Thursday our Teen Life Missions group spent a majority of the day serving at Grace Baptist Church in River Rouge. After breakfast and POWER Group time, we departed for Grace Baptist shortly after 11 a.m. Upon arrival, our team participated in a work project at the church. The men and boys spread mulch, pulled weeds, edged the sidewalk and cleaned off the driveway and parking lot. The women and girls cleaned windows, mopped floors and wiped down the pews in the sanctuary. A little elbow grease went a long way.
We also had a chance to hear from Grace Baptist’s pastor, Larry Rogier, who has shepherded this body of believers for 17 years. In fact, this is the only church Pastor Larry has led, as he was called to the pulpit shortly after graduation. The last 17 years have been filled with peaks and valleys. He didn’t mince words when talking about the experience of leading a church in an area that residents are desperate to escape. This is a far cry from Hamilton County.
“There are times that I think if I had set out to fail, I don’t think we could have done much worse,” he told the group.
What Pastor Larry expressed we have all encountered at some point in time. Despite our best efforts, we often fall far short of the mark. On our own, we will always fall short, and that can be discouraging. But Pastor Larry has soldiered on in his work in River Rouge. He bought a house in River Rouge and his family calls this community home. He lives amongst the very neighborhoods he is trying to reach. The congregation often numbers between 40 and 60 on a Sunday, and they don’t conduct Sunday School. Years ago he eliminated it due to staffing challenges, and now attendees spend the time connecting in conversation. The decision, and subsequent results, were not intentional, but have worked well in a community where the investment in relationships is valuable.
It was great to hear Pastor Larry talk about the ministry of Grace Baptist, his challenges and the needs of the church. It helped us to understand just how important the time we are investing in this community is, as well seeing the field that is ripe for harvest.
Our team once again canvassed the streets of River Rouge. Over the course of an hour and a half we distributed more than 900 invitations by going door-to-door. If a fraction of those invitations produce attendees at Friday’s cook-out, it will be a tremendous success. You should be proud of our teens, as they have taken on the challenge of spreading the word, and doing so by stretching outside their comfort zones. It’s great to witness this, seeing them enjoying the experience. There have been plenty of anecdotes and stories each time we return.
Thursday night also marked the second, and final, Cola Wars. The turnout was again strong, with some that participated Wednesday night inviting their friends to join in on the fun. Once again, the teens competed side-by-side with the youth of River Rouge. Sure, some finished the night with bumps, scratches and scrapes, but it was a profitable time, and many heard the Word. After a time of debriefing, we left Grace Baptist as the clock approached 10 p.m. We logged more than 10 hours at the church, and while we were sweaty, grimy, smelly and tired, it was satisfying to see how God used our team and Grace Baptist Church to make further inroads within River Rouge.
Friday we will go door-to-door one last time and then preparations will begin for the cook-out. It will take place from 6 – 9 p.m. and will offer free food and games. There is much to be done, but we’re up to the challenge.
Please pray for a strong attendance at the cookout Friday, and that members of our team, the Spread The Word team, and Grace Baptist Church will make meaningful connections in the process. Pray that our team finishes strong in this outreach opportunity, and that our youth come away from the Detroit experience with a greater desire to serve the Lord. Also, pray for Pastor Larry and the flock at Grace Baptist as they continue to soldier on for Christ in River Rouge. While we are providing able bodies to serve this week, we are only scratching the surface when it comes to ministering to the area. Finally, thank you to all that have prayed for us during this trip. We can’t tell you how much we appreciate the support as we tend to the work here.