Thriving

To survive is good.  To thrive is better.  How glorious it is when we have the opportunity and honor to help others to thrive in the name of Jesus.  Glorious because we get to do it in His name.  Glorious because we get to do it by His great power.  Glorious because we get to witness the fruit of our labors. Hope House Detroit is a place where, everywhere you look, you can see God working to help people to thrive.  He works on hearts.  He brings smiles.  He brings growth.  The best part is that every labor of love is not an isolated act of will. It is empowered by God, and God makes it multiply and spread outwards, like the ripples on the surface of a pond when you toss a stone into it.  You toss the stone in, and it immediately disappears into the depths, but the effects of its passage linger and spread outwards, making ever larger circles of motion. At Read Around the Block, Hope House’s literacy program, it has been my honor to witness the fruit of the labor of volunteers and staff that have invested hours of their time in the lives of our neighborhood children.  Here are just a few of their stories.   One little boy used to have severe anxiety/emotional breakdowns when he came to us.  He used to run away from us and hide under a van outside, or have full-blown screaming tantrums.  Now, he has only small episodes when he will lock up and refuse to participate, but these are few and far between and short in duration....

Every Kid Needs a Champion

At Hope House, we run on the power of human connection to change the world for all of us–student AND teacher. Relationship, via Jesus, is the foundation of our marathon…together....

Delighted!

As a staff, we recently thought about what delights each of us when it comes to working at Hope House Detroit. I honestly haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since. I have been seeing the Read Around The Block kids pretty consistently since I started my internship with HHD in 2016. I would volunteer weekly and then continued to work at RATB when I was hired on as staff after I graduated. In just a couple short years, I’ve gotten to know some of these kids and I’ve gotten to see how they’ve grown in maturity and in God’s love. A few weeks ago, I was going through the pictures I’ve accumulated of the kids over the past few years, and I was struck at how one of our RATB girls had changed. The picture from 2016 showed her as a timid girl who was shy about reading and had a hard time focusing. I was able to hang out with her at Outdoor Fun the same day that I saw that picture, and I couldn’t help but notice the stark difference between the girl in the picture and the girl who was laughing uncontrollably, helping younger girls with their coloring and comforting them when they felt that their drawings weren’t turning out quite right. She is more confident and willing to talk out her problems. She has started reading with more excitement and she is a shining light of God’s love. Being able to watch these kids learn and grow just over the last couple years has delighted me SO much. I am delighted to have...

Real. Crazy. Love.

As Troy and I have been going through the process of packing and moving into our new house, we have spent some time reflecting on the past two years, as one does when a chapter is coming to a close. We both agreed that we have grown and been challenged in countless unexpected ways both emotionally and spiritually. We decided the most important are where we experienced growth was how radical, unconditional love looks like lived out in every day life. Not the kind of love that is transactional or tires easily, but rather love that could only come from one Source. In so many ways in the beginning, we received this love from all those who have been in the ministry before us and were able to then turn and love our Hope House kids so deeply. Then, along the way, the most incredible thing started to happen, we began to get that love back from the kids. At first it was small ways; they would respect us when asked to do something or they would share a precious glimpse into their personal story. Then it became much bigger than that, the love they were giving back to us had a supernatural effect. It started to change how we viewed our relationships and how we responded in conflict. We started to see people differently now because of how our kids loved us and we loved them back. Maybe we saw people with more compassion or understanding, we are still working through much of what we experienced at Hope House. One thing I do know is, the greatest lessons...

“Let the Little Kiddos Come!”

Monday I got to visit Read Around the Block. The kids were playing outside when I arrived and three little girls were searching around in what will be the garden. They were looking for items “with different textures,” they told me. Some of the volunteers were inside preparing nachos for snack and giving input into a project they’re doing with the kids. Once inside, the kids listened to story and did jazz hands whenever they heard a verb. Then the art in the book was pointed out. Later in the day, they would take their different textured items and paint with them, similar to the book illustrations. When it was time to read with an adult reading friend, I noticed that the kids knew the drill, where to go, what to do. They were comfortable in the structure of the program. Little kids who used to be so very quiet had come out of their shells and were enjoying themselves. Kids who used to be disruptive had matured. The third grader I read with kept complimenting the first grader in our group on her reading. Our first grader had read Goldilocks to us. Afterward the third grader suggested that we try it with different voices for the father, mother, and baby bear. So we each took a part. At a child’s suggestion. I watched a little girl who had struggled in every way sitting with an adult and writing a thank you note. And to tell you the truth, it all touches my heart because I know that each little episode of growth and development moves a child (or...

The Harvest

Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” – Matthew 9:37-38 Since stepping into the position of Team Coordinator here at Hope House Detroit, this verse has been on repeat in my mind and heart.  I speak it to other team members to describe my week or how I feel the process of growing our team is going.  I remember it in moments of frustration- when our numbers just don’t seem sufficient for the needs of our programs.  I remember it in moments of confusion- when something happens that calls an awesome team member away from us. I remember it in moments of joy- when I get to see or hear about moments where a team member gets to genuinely connect and know a child’s heart. Scripture is wonderful. It is comforting and has a way of helping us navigate through life.  Sometimes scripture helps us gain perspective, that what we are experiencing is part of a bigger plan that we just might not see yet. But to me, I think the sweetest thing about the Bible, is just how everlasting it is. There will always be work to do towards God’s kingdom and there will never be enough workers. It was a true statement then, it was a true statement 100 years ago, it is a true statement today, and will be tomorrow as well. To me, the most mind-blowing part about it is that Jesus knew that when he spoke those words to His disciples...

Shopping with God

One of the things that drew me to Hope House as a place to live and serve is the premise that God is working and we get to be on the lookout for where He’s working and join Him. The other day I ran into Kroger just to pick up some stamps. I had a few errands I was running that day and needed to pop into the store briefly. While I was standing at the counter, I saw a coworker Rae and her daughter Charlee grabbing a cart. I smiled and said hello, as it had only been a few hours since I last saw them at church. We talked about the Oscar’s Party we were both attending that evening and started to go our separate ways when I heard Charlee ask from her spot pushing the cart, “Do you want to walk with us?” My inner dialogue began. Did I want to walk with them? No, not really. But what was the hurry? And Charlee asked so politely! I only had one more stop on my list. I probably had time to walk with them. Ok why not? I joined them walking through the store, picking up this and that. Average grocery shopping trip. But I must have heard Charlee say at least five times, “I love shopping.” “I’ll go shopping with Daddy later.” “I just looove to shop!” You see, Charlee loves shopping. She loves doing work with her mom or dad. She loves pushing the cart and being a part of the trip. She loves having a role to play, scanning the objects and passing...

Be Humble, and I’ll Provide Power Through Jesus

“Be Humble, and I’ll Provide Power Through Jesus” “The more God uses you the more humble you become.” – Louie Giglio When I first heard that statement I had a hard time believing the truth behind it. Sometimes we lose sight of how God has moved when we are in the shadow of our own pride. The human reality is that we accomplish nothing on our own. Our abilities, gifts, and talents all come from God. God provides resources, strategies, and even opportunities for us to use our abilities every day. I have heard it said like this before, “Our ability is God’s gift to us, but what we do with that ability is our gift to God.” Paul said it this way in 2nd Corinthians 10:17 But, “Let the one who boasts boast only in the Lord.” As God reveals more of what He is doing, we may wonder why He has chosen to use us. We all know where we fall short and where we excel. We are humbled just knowing He has great plans for us. He gives us opportunities daily to allow Him to work through us. For the past few months in Detroit, the Lord has been humbling us by working through us in ministries that seem to be thriving, by leading us and enabling us to literally sort through everything including our values, and by opening doors of opportunity and excitement. Leaves us feeling like, “Who, us?” -Riley Chowning He Let’s Us Participate “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken...

Wintertime

It is the end of February as I write this blog article.  It has been gray, cold and damp for many days.  This is the time of year when I feel like Spring will never come.  I used to complain bitterly all winter long, bemoaning the lack of life, color, and warmth during this season, questioning why I even choose to live in Michigan.  No longer. One winter, a friend told me that I was like a flower waiting for the spring, enduring a long dormant period, after which I would open my petals and display my potential.  She said, “What does a flower do as it’s waiting for spring?  It rests, and drinks in all the water from the winter snows.”  Now I view winter as a time for waiting inside, and drinking in God’s presence, instruction, and word.  My winters are dull and lifeless no more, now that I have God’s perspective on what winter is for. The brightest sunshine in my winter is my work at Hope House with Read Around the Block.  Our theme this semester is “Speak Life: the Power of Words.” This theme serves a dual purpose.  We teach kids about the heard, spoken, and written word and weave in God’s word to the kids at the same time.  We share testimonies and kids tell about the most important words that they have ever heard and spoken.  We write thank you notes to our volunteers and talk about how a kind word can cheer someone up who’s feeling down.  We have talked about how words have the power to build up or destroy. ...

Let Us

As the leaves continue to change color and fall, and the days become shorter and colder, it is the time of year we try to remember all of our many blessings and practice being grateful.  It would be easy to list off a bunch of reasons I am thankful for Hope House Detroit – for the many relationships I have with the volunteers, staff, and kids, for all the joy and community I have experienced there, for the opportunity to watch the youth in my neighborhood grow up – but that is not what is on my heart as I write this.   The more I age and mature, the more sensitive I seem to become to the many nuances and tensions that exist in the reality of our lives here on Earth.  Thanksgiving is a perfect Holiday example of this.  I gather with loved ones to remember my blessings and to share a large meal, in honor of a group of early American settlers and their Native neighbors who likewise shared resources & food with one another.  But we all know the history of the relationship between the settlers and the people already here was not typically such a warm, rosy picture; violence, diseases, broken treaties, and stolen land was more often the harsh reality.   The former picture is nicer to remember, but it is not the whole truth.  As Americans today, we have to come to grips with the reality that many of our cities are built on land that those who were here before us were forced to leave.  That our early economy was only...