellow Lutherans with connections in city and county government to get the building on and then moved up the demolition list. When bankruptcy was filed by Detroit’s Emergency Manager all such efforts halted. So we poured forth more prayer, more phone calls, and this fall the building was finally leveled.

The lot after the building was leveled
The lot after the building was leveled


The members of Family of God praised God and took 24 bricks from the rubble. We gave them to each of the congregations and teams who had prayed with a simple message: “Pray, because if God can tear down a crack house, He can build a mission.” One such brick was hand-delivered to the President’s office of the Michigan District, LCMS (seen in the post’s main image).

Family of God groups gather to pray at the site
Family of God groups gather to pray at the site

That simple, but effective, statement was a spontaneous thought from one of Family of God’s ladies. We asked each of the groups to meet, pray, and plan in mid-December, the day of one of our recent big snow events. We called around that morning to try to keep everyone from coming, but the word didn’t get to three groups. They showed up just in time to see the building to our south erupt in flame and burn.

Nothing but a shell remains, but drug activity is unabated and we are once more making calls and praying to have this building leveled. On a Saturday in January, many of the recipients of the 24 bricks, representing more than a dozen congregations, gathered at Family of God to pray, plan, and participate in God’s plan for the redemption of this neighborhood. God is blessing and moving powerfully right in Satan’s own back-yard! We have one more little saying at Family of God whenever anyone asks or is interested in helping. Stolen and updated a bit from John’s Gospel: “A Christian said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Detroit?’” We say, “Come and see.”

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About the Author

Rev. James M. Hill is associate pastor of Christ Our Savior, Livonia and deployed to Family of God, Detroit. He has been doing inner city ministry as layman, deacon, vicar, and pastor since 1997. He is a retired Army officer and also retired program manager from General Dynamics.

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