In early 2016, we began promoting that we wanted to start an internship/ discipleship school… a live in program here in Detroit.
and whenever people would ask me, “what will it be like?” the only thing that I could think to say was “a blank canvas.”
This post is part of a series we are doing called "poiema" - based on the video below (if you enjoyed the video or this post, please share it!):
and I know that it is a bit cliche to say that “Detroit is a blank canvas” - people around here hate that… and maybe Detroit isn’t… but Courage Church most definitely is. Our church is in a place where if you come in, and if you want to try something, and you have the capacity to do it, we will empower you, and do our absolute best to equip you to do it. It is not a machine, where you come here, and are instantly programmed to doing things the way that we do them… yes, we will teach you as much as we can, but we have a place where whatever you have to contribute, we absolutely want and believe there is space for.
So our angle here was, and still is, that this is still a place where you can come, and help be a part of creating… you can help us shape it. If that is something you are interested in being a part of, please reach out to us!
And what we did as our first video promo for the program, was we had our friend Jimmy (who is an AMAZING PAINTER) paint the Petersboro mansion in Midtown… so we went there, and set up, and he painted this broken down mansion, that literally had entire sections missing (it looks like an enormous bulldozer just destroyed half of the mansion.)
But in the video, what Jimmy did was he painted it, exactly as we saw it… he put the holes in it, the giant gaps, etc. So for the first half of the video, he painted what is.
Then, for the second half of the video, he stepped back, looked at it again, then began painting what could be… He started filling in the gaps, he painted a nice stairway… he finished the castle the way that he saw in his mind that it could be.
A castle that FOR YEARS, laid, wasting away. Ruined. Hopeless. Most people figured it would eventually get torn down… but in our video, we dared to dream again for that old castle.
While we were filming, several people walking by came up to us, and looked at the picture… and one man in particular, he looked at the painting, then he looked at the castle, then he looked back at the painting again, and he said to Jimmy: “oh, you finished it. you finished the castle… thats amazing.” then he said this:
“thank you for finishing it, instead of burning it down.”
Because that is what happens to a lot of the old houses here… at one point, somebody decided that they didn’t want to stay there anymore, so they moved out, and it sat. And as it sat, it rotted… people would break in and steal anything of value, and before long the weather would begin to destroy it because everything that protected it had been stolen, and eventually, you have neighborhoods full of historic homes and buildings that people are petitioning to have torn down because of the eyesores and dangers that they had become.
But God has called the church to rebuild the broken places.
Isaiah 58:12 (the Message) says:
“ You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew,
rebuild the foundations from out of your past.
You’ll be known as those who can fix anything,
restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate,
make the community livable again.
The ESV puts it like this: "You shall be called the repairers of the breach"
That is why we do what we do.
That is why we buy houses that are broken.
That is why we pour our lives into people who can’t give us anything in return.
That is why we give out backpacks, and Christmas’s to families… its why we show up at peoples doorsteps and see if they need anything… it is why we bought the first Courage House, and why we want to fix it, fill it with people, and then get another, and another as the Lord allows.
A little over a year after filming the first video, we went back to Petersboro street,
and that castle that had sat deteriorating for years had years had actually been restored (see the video “poiema”)! They were putting the finishing touches on it, and it looked just like what Jimmy painted!
We aren’t naive enough to think that our little video inspired the mansion to get rebuilt… our city is going through an amazing rebirth, and people are taking ownership of their communities. Still it was so incredible to see it, almost finished. The city is so alive, and the only reason that it has bounced back so quickly in the recent years is because a lot of people decided to see what nobody could see… they saw the castle finished, when everyone else saw it getting torn to the ground.
a match could have solved the problem a whole lot faster… but it would have left the city a bit little more empty.
And to me, there are not many greater images of the gospel.
Seeing hope in a broken down block, that was so contagious that it actually caught on.
Greater things truly are still to be done in our city.