I first met Faith Fowler while working at Birmingham UMC, located in the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan. About once a week, I would venture down the historic Woodward Avenue to see and learn from her. Rev. Fowler, or Faith as she prefers to be called, serves two roles in Detroit: one as the pastor of Cass UMC and the other as the Executive Director of Cass Community Social Services. Few people have had as much of an impact on my life as Faith.
Cass UMC is a very small, impoverished congregation located on an empty Detroit street corner. On the Sundays I was able to attend worship, the majority of the parishioners were either homeless persons or those in town for a mission trip. The music wasn’t great, but the worship was excellent. The building was old, but it was grand.
Located catty-corner from the church stood Cass Community Social Services – a non-profit organization Faith helped found. Their focus is to provide “food, housing, health services, and job programs.” While there, I got to see each of these areas in action. There was the daily meal program that served lunches partially composed of produce grown in an abandoned lot-turned urban farm. I cut tires and helped turn them into sandals and mud mats. This provided jobs and also helped alleviate the city’s abandoned tire problem. And then, of course, were the hours I spent shredding paper and delivering truckloads of it to a recycling center. We not only recycled the paper, but also provided employment for some of the mentally-challenged persons Cass Community cared for during working-hours throughout the week.
Faith is a hero, and that’s probably understating it. She has won numerous awards for her green industries, and has been recognized as one of the key leaders in facilitating Detroit’s turnaround. Students from universities and seminaries come to learn from Faith, and mission teams regularly visit to serve.
Faith’s latest endeavor is to build tiny homes in Detroit. Click HERE for a short, one-minute video that explains in more detail what they are doing. Spoiler alert: Faith ends the video saying, “It’s not tiny at all; it’s a game-changer.” Persons are given a safe place to live, and a life-changing opportunity. It’s that last line, especially, that is sticking with me: “It’s not tiny at all; it’s a game-changer.”
It’s not tiny at all; it’s a game-changer.
Yesterday I preached a sermon from Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon on the Mount, found in Matthew 5-7. With Jesus, the expectation was always for heart-change to lead to life-change. Our lives, once we choose to take on the name Christian, must yield fruit in keeping with Christ.
Obviously Faith’s example, at first read, sounds extreme. And perhaps it is. It is very rare for persons to jump from where they are to being at a place like Faith. But, as the old cliché goes, every journey begins with a single step.
Ain’t that the truth?
The truth of Lent, the truth of the Christian journey, the truth of discipleship, and the truth of change. A single step. A single change. A single decision.
What step might God be inviting you to take? Who knows…it could be a game-changer.