Hi everyone! Abby here, one of the two senior girls. I was recruited to talk about my experiences on our first full day in Detroit! I'm in Mike and Andrea's group, and today we worked with an organization called "Neighbors Building Brightmoor", which is formed of a group of community members who live in the Brightmoor area and want to keep the area as safe and beautiful as possible. In particular, we worked with a man named Jacob, whom you will find out more about later on.
After a somewhat sleepless night full of deflating air mattresses and alarms going off at 1 am, my group was in charge of breakfast prep. We rotate helping to prepare and clean up breakfast and dinner, which we've never done before on a missions trip and which I find really humbling. After breakfast we did devos and then had a quick run down of what our day would look like. My group (the Tigers) headed off to meet Jacob, and met him at his home. We were split up into different tasks, some pulling up sod and helping with the garden up front, and others cleaning up a pile of insect-infested logs and sticks. I was in the latter, and honestly, I was a little concerned about the infestation. However, everything was picked up and moved to a dump pile without much hassle; we used both wheelbarrows and simple elbow grease to accomplish it in quite a quick time, including having a competition to see who could stomp on the most bugs.
We finished moving the log pile within an hour, and so we switched jobs to moving wood chips from a pile in the back to the driveway/garden in the front. It was a huge pile of wood chips, mushrooms, and a few random wires. Myself and Daniel Wart, then later Kayla Carson, were scooping the wood chips into wheelbarrows using pitchforks, and Mike Pitts and Kayla, then Daniel, were wheeling them back and forth between our lot at the very back of Jacob's yard and the front of his property. Although it was very hot once the sun came out, and the wood chip pile smelled...interesting, everyone turned out to be great sports and really willing to help (we are a bunch of fungis... sorry, but there wasn't mushroom anywhere else for a pun).
After we had finished with the wood chip pile and the group up front had finished their tasks, we moved two blocks to a community garden that we later found out had been started by Jacob's father, who was commemorated in a painting on an abandoned building next door. We also found out that his father had died a couple of years before, and he had grown up in the house right across the street from this lot we were working in. Our tasks at this site were mostly weeding and cleaning as much as possible (in the words of Faith Cheehan, "All thistles must die!"). This area was touching for me because we could see how much love Jacob had for the plot, the area, even the entire city. Even though everything had become ridden with weeds and was completely overgrown, he saw the potential and the beauty in it, which made me think of how God is the same way with us-- if we become caught up in the world or tangled up in evil, he's right there hacking away at the weeds and risking getting a thistle stuck in his hand along the way.
After completing our jobs at the site, we headed off to a rec center for some much-needed showers, and then came back to St. Timothy's and ate dinner before setting off on a downtown scavenger hunt. One thing I find interesting about YouthWorks is that they don't just want us to serve, they want us to understand the people we're serving. So, as you know Browncroft youth group isn't at all competitive, and so it was a very calm, very dignified and leisurely stroll down the streets of Detroit... not at all a race down the highway to see who could get there first and "no one" honked (I think Josh is going to read this, so quotes). Everyone (miraculously) arrived to our meeting point safe and sound, and we set off on our scavenger hunt, checking off such things as the Bible verse on the Spirit of Detroit statue, waving to Canada, and throwing a penny in a fountain). Not to be biased at all about the winners, but Tigers forever! We won both the race-not-race and the scavenger hunt, but it's all forgotten now and I hear screams of Euchre in the other room.
I realize this was really lengthy, but I wanted all of our supporters to understand both the struggles and the triumphs and just plain old fun we've experienced thus far. I saw God everywhere, from my teammates to our leaders to the city itself. Yes, Detroit is broken, but you can see the beauty in it, and the hope and vitality in the city and the people. I personally can't wait for what tomorrow brings, and I know I speak for all of us when I say we deeply appreciate all your prayers and support, and we miss you and can't wait to tell you everything when we get home! Lights out is in 12 minutes, and I'm exhausted from a very busy day, so again thank you-- we've seen God already so much in this trip, and it's only the first day!