“Without the rain, there would be no rainbow” (G. K. Chesterton)5 min read

Inner city ministry can be quite a mixture of joy and discouragement. Recently, at Family of God (FOG), after a particularly discouraging day, Tyler and I went outside, discussing what went wrong and, frankly, wondering if it was a good idea to even come back the next day. We turned and saw the answer in the rainbow hanging over our sign. It was as if the Lord was promising not another day like this would come. (Wishful thinking on our part.)

Later, as we were reflecting on this photo, neither of us could remember a single negative event from that day. All we could remember was the joy-filled moment we first saw the rainbow and remembered we would never be forsaken.

Just a year ago, Family of God in Southwest Detroit moved into the beautiful church facility provided by so many generous congregations and individuals. This amazing gift from God has helped us to be more than just a church building for our congregation. It has become home.

Rev. Hill baptizing

A sign of the changes going on at FOG includes 18 Baptisms in the new facility. With each Baptism comes a need for focused catechism training and discipleship. As much of our physical footprint is changing, our spiritual footprint remains unchanged:

  • Our mission has not changed—we are here to bring the transformative power of the Gospel into broken lives and assist them in breaking free from bondage;
  • Our dream remains that those transformed by the Gospel will in turn become shining lights to others in their community;
  • Our methodology remains: Compassion, Service, Witness, and Fellowship;
  • Compassion, ‘the gut-wrenching, we-have-to-do-something compassion,’ motivates Christians to action;
  • Compassion leads to service addressing a specific need;
  • Witness is a product of compassion and service. Deeds have prepared the listener for the witness of our words. Compassion experienced validates our words in answer to the ‘Golden Question:’ “Why are you doing this?”
  • This is a Holy Spirit moment. We answer, “We love because He first loved us;”
  • Fellowship, the final step, is the formation of a community of Christ-followers engaged in worship, the study of God’s Word, sharing the Lord’s Supper, proclaiming their devotion to Christ through Baptism, serving one another and their community, and living the Gospel in Southwest Detroit.

    Tyler Cronkright and Rev. Jim Hill holding a baby from the community. Photo by Elisa Schulz/Michigan District, LCMS

Perhaps the biggest ministry change is our partnership with Luke Project 52, a volunteer effort to provide free prenatal and postnatal care to neighborhood mothers, twice a month. Licensed medical volunteers come from U of M and Wayne State with appropriate degrees. The early efforts have been a great success. Future plans for Luke Project 52 are to develop mobile clinics that will go to other Detroit and Metro area neighborhoods. Part of the current effort includes social work support from Wellspring Lutheran Services. God is working wonders through this clinic. We have seen dozens of new faces and the medical professionals have given our people something that they do not receive in other settings: genuine love. Patients feel loved when they are being seen and that makes all the difference in the world.

Our current state is becoming a field hospital. Our long-term goal is to become a place where the deeply embedded problems can be addressed and the cycle of poverty and despair can be broken. We are not there yet, but many initiatives are underway.

We Need You

Our future state is to be a change agent in Southwest Detroit. The reality is that we are not capable of life-changing physical or spiritual intervention apart from the Holy Spirit. Only He can break the cycle of poverty, domestic violence, prostitution, addiction, and hopelessness. That means that the foremost thing we need is to be in prayer and to be prayed for. As God has led us, these are the things we foresee are needed to move forward: (You will note that it is people, not money resources, that are needed.)

  • Compassionate Christian Mentors. The number of people currently coming through our doors far exceeds our current ability. We need volunteers who have the special gifts that are often reflected in Stephen’s Ministers;
  • We need to put in place a part-time social worker, preferably from Wellspring Lutheran Services, to help our general population navigate the same system. Funding is in place;
  • We are coordinating with Narcotics Anonymous to put a weekly 12-step program into our facility. Our own members will be the leaders of this group;
  • Pregnancy counseling remains high on our priorities. There is significant synergism with the ongoing Luke Project 52, but we need a specific pro-life ministry effort to encourage young mothers to keep their babies;
  • There is a pressing need for parenting and marriage classes, anger management, and similar programs to address dysfunctional families.

We cannot tell you how blessed we have been with resources of every kind and type. Our congregations are compassionate and caring. What we lack most is ears who will listen to those who enter our doors, pray with them, and help restore dignity and hope into their lives.

We are wondering if that just might be your gift. If so, please Come and See. Sometimes the perception of Detroit is not the greatest; but if you were to take a look and walk through the doors at Family of God, we guarantee that you will see just what good can come from Detroit: Christ and the forgiveness of sins. The same power and love that was shown on Calvary hill lives and breathes in the hearts of the people at Family of God.

Photos courtesy of Family of God, Detroit unless otherwise noted.

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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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