Men of Grace
Last night, in place of our usual Wednesday evening seeker service called Connections, we had a concert by the Men of Grace. All of these men are former addicts who have completed or are completing a year long rehab program at the Grace Centers of Hope in Detroit. Grace Centers of Hope has homes for the men to live in, a clinic to treat anyone who needs help, and an ethic of work, prayer, and dignity that has proven miraculous to many, many men.
Most of the men are African-American (as is most of Detroit). Some were raised in believing homes and then -- for a variety of reasons -- they fell all the way down to the street. One by one, they told us their stories. We sat there transfixed by the pain they had experienced and by the ABSOLUTE and total lack of self-pity in their voices. They constantly praised Jesus for healing them and bringing them back to sanity.
And they sang. Lord, how they sang. When you realize what a man has gone through and how far back the journey was, when he sings "And I'll cherish the old rugged cross" there isn't a dry eye in the house. It was wonderful and we hope to have them back again.
Something needs to be said here: we have the bravest and coolest elders on the planet. You see, Men of Grace are not from "our tribe or tradition." Most of their songs require the use of instruments and (for those of you who stumbled onto this blog from other traditions) that has always been a super big no-no for our church. We went to our elders and asked them if we should ask the Men of Grace to sing only acapella and our elders said, "Why bring them here if we can't let them be who they are?" They went on to say that this was a good work, these were honorable men, and we needed to support and encourage them. "Let them sing and play as they usually do, and we will love them openly." They did, and we did, and God was praised throughout the evening.
At the end of the concert I asked the men and their pastor to line up in the middle aisle of our family room (that's what we call the auditorium). The people them gathered around them, laying hands on them as we prayed. One of the men was overheard saying to another one, "Man, I really feel loved here!"
Thanks, elders. And thanks, Men of Grace. For a quick laugh and a bit of fun, check out what someone with too much spare time has put together on www.songleaderrevolution.com. Then, go to http://gracecentersofhope.org/html/men_of_grace.shtml and see what the Men of Grace are doing now.