Years ago, I was dating a super awesome guy (who has since married a really sweet woman). I remember calling him, one day after work, after I had just started working in the city. I told him that I somehow, somehow felt called to Detroit. But, I didn’t know how.
I remember telling him that I felt like Nehemiah, the minor prophet from the Old Testament. Nehemiah, transplanted far away, learned that his city was fallen into disrepair. He returned to his city and saw the damage. At first, he didn’t know what to do. A few verses sum up the next step. He went out riding, late at night. And then his horse wouldn’t go any farther, so he started walking around the city, alone.
In the story, that’s all that it says.
But, in my mind, I can see him. I see him walking, under the stars, in the night-breeze. I see him surveying everything, taking in all the work and effort that it will require. I see him looking up to heaven. I can almost feel his silent prayer. He knows he must do something. Only, how?
That was around seven years ago.
Three summers back I walked the Camino de Santiago. I walked for miles and miles and miles. And all I could think about was creating a space, creating a place in Detroit. Only, I didn’t know how.
The Christmas after, Father Ryan wrote to me. He asked me what I thought about helping create community. I wrote him an email, on Christmas Eve, about the community I would like to create. Only, I didn’t know how.
Last fall, when I was reassessing my life, I thought, “I need to move into the city. This is the dream of my heart. Only, how?”
And I tried over and over again to balance the numbers paid from my non-profit salary. I tried to decide how I could possibly move into a city, how to have enough to cover the needed renovation of any house.
I’ve driven up and down the streets of Detroit, trying to listen to the deepest parts of my heart, trying to see where to start. “This spot?” I would wonder. “Maybe that one?”
I talked about it with my closest friends. We talked about it in cars, on hiking trails, in churches. My dearest friends, my family, my ex-boyfriends…all of them. Those closest to me heard it all. I want this, I would say, but I don’t know the next step.
My journal was full of prayers about this. Years and years of prayers. One of the final journal entries was an all-caps pleading with God, requesting that He either help me find a way or remove the desire, because I didn’t know what to do anymore. (Seven years, though).
This past year, I had so many offers. I was offered a good job in Arlington, VA. I was offered a good job in Boston, MA. I was asked to apply for a good job in Chicago, IL. I was even offered a good, good job in the suburbs of my town.
In the same 24 hours I was offered that last one, though, that job in the suburbs, a higher-up from the Archdiocese asked if I could meet with her.
She had been asking for months, really. But, something would always come up, and we had been rescheduled, rescheduled, rescheduled.
I agreed to meet.
I thought that, maybe, she would ask me to volunteer for a project. I don’t know her all that well.
She referenced a packet she had left for me, earlier that day.
It was a packet about a church, an old church in Detroit.
They want to renovate it, this old church. They want to invest lots and lots of money into it to make it a center for mission and service and culture and worship and art and evangelization.
She referenced the packet and she said that she had picked me, specifically me, for this job.
She talked about a grant. She talked about the project. She talked about my gifts and skills and energy. She said they wanted me, specifically me, to help lead this effort to bring more Jesus into our city. They were asking me: would I take this position?
I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know what to ask. So, I just sat there and tried to make words.
We parted and I walked back to my car.
There, in the dark, cement parking structure, I leaned against my car and cried. I cried because it was like someone handed me my dreams and said, “These dreams you have been dreaming? The ones you’ve been praying about for years? The ones you’ve carried on pilgrimages across the world and in all kinds of churches and chapels? They’ve been answered. They’ve been answered in ways beyond what you could imagine. Also, here is the overhead you need, that is provided. Here are the buildings you need, those are provided. Everything is provided in ways beyond what you have ever asked or imagined.”
And in the days that followed, I realized: I had forgotten. I had forgotten that God answers prayer. I know that that sounds stupid and heretical, but, I had. I kept praying, mind you. But, I just forgot that God was still listening.
But, He was.
He was listening all along. He was listening and moving and working. I just didn’t know it.
On Monday I started a new job. I’m at a wonderful church. I’m supposed to be working on wonderful things. And I’m just really blown away by the whole thing.
Thank you for your prayers. Please keep them up. And, while you’re at it, toss in a few words of thanksgiving for the goodness I have received. <3
Blessed be God. Forever.