Richard Pryor

Detroit Gates

Costa Rica sounds good. I know Spanish and it would be easy to get to know people by simply going surfing at the same beach every day. I have been thinking about becoming a missionary some day and this seems like the perfect place for me. Well, maybe not. I want to go some place more remote like the Amazon River basin and find some lost tribes to hang out with. That would be more exciting. But as I wonder about these possibilities a red flag goes up in my mind. What ever happened to going where God wanted me to go instead of the most exotic place or the place where it would be the easiest? I have always wanted to go and live in South America and I think I could relate to the people well, but what if God has a different plan for me. What if he called me to the one place I have absolutely no desire to even visit?

I could only imagine what it would be like the first time to walk the streets of Detroit with the goal of sharing the love I have come to know. Let’s dive into this dream. As I step out the door of the yellow taxi at the end of the street I am immediately confronted with the sound of sirens screaming by. I begin to walk down the sidewalk next to cars with shiny rims and some with broken windows and no rims. Walking towards me is a woman who looks younger than I with a child in one arm and another walking by her side unattached. Behind her comes a group of men who are boasting loudly about a fight that went down the previous night. Before they get to me I turn to cross the street where a basketball court surrounded by a high chain link fence is located. As I wait for a car to pass I feel the heat run down my spine as the men walk by and their voices get quiet. I know I don’t belong, and that’s what their new conversation is about. The wind from the car blows my long blond hair and reminds me of its contrast with their shaved heads. When I get to the other side I sit down on the cold curb outside the gate of the court and watch some guys play ball. Every once in a while they shot unwanted glances at me. They take a break and set around the water fountain where they start to “flow”. Flowing is a term that means to make up words to go to a free style rap.

I sat there and thought to myself why I was even there. I am a scrawny white boy from a town called Dripping Springs where I witnessed one of the four fights that happened throughout my entire high school career. The only dead people I have ever seen were at really old people’s funerals and these guys watched their brothers die every year. I feel like I am a foreigner in a distant land who cannot speak the language and is not welcomed by the natives. How can I relate to these people who have lived such a hard life?

Coming back to real life I am reminded of last summer when I got to build some relationships with some inner city kids in Houston. I went with my youth group to an apartment pool where we swam with some kids. The next day I got to hang out with one of the same kids after he had been playing basketball. I wanted to get to know him a little so I asked him if he wanted to walk down the hall and get my drum with me so we could play. We started talking and some how we both opened up about some hard stuff we had gone through in our lives. He told me about how he used to be a part of a gang called the Bloods and how painful it was growing up without ever meeting his father. I told him about growing up with an alcoholic father who gave me the same pains. Then I got to tell him about a father I know who truly loves us and wants to adopt us. A father who will never leave us nor fail us. At the end of that conversation he began a relationship with that father by putting his trust in His son Jesus.

This is the story of how God took two people from different worlds and gave them a connection so his love and glory might be shared. I did nothing but show up and He moved. That is what seems to always happen. As for missions, I want to go to the places where I cannot do anything but rely on God to work and break down the walls. This way, when the miracles happen it will be clear where the credit should go. As for Detroit, maybe I will go and play some beats with sticks on the water fountain where the guys playing basketball were flowing. God might give me a little favor with them there. But if not, I would return the next day and look for a new way God could open up in order to get into the gates of the city.