Tuesday, October 23, 2007

a few thoughts on working in Detroit

Okay, I promised I’d post more often, but this week I just haven’t known what to say. I’ve been checking other friends’ blogs a lot (who, judging by the lack of new content, must also not have not known what to say!), but I haven’t written a word of my own. I did write half a thesis chapter, though, which is a very good thing. Nothing seems that exciting. A few weeks ago, Dave worked 19 days in a row. Last night, I got an extensive biology/chemistry/medicine lesson as Dave answered an hour’s worth of questions about proteins and cancer cells and a million other things that happened to be on my mind. Unfortunately, only a few of our books are unpacked, so he couldn’t show me any pictures. I’m learning to drink my coffee without much sugar. My parents just got back from Italy and they brought us parmesan cheese, olive oil, espresso and chocolate. Scott (my brother) finally got to Baghdad.

There’s a lot of deeper stuff going on too, but I don’t know if I have words to explain it. Well, here it comes. I went to a Christian Community Development Association conference the weekend before last. Besides seeing old friends in St. Louis (which was wonderful!), the conference was good. I felt like I did a lot of spiritual healing and got some new tools and ideas for working in my community. This past weekend, we had a missions conference at church that was also really good. I wouldn’t say that I learned anything new, but I was reminded of a lot of things that I knew but hadn’t thought about lately. Between CCDA and the missions conference, I feel like my worlds (Detroit and Africa) are beginning to be reconciled a little. At CCDA, I heard a presentation by an Ethiopian woman who works in the slums of the capital city Addis Ababa, and thinking about her work (and mine) in Africa in the context of a conference that is still mostly about urban ministry in the U.S. helped me see that what I do in both places is really more similar than I thought. Well, it’s really more that I see other people acknowledging that it’s many of the same basic issues, values and strategies that are at work in Christian community development in both contexts. At the missions conference this weekend, we had a lot of focus on Africa, and to see so many people who are from Detroit and who work in Detroit be focused on Africa as well somehow made it seem a little less disparate. I don’t know if that makes sense to any of you, but when I explained it the other night to a friend who also is deeply connected in Detroit and Africa, it made a lot of sense to her.

It’s actually been quite challenging getting involved in ministry/community development in Detroit. I’m seeing a lot of my “rough edges” and weaknesses and it’s a very humbling process. Sometimes it’s so hard to see yourself as you really are, but it’s also the only way you grow. One of my biggest challenges right now is just keeping my mouth shut. This is the time to listen, observe and learn, but it’s really hard to do when I see things and have ideas that I’m dying to share. Some of the things I have to say are useful, but more often, they are lacking experience and understanding. Besides, I haven’t earned the right to speak yet. Somehow it seemed easier in Africa, probably because it was more obvious to me how much I had to learn. Being in Detroit feels more like familiar territory (heck, I’m in America!), so I feel more comfortable speaking and forget that I have SO much to learn about this community, its history and what is happening here now. I also realized at CCDA that I need to be very intentional right now about building relationships with people in my community and just getting to know people and growing to love them individually. Right now, I love the idea of my community, but I haven’t developed a genuine love for real people in my community, because I don’t know them yet. It’s easy for me to get caught up in doing things, because that’s the easiest and most comfortable thing to do, so I have to be very intentional in the next year about being with people and developing relationships. So, one of the things I’m trying is to do things at CDC (the organization where I volunteer) to be more connected with the kids and families in our program. I’m going to start volunteering with the weekly tutoring and cultural enrichment program tonight. Which means I better get a little more work done now. So much for not having anything to say ☺.

1 comment:

Neyhart said...

i enjoy reading your posts. we need to catch up properly sometime. let me know the next time you'll be in louisville and have time for a visit - and in the meantime - maybe we could catch up on the phone sometime.
-jennifer