Friday, August 26, 2011

An Inner-City Summer: Interning at Mack Avenue Community Church in Downtown Detroit

Having grown up in the heart of New York City, Brandon Inkles ’13 has always had a passion to advance the gospel of Jesus Christ in an urban setting. That’s why spending a summer in the heart of inner-city Detroit, Michigan, was an opportunity he just couldn’t pass up.

A business administration and global Christianity double major with a nonprofit management minor, Brandon interned with Mack Avenue Community Church in the middle of east Detroit—a dangerous part of town. The church, run by three pastors—Eric Nielsen, Eric Russ and Leon Stevenson III—has a vision to transform the community both spiritually and physically with constant outreach to the surrounding community and a focus on discipleship. Brandon’s internship this summer also helped fulfill a requirement of the Elijah Project honors program he participates in.

When Leon Stevenson III, a former resident director on Gordon’s campus, spoke to Gordon students during chapel, Brandon was convicted and approached Leon to get his contact info. The two stayed in touch, and after leading a mission trip there last year, Brandon knew he wanted to intern at Leon’s church.

Brandon’s internship involved helping to design a discipleship training website for large ministries to model; researching local churches to partner in sharing the gospel; studying the Bible to understand being the light of Christ in the middle of poverty, racism and violence. Brandon also helped coordinate mission groups that came to help with various service projects.

As an “outsider,” one of the hardest things for Brandon was trying to break initial physical barriers in hopes of earning the right to be heard. “The heart of the challenge is being able to present how wide and long and high and deep the love of Christ is (Ephesians 3:17–19),” explains Brandon, “which compels us to flee from gratifying the cravings of our flesh”—in this case, drugs, prostitution, alcohol and weapons, viewed as solutions to the distress of poverty. It was also challenging for Brandon to share his own shortcomings with the church staff while being discipled. “This summer has been one of tremendous growth—I’ve realized being a disciple of Christ and renewing my mind constantly is simply not optional.”

In spite of the hard things, Brandon also found a lot of joy in working with youth. “Approximately 90 percent—if not more—of the children there have no father, and it was an honor to be a man present in their lives, even if only for two months.” Brandon served as a youth group leader, providing kids’ activities that kept them away from drug dealing or getting into trouble.

Even though his internship is over, Brandon is still passionate about sharing the gospel with inner-city Detroit. He hopes to return to Mack Avenue after he finishes school. “Before I left I sat down with all three pastors, and we discussed what it would take for me to return in the future. It’s no coincidence that I’ve made these connections, and God has continued to grow this passion to serve Detroit as a full-time career someday.”

No comments: