Guns, drug deals, burnt down houses, and big scary men. Yup. Welcome to Detroit, Michigan everybody. Would you look up the most dangerous area in Detroit, and go to it? Probably not. We did! Coming face to face with the scariest area I have ever been in, I felt paralyzed with fear.
Four 19-year-old girls, including myself, had been on a road trip across America for a few weeks at this point, and had already experienced the beauty of loving people outrageously and spontaneously. We had run into some challenges along the way, some fear-evoking, but God always came through and proved to us that HE knew what HE was doing.
Pulling into the heart of Detroit, we were met with many business suits and people who walked with purpose, fixed on their next destination without losing sight of their goal. The main area of the city didn’t look very bad, in fact, it was pretty cool. They had games outside for the community to partake in, a giant sand pit, and these big, bright chairs fit for the Queen of Hearts. There were a few people that we ran into, giving us the heebie-geebies, but overall, this definitely didn’t seem like the most dangerous city in America.
Jessika felt like we were supposed to hop on the train that circles the city, so we collected our change and found our way to the train. God told me that He was going to tell them what to do, and my job was to sit back, encourage, and wait. I waited and waited and waited, and by the time we had circled the city 3 times, God told me “One more time, and then get off at Bridgetown.” After a silent 4th round, we hopped off and aimlessly roamed the city.
Do you ever feel like God is telling you to be patient and trust Him, but you have a moment where you just want to throw your arms up in surrender?
We were feeling pretty pointless in our roaming, which led us to make a decision on what our next step was. After praying and asking God for direction, we knew He wanted us to look up the most dangerous neighborhoods in Detroit, and go to one of them! I know, I know, we sounded crazy. As we found our way to the car, Jessika read of the list that she found and we chose the neighborhood that felt right.
I always viewed myself as this fearless, free-spirit who would take a bullet for someone, be a martyr, or throw myself in the middle of danger if it meant I was rescuing someone. When I would watch movies where there was this “hero” or character that fought injustice, it would send me into daydreaming about how I would be that person if my life were a movie. *cough* *cough* I needed a reality check.
Driving into this neighborhood, I felt the spiritual weight that covered the streets and homes of these people. Never before had my eyes met such a scene. Almost half of the neighborhood was burnt down, due to gang culture taking a toll on the neighborhood. Many people sat on their porches waiting in what seemed cynical anticipation. Were they waiting for drama to blow up in front of them? Were they waiting to be the next target? Were they waiting for a new victim? I don’t really know. What I do know, is that their eyes were dead. They were like zombies going through the motions, darkness enveloping their bodies.
Their dark stares were fixated on us, and I don’t blame them. Picture four young white girls driving through one of the worst areas in Detroit with the label “The Mobile Church” plastered on the side of a 15 passenger van. I would stare too if I were them. I honestly felt sick to my stomach, because the darkness that lived on these streets was nearly unbearable.
Watching the little kids playing in the streets broke my heart the most. It was heartbreaking to see who they were being raised to be, the violence seemed to be the daily scene in which they would grow immune to. The four of us wanted to take all of the kids with us and tell them that life didn’t have to be that way. They would be raised in a culture where guns, drugs, and abuse are the norm, and that horrified me.
I was waking up as my small world began expanding in a painful, uncomfortable way.
Kourtney saw a drug deal behind us, Jessika urgently told us to turn due to a man with guns, and Mckenzie and I laid eyes on our next dare: two little girls playing in the front yard of a tattered house. We both knew that we were supposed to get out of the car and ask that family what they needed. As we rounded the corner, we noticed 3 big men sitting in front of the house on the opposite side of the street. I felt fear begin to take control of whether or not I was actually going to get out of the car. We decided to pull off further down the street by some vacant, burnt down houses and pray about whether or not we should really get out of the car.
We were know doubting the fact that God called us here, because it should be easier than this, right?
To be honest, I always thought I would be fearless in these moments, but a harsh reality shook me as I realized I was the one stricken with the most fear. Feeling paralyzed with the idea of walking on those dark streets, it began to rain. Due to the rain, everyone on the streets or on their porches began to go inside. As our final decision of whether or not we were turning back or getting out, the rain stopped. We all knew what that meant: we were getting out of the car. I told Mckenzie that I needed her to lead because the Holy Spirit was filling her with so much courage than me in that moment.I had an internal battle waging war inside of me as God asked, “If you won’t do this, what will you do for Me?”
Mckenzie took the first hop out of the van, and 3 timid ladies followed her. We knocked on the door and were met by the two little girls that we had witnessed playing outside just moments before.
“Hello, are your parents home?” Mckenzie asked sweetly.
“No, our mom is across the street though!” they responded as they clung to each other.
“Have you had dinner yet?”
“No, but we have pizza!”
“Is there any way we could talk to your mom?”
“Yeah, we will go across the street and get her!” They said almost in unison.
We all tensed up a bit when we realized they were making their way over to the house “big scary men” dwelled. They came back with their mom in hand, and we met her at the sidewalk. Their mother, Cherish, looked skeptical as we asked her how we could help her. We offered to get them groceries, clothes, or whatever they needed, but she insisted they didn’t need anything.
Kourtney persisted, “Seriously, what do you need?” We were all really hoping she would say something because we did not get out of that car for no reason! There was a peace filled with confirmation as I stood there staring at this beautiful family. Cherish glanced at her kids and then lifted her eyes and admitted that they needed a couch. She proceeded to tell us that she would soon be divorced and that her and her 3 kids would be moving somewhere else. Their home life was very unhealthy (as you can imagine) and she desired a better life for her children, because her husband wasn’t into some dangerous stuff. Talk about a courageous woman who was truly acting fearlessly. Due to her moving out with her kids, she was starting completely over! She needed a lot more than just a couch, so we told her we were going to see what we could do but that we could meet her at her new place in the morning and give her what God provided.
I was filled with peace on that cracked side walk as we all looked at this family who was about to take a leap into the unknown.
We found a couch, but were not able to fit it in our van so we resorted to getting her a $300 gift card from IKEA, along with a painting that I painted that says “Joy Comes in the Morning.” I felt like that phrase was perfect for where she was at in life, because new season was going to be filled with JOY and FREEDOM. I seriously wish we could have furnished her whole place!
Sometimes I wish I could win the lottery and then give all of the money away and rock people’s worlds.
We were met by a smiling Cherish that next morning, and we gave her the gifts we had to offer. She embraced us all over and over again. Cherish seemed like a completely different person than the one we met yesterday. She told us that she wasn’t a hugger, but she couldn’t stop hugging us.
“I feel like I am on one of those tv shows!! This kind of stuff never happens to me! I can’t believe God chose me…”
God DID choose her, and He for some reason chose us four girls to deliver this package of love.
After we said our goodbyes, we climbed back into our van with bright smiles. Looking at each other, we sighed and laughed at the not-so-fearless girls we were yesterday. It seemed silly that we were scared and had wanted to go home. McKenzie’s leap out of that van led us to one of the most beautiful moments we had ever witnessed.
We could have knocked on the door of someone very dangerous, but God led us to the door of a woman and her children who needed to know that someone saw them, loved them, and was watching out for them.
To fearlessly love is to experience the love of God.
Maybe you are scared to love people because it makes you vulnerable, and you have been hurt by so many. Love IS vulnerable, scary, and a risk, BUT I will confidently tell you: loving people is the scariest and most beautiful thing you will do in your life.
God calls us to love our enemies, persecutors, and the people who need love the most.
Maybe you are not as fearless as you think, but don’t worry, I’m not either.