In 2009 my family of four moved from Georgia, USA to Johannesburg, South Africa. We moved, believing that we had been called by God to do so, and specifically to lead a church in the country, and this dream materialized after 3 years of living in South Africa.
During the past 8 years I cannot tell you how many times a newly-met South African has
asked me, “WHY did you move from the USA to here!?” With the political and economic instability of South Africa, few “SAfers” can relate to someone voluntarily leaving the land of the American dream to the danger and problems of Johannesburg.
On a recent trip to America I excitedly announced that we were soon relocating to Detroit. Many of the responses were all too familiar… “WHY are you moving to DETROIT!?”
I get it. Urban blight. Flint water crisis. 2013 and the first major US municipality to declare bankruptcy. Detroit Public Schools collapsing and mass teacher sick-outs. Homicides, crime, etc, etc.
So…why ARE we moving to Detroit? Here are the reasons in no certain order. I hope they inform, inspire and even challenge you…
1. My wife grew up in Detroit area in the 1980’s. There’s history, roots and an existing network of friendships and relationships. This isn’t random.
2. Detroit is undergoing quite an amazing urban renewal. If you are young, hip, or exceptionally cool like me, consider visiting Detroit’s new and vibey restaurants, hang-outs, theaters, stunning downtown skyscrapers and world-renowned river walk. (Why did you just laugh?)
3. We believe with all of our hearts that God has purposed for us to relocate to Detroit. Sound a bit mental and superspiritual? It’s actually not…more on this topic in another blog post.
4. My life does not belong to me. I Corinthians 6:20 says, “you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” From the moment I received Jesus as my Lord, my life has belonged to Him, bought with the price of His immaculate blood. My pursuit has become His will, and my overwhelming joy has been the thrill and fulfillment of His far superior plans and purposes. In short, Jesus really is awesome and I’ve learned that His brilliant plans often appear absurd on the front end of obedience.
5. The rich and poor live side-by-side in Detroit. For some reason the linkage of the economically empowered with the economically disenfranchised is a continual theme in our life and ministry. The words of Isaiah 61:1, the mission Jesus announced for Himself at the onset of His ministry resounds in the core of our being, forming our mission: “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me because the Lord has anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor.” The church we led in Johannesburg had a vision to reach the poor, while being based in one of the city’s wealthiest suburbs. Detroit offers the unique opportunity to see the empowerment and blessing that comes from linking the two in the family of God.
6. God’s values differ from ours. Most people balk at the idea of living in Detroit (or Johannesburg) because of lifestyle. In other words, what they really object to is that it’s not “white picket fence.” (Well, in Joburg, it’s 6 ft walls with security gates and electric fence…but that’s different). Jesus was God, and yet left heaven, became man, and was put to death by man in order to have their sins forgiven. What value system does that portray in terms of where we live? We aren’t pursuing the white picket fence, but rather people and their redemption. People are the greatest treasure. Our reward will be in heaven, but here it is to have Jesus do through us what He wants to do…the same Jesus that forsook heaven to serve sinful, often unwanted people.
7. There’s no great Mexican food in South Africa. (Ok, sorry, that’s not actually a valid reason, but it is an incredible perk to repatriating. Incidentally, Southwest Detroit is also called Mexicantown and boasts some legendary tacos.)
8. I’m dreaming of a white Christmas. I grew up in Hotlanta and have never experienced one before. I want one with a fireplace, coffee, old Christmas music, family & friends (oh, and indoor heating…how we so miss indoor heating). Let’s see what happens…