Written by:
Carl Gladstone (NCJ & NEJ)

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Rehabbed And Ready

Rehabbed and Ready

By Carl Thomas Stroud Gladstone

As a board member of the United Methodist related Motown Mission Experience in Detroit, Michigan, I witness hundreds of young people volunteering their time every summer to fix up houses for residents here.  They are just one part of a horde of Christian volunteers and organizations that recognize the great need present in the neighborhoods of the Motor City.

As we prepare for Ash Wednesday and Lent, the phrase “Remember you are dust and to dust you will return” weighs heavily on me as I consider my city and the work to be done here.  Those abandoned houses that don’t get any attention from the city or its people, really do crumble into dust despite the protests of neighbors.  Even the lots cleared by Motown Mission volunteers, regularly devolve back to their overgrown and litter strewn state.

But every year the church calls these young people back.  In Lent, youth are called to face their own mortality, wrestle with brokenness in their lives, and await the promises of the Resurrection.  Every year our church’s mission sites and trips engage volunteers and neighbors in tough conversations about the broken parts of our communities, and offer opportunities to get their hands dirty tending to that brokenness.

In Joel 2 we are offered poetry describing this experience.  The prophet describes God’s alarm and looming response to our frailty:

“Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble,

   for the day of the Lord is coming, it is near—

a day of darkness and gloom,

   a day of clouds and thick darkness!”

But also, Joel writes of the next steps after recognizing our own failings:

“Yet even now, says the Lord,

   return to me with all your heart,

with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;

   rend your hearts and not your clothing.

Return to the Lord, your God,

   for he is gracious and merciful,

slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love,

   and relents from punishing.”

In the Rehab resource for Lent, Discipleship Ministries offers insight into this kind of “self-examination and repentance” work.  Whether during the Lenten season or on summer breaks, the church is a community of folks speaking truth to one another about the realities and hardships of life, and offering one another practices that lead to restoration in Jesus Christ.

Our youth groups have lived out this kind of rehabbing work for years!  Their service trips offer a great opportunity to learn how to make themselves available to God’s redeeming work in their lives and in the lives of those in the neighborhoods with which they partner.

Another program in the City of Detroit is called Rehabbed and Ready.  It’s a program sponsored by the Detroit Land Bank that identifies houses left rotting, fixes them up fast and makes them available at affordable prices to families looking for stable housing.  They seem to be practicing a kind of tough restorative work that leads to new life.  We are so glad that young people lead the church in this work too and pray that every Lenten season sends the church in the direction of such transformation.

Questions for Discussion with Youth or Young Adults:

When have you been a part of restoring something?  A house, a neighborhood park, redecorating your bedroom, etc.  How did you feel like before and after the work of rehabbing?
The speaker in Psalm 51 says, “I know my transgressions” and asks God to erase them.  What’s important about honestly confessing our own bad behavior?
In 2 Corinthians 5, we are called to move on from simply acknowledging our brokenness, to go forward and to “be reconciled to God.”  What are the practices you might begin that would help you pursue reconciliation with God on a daily basis?
Who are the people you’d be ready to bless if you worked hard at connecting with God’s rehabilitating grace?