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When you look throughout the Bible, you will notice the significance of cities. It was in particular cities where God revealed Himself and where He sent people to declare His truth. As we specifically look at the early church, we notice that once persecution started (Ac 8:1), the believers were scattered throughout the world in various cities and they ended up preaching the Gospel (Ac 8:4). Even in Apostle Paul’s missionary journeys, we see how he entered into various cities in different regions.
In my time in Jakarta in 2009-2010, I begin to understand the greater significance of the city. I was amazed to see how Jakarta, the capital and the largest city in Indonesia, was able to affect and influence the rest of the country. Jakarta has about 9.5 million people which is a small fraction of the 238 million people in Indonesia; but Jakarta is the country’s economic, cultural and political center. Therefore, what happens in Jakarta affects the rest of the country.
Recently, God has been placing a burden on my heart for Detroit. I still remember my first time going to Detroit when Christina and I moved from Chicago to Ann Arbor back in 1996. With all our nostalgic memories of Chicago, we decided to drive to downtown Detroit. Our first-time experience in Detroit ended up being a rude awakening for us. We were shocked to see all the dilapidated buildings and the decay in the city landscape. It was hard to believe that in history, Detroit was once a thriving and growing city because of the economy, music and the arts.
After that experience, we only went to Detroit a handful of times for various sporting events and music performances, but other than that we had no reason to go there.
But God has been bringing various things into my life in order to get my attention and to stir a burden for the city of Detroit. First, there was a discussion with a few married people after one of the evening sessions of our Covenant (married couples) Retreat back in September. We talked about the dismal condition Detroit was in and how things can change if someone just had a vision. For some reason, I could not get this discussion of my mind.
Secondly, through various articles and news information, God was trying to put a greater burden in my heart for all the needs in Detroit. In fact, one poignant article was in Forbes Magazine. They had an interactive map and it graphically showed where Americans were moving in and out of various cities. It revealed that more than 10 million Americans moved from one place to another during 2008 and it was displayed by black lines, which indicate net inward movement, while red lines showed net outward movement.
I just clicked on to NYC first and then to Detroit and instantly, my heart began to break (refer to the graphs below).
Then recently, I read a Newsweek article titled, “America’s Dying Cities”. Not only was Detroit in this Top 10 list, but two other Michigan cities (Flint and Grand Rapids) made the list. What is going on? God, what are you trying to say to me? What is it that you are trying to do? What do you want me to do?
Thirdly, back in November, someone forwarded a video to me. The video explained an evangelistic campaign called EACH (Everyone A Chance to Hear) where many churches around the greater Metro Detroit area were uniting together to reach Detroit with the Gospel.
You can watch the video here:
After watching the video, I was gripped with the conviction that God was already working in the hearts of His people to have a burden and a vision for the transformation of Detroit. This is when I doubled checked and realized that the video was produced right around the time when some of the married people and I were talking about Detroit back in September.
With this realization, I felt convicted to share the vision of transformation for Detroit with our whole church during our All Church-Wide Gathering on a Friday in early December. After the message, the response and prayer time, several people came up to me and shared how God has put a burden in their hearts for Detroit, but they didn’t know what to do with it. But as the Spirit moved that night and after hearing the message, some of the members started to see the possibility of a future church plant in Detroit, near the Wayne State University campus. I was blown away with the intensity of the people’s willingness and commitment to do whatever is required to be a part of what God was doing in Detroit.
Fourthly, I was able to contact one of the African-American pastors who is part of the leadership for EACH. All I can say is that it was a divine appointment. In our meeting, we ended up sharing our testimonies and how God has given us a burden for the greater Detroit area. As God is opening up more doors for me to interact with various pastors who are committed to Detroit, we are coming to the conclusion that the situation with Detroit is actually a spiritual problem; and out of this, comes forth all the issues of the economy, crime, gangs, corruption, and etc.
Even though this journey so far has been only 5 months, I am confident that God is going to do something extraordinary. As our church is fasting and praying, we are preparing ourselves to be positioned to obey God with whatever He brings our way. If reaching out to Detroit is something that God is doing, then we are praying that He would give us the privilege of being part of His awesome work.
All I know is that God is moving in the hearts of some of the college students, who are taking entrepreneurship classes and gaining a vision and heart for reaching Detroit. God is also stirring in the hearts of the single adults with the possibility of even moving out near Detroit, where it not only closer to their workplace, but they want to be a part of bringing transformation and revitalization to the city of Detroit.
We are just humbled and amazed.
Can it be that God would use a city like Detroit, where is it know for so many “bad” things, in order to show the world that when God’s people unite together to pray and seek His face that He can turn things around?
What a testimony would it be of God’s power and grace!