Why go to Detroit? Because its the US city with the worst reputation for need and crisis right now in our history. Detroit is in need, and as the people of God we are called to meet the need.
So the situation in Detroit:
The population, which peaked at 1.85 million in 1950, has declined to about 700,000, according to U.S. Census data.
Manufacturing jobs have fallen from about 296,000 in 1950 to fewer than 27,000 in 2011.
Approx 78,000 houses are abandoned. The city is bankrupt so city services like police, firefighters, and ambulances are cut to the minimum.
We worked with the Center for Student Missions a group that sets up mission trips for youth groups in major cities all over the USA. CSM provided a home in a local neighborhood and a host, Maggie, who organized our stay and guided us all through the week. Our temporary home was two- bedroom/one bathroom on a nice block in a struggling neighborhood just off of Gratiot street. There were 9 of us, but groups of 28 had stayed in the house before us!
The days generally went like this:
- Up at 8, breakfast of cereal & pack lunch
- Morning devotions
- First worksite of the day
- picnic lunch at a city park
- Second worksite of the day
- dinner at an ethnic, family-owned restaurant
- back home for evening review and devotions
- hang out with neighbors until bedtime
One thing that we did every night (that all of us can do wherever we travel) is eating at family-owned restaurants. To expand our experience, we ate ethnic food by recent immigrants. We had:
- El Salvadorian pupusas (pouches of cheese and meat) and fried plantains
- Thai pad thai
- dal (lentil sauce) naan (flat bread) and biriyani (rice) from Bangladesh
- authentic tacos & tortes from Mexico in Mexicotown
I was so proud of the kids, everyone tried the food and didn't complain. They mostly liked everything, but some more than others. It was a great learning experience for us and a way to support family businesses. And family-owned businesses are the future of Detroit - there may never be one industry that swoops in and "saves" Detroit with a ton of jobs. But small businesses opened one at a time over the years will create new jobs and build community.
more to come. . . .