On Tuesday, January 30, a young woman and a little boy had just stepped off a Flint MTA bus. Their overheard conversation went something like this: “You are going to be baptized today! Do you know what that means? You are God’s very own child!” She joyfully continued to further explain what was about to happen as he trotted in front of her on the sidewalk alongside Franklin Avenue Mission at 2210 North Franklin Ave in Flint, Mich.
Shortly afterwards, Rev. Dr. Bradley J. Yops was installed as the Michigan District’s Missionary at Large – Flint, MI in a worship service attended by District staff, area pastors, supporting congregation volunteers and, most importantly, Franklin Avenue guests—the poor, the hungry, the homeless. Following the service, over 270 guests were served a hot meal while enjoying music and lively conversation.
In early January, Pastor Brad, as he is endearingly referred to, shared with District staff that, when he had recently taken Franklin Avenue Diner guests (who have the opportunity twice a week for Bible study, children’s ministry, music, and dinner) through a series on Baptism and the account of Jesus’ baptism, some inquired about being baptized or wanting their children baptized. Once the installation service planning was underway, it was an easy decision to include 13 baptisms as Brad’s first official act as the Michigan District Missionary at Large – Flint, MI. It is believed that the baptisms were a first in the history of District installation services.
Pastor Brad has been leading Franklin Avenue Mission since its inception in 2014, when Tri-Circuit pastors took a prayerful look at transforming one of its member churches on Flint’s east side into an urban mission center to meet the needs of a neighborhood in disrepair. The Michigan District agreed to support an attainable plan, under its Acts 2 Enterprise Urban Ministry and more recently its Here We Stand campaign funding, to preserve a meaningful presence in the community. A Flint Eastside Mission task force of LCMS pastors set goals and strategies to recruit congregational support. The plan required financial and servanthood commitment from interested individuals and congregations.
By April of 2015, members from nine congregations had committed to perform Operation Clean Up in cooperation with the Genesee County Land Bank. This “clean and green” effort resulted in mowing and clearing debris from more than 175 vacant lots on numerous weekends throughout the summer by more than 500 faithful servants. In 2016, an abandoned home next to the mission was purchased. Called Mercy House, it is being renovated to become a home for women and their children. It is supported in part by the Michigan District and an LWML National Grant. Wellspring Lutheran Services is consulting on the management of the home.
Today, Franklin Avenue Mission is a hub of activity—Diner, Bible study, Clean & Green, clothing closet, medical clinic, children’s program, and water distribution—operated entirely by an army of missionaries from over 25 congregations and many guests of Franklin Avenue Mission. One cannot visit and not be captured by seeing God at work through these missionaries and guests who come from all walks of life.
To learn more about Franklin Avenue Mission and how you can become involved, visit franklinavemission.org.
To see more photos of the celebration, visit our Facebook album.
Photo by Elisa Schulz/Michigan District, LCMS