Luke 9:23 – “Then he said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.’”
Crown College is affiliated with the Christian Missionary Alliance and through this strong tie one of the college’s values is centered on missions – being globally-connected. Crown believes that students should be encouraged and equipped to become Christ’s hands and feet, and in order to accomplish this goal, the ICE (InterCultural Experience) office sent out several teams during Spring Break to reach out to different people groups, both domestic and international. One of the teams led by Neil Johnson (class of 12′) majoring in Communication Arts, went to Hamtramck, MI, an “abandoned city” just outside Detroit. A brief interview with Neil revealed many issues that the city is struggling with, and the great call for Christians to devote themselves to the missions field out in the world.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit more about the street evangelism, how did the people respond? What were your replies to their questions?
A: On March twentieth we went street witnessing; breaking off into groups of two or three and going to start spiritual conversations. The Lord prepared the way for us and gave us many people and groups of people to share the Gospel with. Personally, my group had a few good responses where the individuals were in agreement that this city needed God but there was one gentleman that said he needed to get his life straight before he could return to church. What is proper response for this man? For me the answer comes in Luke 9:23 where Jesus says if anyone is to come after him. Another conversation about seed planting came with two Bengali men who were Muslims. They were delighted to talk with us about God which was encouraging and their response to us was that we are the same because we serve the same God and we are also unified because we love people of other religions. How is a Christ follower to respond to these men who say are beliefs are universally the same? In this situation the real problem comes when deciding whether Jesus is really God and if having faith in his death alone is the only way to be at peace with God. The rest of our group had some wild stories and relationships built that will lead to further meeting to discuss faith. All in all it was pretty powerful, and we had some solid fellowship at the Yemen Cafe last night as men afterwards. They must deny themselves , pick up their cross, and follow him daily (Excerpt from Neil’s blog, neilmn.blogspot.com).
A: Acts 29 is associated with the C&MA (the Christian and Missionary Alliance), with Scott Thomas being the president of the organization. It is very outreached focused, their concentration includes ESL classes and construction projects for the community. Most importantly, they are the body of Christ, churches planting churches. Acts 29 is also very hands and feet driven, we are constantly working in the community, connecting with the city government of Hamtramck. Speaking of which, the demographic in Hamtramck is mainly consists of Muslims. There are public prayers of Muslims over loud speakers.
Q: What were the main things that you did there? Could you be specific on the tasks you devoted most time to?
A: We primarily helped started a community garden. There was an old piece of land available due to the burnt down of an old house. Our team helped dug up the land, and making it suitable for a garden for the people there to hang out daily.
Q: Working as a team, what have you gained most from this experience? Were there any hardships?
A: During the debriefing session, I posed three questions for my team: 1, what would you tell people about your spring break story. 2, what did God do in your heart, how is it broken for lost people. 3, how are you forever changed, how will you pray for the city. Meagan Edwards started a Facebook page to publicize prayer updates. I think we all gained a deeper understanding of leading a service team. We were working super hard from 8am to 5pm all day long, and although physically we were drained out, deep down I know that what we have planted seeds of hope in those that we reached out to.
Q: Are the non-believers’ reactions very different or quite similar to what you’ve expected?
A: The Muslims were trying to say that we all believe in one God therefore they themselves are in good shape. My viewpoint is that if God doesn’t have a definition it means absolutely nothing. They tried to pull us to a middle ground. It sparked in my mind: do I embrace the middle ground or assert that Jesus is God? I feel challenged to serve the poor and needy, the cultural decay of the city of Detroit. There were entire street blocks where houses were abandoned. The disintegration of the city was severe.
Everyone who went on this trip to Hamtramck, MI was blessed not only by the people they talked with but the services they were able to offer and the grateful response from those they helped. Acts 29 stands as a fantastic example of a church reaching out into a community and offering physical help as well as spiritual food for a very hungry city.
8700 College View Drive
St. Bonifacius, MN 55375
1-800-68-CROWN or (952) 446-4100