This past week, Communities First Association Sojourner & CCDA C6 Cohort member, Diane Elson Miller and I visited fellow CCDA C6 cohort member Rev. Robert McCathern and the Joy Tabernacle Church family in Civic Park, a neighborhood located in Flint, Michigan. Our only objective was to listen, learn, and be of any service that made sense, we settled in to a ministry of presence within the first hour of our visit, and it wasn’t very long before we could easily identify the goodness that was already unfolding in Flint and the many gifts that are present in Civic Park, particularly.
Robert introduced us to the team that was hard at work through their newly established non-profit-organization, Flint Grassroots Initiative (FGI). We met Anastasius, Aaron, Noah, Mr. Coleman, Kat, and Katherine, and immediately felt their spirit of welcoming hospitality. Before long, we were all laughing and talking like old friends.
Some were new leaders and almost all were young leaders, but every single one had accepted an authentic leadership role for which s/he was responsible. And there we sat, observing FGI’s first leadership team meeting. Challenging at points, though never disempowering, we witnessed the dance that happens when leaders hold themselves and each other accountable to high standards in their community, believing in each other’s efficacy and allowing grace and love to abound in tough situations.
And this may have been the greatest asset I identified in the two days I spend in Flint. That while there was water delivered, plans drafted, and even though two church denominations and representatives from the University of Michigan stopped by to express their commitment to partnership with FGI, all very valuable and appreciated gestures towards Civic Park, the greatest asset I witnessed was the way in which indigenous leaders were at the table, grappling with the issues of the day, and working together to forge the path to community development. They asked each other tough questions, these community leaders, they worked together to find answers to questions they had, and they had a healthy investigatory spirit that deepened the vetting process for partners, ensuring the safety, protection, and vitality of the Civic Park community. It was a gift—my gift—to bear witness to these processes in Flint—ones that the mass media’s news cycles neglect to portray.
And as always when I take a posture of listening and learning, and participate in the ministry of presence, I received the valuable gift of being able to see goodness present in a community of people, while learning all the more about how to better steward my own gifts and celebrate those unique qualities that my friends and colleagues possess in ways that I continue to strive for. Flint is wealthy in spirit, and I am grateful to have encountered this city, the people who love it, and their gifts!