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...

Rooted

Can you discover the depths of God? Can you discover the limits of the Almighty? Job 11:7 How many times do we try to understand God? It seems like a daily occurrence for me. He gives us the world around us filled with so much beauty and I seem to zero in on the things I cannot know; the mystery. Often, I find beauty in the unknowing but other times I just end up frustrated. A metaphor that has helped me to better understand our relationship to God and one another came up during a late-night discussion with my husband. It has to do with the largest organism on earth: Pando. Pando is a Quaking Aspen grove covering 106 acres of land, and connected by one massive root system. We talked of each individual person as a leaf on one of the millions of branches on Pando’s 40,000 trunks. Each trunk or branch is a faith community, that could be a church or network of believers. Underneath the soil, the Spirit, spreading out in all different directions, connects the trunks together to form one being. This is like how the Spirit connects different faith communities together in one Body. As a leaf, I have no concept of what is happening underground where the Spirit moves. It is totally beyond my leafness! As part of a faith community an individual may glimpse a piece of the larger plan through those relationships. At the same time, while we are all connected at the trunk, each leaf experiences it’s environment from a different perspective. One leaf could not judge another because sprouted...

To Be Known

I love it when I meet someone who listens.  Not the polite smile and the taught tension that result from someone who is merely enduring your speech while they are thinking about what they are going to say next in the conversation.  Not the horrific manners of the person who cuts you off mid-sentence without a qualm of conscience.  A true listener seeks to understand.  A true listener patiently treasures a person by digging with questions.  A true listener loves. Every child who skips through the doors of Hope House wants us to listen to them.  Each one  is a new and beautiful mystery.  What will they turn out to be?  Their upturned and smiling faces are expectant.  They want us to listen to their stories and comment on their day, their birthday, their school, their friendships.  If we wait, build trust, and affirm how special they are, we will witness surprises and miracles. Such a surprise was mine last Thursday, when one of our long time students at Read Around the Block leaped up the stairs and rushed me.  His face was lit with a huge grin, and even better, a PROUD grin.  “Ms. Joy, Ms. Joy,” he panted, “I wrote a story and I want to read it to everyone!”  I nearly crowed with pride myself.   I was so happy because all of us have been pouring into this child, and have wished him joy for so long, and now we see his joy, and it gives me a giddy and quivery feeling in my stomach.  These are some reasons for my happiness: He wrote the story...

Let’s Get to Work

We were created to work. Not just because we live in America and that’s how we pay our bills but because I believe that’s how God intended us to live. When God created Adam and Eve He gave them roles and responsibilities to tend to and manage (Gen 2:15). Everyone’s work may look different but any way you put it, there’s something you were placed here to do. As a part of my own job this summer, I got to introduce teens in the neighborhood to the working world that lies ahead of them. At Hope House we partnered with a job training program throughout the city of Detroit that hired eight thousand teens and young adults from all around the city. Here at Hope House the six teen girls we employed had roles to play as waitresses and cooks and responsibilities to clean up and be here on time. Many of them worked with me in the café and we learned together how to run a small business, managing money, inventory, and customers. I’ve had the chance to get feedback from the girls about what they learned from the summer as the café comes to a close for the fall. I’m encourage by their responses included below: “When it comes to customer service I learned to not let your attitude reflect how you work or treat others.” “I improved in my leadership skills of enforcing rules and getting people to listen, and patience and communication skills.” “I learned to be more organized and how to work well with others.” These comments mean so much to me because they...

Newsletter Summer 2017: He Is Doing A New Thing

He Is Doing A New Thing During this summer, I was involved with our church’s vacation bible school.  Before the week came, my attitude was not what I wanted it to be.  At first I was resentful of losing a whole week of my summer in order to supervise kids that I didn’t know.  In addition to this, I disliked the theme of the VBS and the music.  I wasn’t alone.  There were several voices that were expressing disapproval and criticism.  When the week arrived, I resigned myself to take it one step at a time and to prepare myself for something that could be awful or at the very best, awkward. Luke 24:38 He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Upon entering the church, I was aghast at the sanctuary magnificently adorned with decorations.    The volunteers smiled and laughed, zealously acting out their parts.  There were lines of happy children waiting for everything to get going!  The first day was great fun and every day after that.  Kids sang Jesus songs.  They memorized scripture.  The gospel was preached.  There was goodness and light and every part humming along in harmony like a perfect song.  God made it an amazing success! 2nd Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. Why should this kind of supernatural success still surprise me after being a Christian for 30 years?  I...

August Evening

I get out of my car, and a 6th grade boy runs across the side lot, yelling, “Miss Becky!” He runs to me, gives me a side hug and says he is great. He isn’t kidding. He is intelligent, clever, and having fun on this August evening. He is waiting for his computer teacher to arrive at HHD. And he truly is great. A sweet shy little girl, walks toward me, stops, eyes averted, waiting to be noticed. I hug her, say her name, ask how she is. Today she is fine. She is going into first grade and has done a great job at Read Around the Block. She is precious. Teens are sitting under the pavilion at the picnic tables, talking, probably flirting. There was a time when I didn’t know if teen girls would ever come to Hope House. The basketball goal assured us of guys, but not so much the girls. But now… the café, the job training program, the girls’ club and Bible study, the great staff and volunteers make Hope House a place the teen girls can feel at home. I take out Teen Leadership Council applications to the teens under the pavilion. They laugh and joke with me, say they’ll fill them out. A wiry little boy going into 2nd grade runs over for a hug. He has just noticed I’ve arrived. He giggles and squirms and runs on. He smiles. I introduce myself to guys waiting for a turn to play basketball. They are new to Hope House this summer.  We share the awkward: hello, what’s your name, do you stay...