“God does not need your good works, but your neighbor does.” – Martin Luther
On Thursday, October 27, a group of 33 people met at Faith, Troy and boarded a bus. After introductions, some instructions, and a prayer, the group set off on a full-day tour of urban ministries in and around Detroit. The tour was idealized several years ago by Patti Jacques, Executive Director of Gifts For All God’s Children (GFAGC), and has been taking place for 11 years, sometimes twice a year, with the exception of 2020/21 due to the pandemic. Nancy Goins, a former tour participant, shares that Jacques “nudged and pushed until I went (over 10 years ago) and that day changed my life. Honestly, completely transformed me as a servant and follower of Christ! Thank you Patti Jacques!”
The mission of GFAGC is to be a conduit of God’s generous love. They provide resources focusing on the needs of underserved children while connecting them to Jesus. They do this by encouraging churches and organizations to work together to support spiritual, academic, and social growth in these children. GFAGC offers year-round programs and events to help partners engage with their community. Each program and event is designed to connect kids and their families to Christ. Programs include: individualized tutoring/mentoring; VBS; overnight camp scholarships, field trips, transportation to Sports Camps; Connecting Kids to Christ (CKC) tutoring; prayer partners for the children; school aid or school supplies collection; school uniforms; shoes 2 success, etc. The tour visited the CKC tutoring center at East Bethlehem, Detroit.
This year’s tour was organized by Jenny Jaroneski (Social Ministry Associate at Trinity, Utica) and led by Patti Jacques. It consisted of an introduction to several ministries, with the goal of opening people’s eyes to existing needs and opportunities to serve. Not all of the ministries visited are Lutheran, but all of them have the goal of serving the least of these, showing them the love of Christ in concrete ways.
The bus utilized for the tour was from The Power Company Kids Club. Located in Pontiac, “The Power Company Kids Club promotes the emotional, physical, spiritual, and social well-being of at-risk children and adolescents in our inner cities through mentoring, weekly programs, and partnerships with parents, churches, schools, civic leaders, and community organizations.” They do weekly home visits, Saturday Kids Club, Friday night “Plug,” leadership development, Project Christmas Joy, public school assemblies, Power in the Park, and feeding programs. One of their many success stories is that of Dustin, who was reached by the ministry at the age of 7. He grew up involved in the program, became a volunteer, graduated high school and college, got married, and went on to create a non-profit foundation in Pontiac.
Similar to and partnering with The Power Company is the Good News Gang in Detroit. Since 1989, the Good News Gang has been committed to providing hope and building futures for children living in adverse conditions (poverty, gangs, violence, abuse). The missionary grew up in the foster system and understands where the children are coming from and what they need. Their mission statement reads, “By meeting children where they are, personally investing in their lives and presenting the Gospel in a fun, accessible way, we believe we can build foundations that lead to hope, a future, and better lives for precious children.” They invest in consistent one-on-one relationships, weekly home visits, and child sponsorship, and meet physical needs that hinder personal and spiritual growth, such as school supplies, coats, and food. They offer the following programs: summer school, after school, basketball, and creative arts.
Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM) offers recovery housing. They have 3 shelters in Detroit, two of which take both women and children. One such shelters is the Genesis II House, which the group visited. They have 110 residents and usually receive 20-24 walk-ins who can spend the night inside but, due to lack of space, don’t get a bed. Women in this program often are working on substance abuse aftercare issues, addressing legal issues, and attending school and training programs to give them a future. They receive meals, the opportunity to shower (DRMM has a great need for towels), and new clothing items. Additional available services may include case management, mental healthcare, and substance abuse aftercare. Follow-up is provided for up to six months after they leave to help them successfully overcome all obstacles to independence and stability.
People of the Book Lutheran Outreach (POBLO) International Ministries is a non-profit Christian organization that is passionate about sharing the love of Jesus with Muslims and other Immigrants and refugees living in the United States. POBLO aims to share the Word of God and help Muslims and other immigrants and refugees meet their individual needs to better their life in the United States. They do that through refugee resettlement assistance, friendship and hospitality, and ESL classes (including literacy, as many women never learned to read or write). They also offer sewing classes and provide opportunity for women to earn some money.
Family of God, Detroit (FOG) is a non-profit Lutheran ministry committed to bringing the transformative power of the Gospel to the lives of those living in Southwest Detroit. They strive to bring hope to the hopeless by showing the community the love and compassion that our Savior Jesus Christ has for everyone. FOG provides a hot meal six days a week (they’re closed on Saturdays). The majority of meals are prepared and served by groups of 5 -10 people from different churches. They also host a meal and Bible study twice a week in two local parks and host a Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meeting every Friday night.
The Luke Clinic, housed inside Family of God, provides prenatal and postpartum care to moms in need. On the first and third Thursdays of the month, the Clinic opens with the help of many volunteers—doctors, nurses, nursing students, administrative assistants, etc—to serve local women, providing personalized prenatal and infant care to any mother who needs it, at no charge. They have incentives for moms to keep their appointments and provide services such as childcare, transportation to clinic, free pharmacy, baby clothes closet, classes, and food. The Luke Clinic now also serves the Flint community through a partnership with Franklin Avenue Mission.
On the Rise Bakery is located inside the Solanus Casey Center. Their bakers have recently been released from prison or completed a substance abuse treatment program. They truly want to change their lives. Purchase of their baked goods helps make possible the provision of supportive housing, training, counseling services, educational opportunities, and self-help programs.
Camp Restore Detroit (CRD) is all about partnership. CRD houses and feeds volunteers who work on various projects in the community. Relationships are key to the ministry. CRD partners with local families to improve their homes and living situations. They also tackle blight and help with community gardens. Past projects include tutoring programs for children, VBS in the 9th precinct, visits to nursing homes, joining an art class to build floats for a neighborhood parade, soup kitchens, clothing closet and food pantry.
The group also visited Peace Lutheran Church in Detroit. The congregation is small, and a couple of members keep the food pantry and clothing closet going. They have been able to secure some food donations from local grocery stores and forge ahead as they are able. They need blankets/warm bedding, warm clothing for men, hats/gloves/scarves, shoes/boots/socks, and dry foods such as Ramen noodles, can meats, crackers, peanut butter/jelly, and boxed stuffing/potatoes.
Trinity, Utica’s Human Care Outreach and Missions operates a Sunday meal program called Supper, Shower, Sack Lunch (SSS), kids closet, build project team, food ministries (including a meal ministry, Delivering Disciples, Forgotten Harvest, and an emergency food bank), and a community health care clinic; during the holiday season they participate in meal basket giveaways (Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter), Christmas Toy Shop, and Salvation Army bell ringing. Additionally, Trinity hosts events such as the Family Feud fundraiser, Homeless Awareness Sleep-Out, MCREST Host Week, Fall Free Oil Change Partnership, and Warming Center collaboration.
Elli’s House serves homeless and runaway women involved in human trafficking in the city of Detroit. Its mission is to abolish sex trafficking in Detroit through building relationships, offering safe shelter, and providing education. They have a two-year residential shelter program, a middle school mentoring program, and provide food, hygiene kits, and clothing to survivors weekly through street outreach. This ministry has been featured in a recent blog, as it is one of many ministries supported by the Michigan District, LCMS.
The Power Company Kids Club; Trinity, Utica; and Elli’s House were not part of the physical tour, but presentations introduced those ministries to the group.
Patti Jacques sums up the event: “What an incredible day! We had 33 people from 16 different churches and ministries on our Urban Bus Tour to Detroit. What an amazing group of people who experienced a day like no other. Our eyes were opened as we visited Good News Gang, Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries, POBLO in Dearborn, Family of God, Peace Lutheran, Camp Restore Detroit, East Bethlehem CKC Tutoring Center plus had special presentations from Power Company Kids Club and David Wilson from Detroit Public Schools talking about their Faith-based initiatives. We even had lunch at the Solanus Center with yummy, huge cookies that were made by On the Rise Bakery. As many times as I have been a tour leader, the Lord always shows up! He chooses the people He will send and uses them. I always come back from these urban tours more motivated to use what days the Lord has given me to show His compassion and make a difference in the lives of those who have so little.”
Organizer Jenny Jaronesky said, “I feel incredibly blessed to have felt God moving hearts and stirring minds on ways that our organizations and churches can work together. As the body of Christ, we can help benefit those in our nearby communities who are in great need. It was a pleasure to spend the day getting to know each of you better. It was an amazing group to be a part of!”
To learn more about our District-supported ministries or to volunteer, click here.
Many thanks to Jenny Jaroneski for putting together a tour booklet with the information about all of the ministries; the booklet was the main source utilized to write this story.
Photos by Elisa Schulz/Michigan District, LCMS