Detroit became the largest city in American history to file for bankruptcy last summer -- a decline that began in the 1950s and accelerated in the 1980s. The city's auto industry had cranked out 90 percent of American soldiers' helmets during World War II and half of the Consolidated B-24 Liberator bombers. But today more than half of the city's 140 square miles sit vacant. A million people have left the city since 1950.
No matter what the pundits say, Gaddy sees hope for Detroit "because of the Spirit of God and the Word of God."
"The Bible says, 'If my people who are called by my name humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways.' I believe that if we get back to the Word of God and loving the people of God, there will be a great revival in the city," Gaddy said, "and we will see a great return to those things that are beneficial for the people of the city."
That's one of the reasons Gaddy and his wife Daphne started Victory Fellowship Church in 2006. The city needs new churches. Only one in 10 metro Detroit residents claims to be an evangelical Christian. The city has one evangelical church for every 3,641 people and one Southern Baptist church for every 36,221 people in the metro area.
"There is a need for churches that are serious about the Lord's business," said Gaddy, whose ministry is the subject of a photo essay in the most recent issue of On Mission magazine, which has been redesigned as a tool for the North American Mission Board’s development of its Send North America strategy for reaching the nation’s population centers with the Gospel.
"There is a need for churches who understand that we are the voice of God in the community and that we've been sent to be servants in this world, to impact the lives of others with the Gospel," Gaddy said.
Gaddy had been a pastor, serving on the staff of his father-in-law's church when God began to nudge him toward church planting to reach a generation of inner-city youth who weren't attending traditional congregations. Noticing a little bit of himself in the youth, he began a small group Bible study in the bookstore his family owned.
Gaddy accepted Christ at a young age, but with no one to mentor him in the faith he drifted far from God. Drugs, alcohol and illicit relationships followed. Though in time he came back to God, Gaddy always carried the sting of not having a mentor to help him grow.
Through his own experience and by spending time around his children and their peers, Gaddy realized that a huge part of inner-city Detroit's woes stemmed from the need for mentoring -- particularly among boys and young men.
Even before starting Victory Fellowship, Gaddy had long been involved in mentoring youth through a local Scout troop, writing public school mentoring curriculum and one-on-one mentoring. Through the new church plant he became even more involved when it moved into a former Episcopal church building on the corner of Detroit's Frankfort and Lakewood streets.
"We moved into that community, and we engaged a lot of rough behavior," Gaddy said. "A lot of kids didn't have parents and were living on the streets carrying guns and just conducting themselves in ways that were not going to be beneficial for their futures.
"We built relationships, loved on them, walked the streets with them and showed them genuine love, care and concern. We didn't just preach to them. But letting them know that 'I'm you and you're me. You are doing what I used to do. But guess what, where I am is where you can be also.'"
Victory Fellowship mentors young people both formally and informally. The church's senior women -- called the Mature and Marvelous Saints -- provide mentoring support for young mothers. The church’s laymen’s ministry, Brothers for Others, similarly mentors young men.
The men come together every other week on a Wednesday, "and they talk about some of the issues that involve being a man and living as a man in the community, home and the church -- how to not have to go to extremes as a man but to be the priest of your own home, how to care for and love your family," Gaddy said. "And also how to be a leader in the community."
Knowing that many of the youth in the community struggle with basic job skills, Victory Fellowship has started a job training program. The program not only helps prepare high school youth for their futures but provides them with funds for their pockets now. The youth run a silkscreen shop in the church, for example, to create Christ-centered clothing they sell to their peers.
Through partnerships with the police department, the mayor's office, the governor's office and the public schools, the church provides behavior counseling for youth, financial literacy programs for young mothers and a computer lab where students can finish their high school education. They've also partnered with the Navy to teach kids aviation.
"A lot of people would say that we couldn't do what we've done because we have not had the resources financially," Gaddy said. "But what I've found is that God will send you the partners at the right time, for the right reason. When you're in for ministry and not serving for money ... God will provide for the ministry."
Gaddy believes the best may be yet to come for his hometown. With Detroit being in economic and social flux, new opportunities for influencing the city's future are emerging. Through Send North America and the partnership of Southern Baptists, Gaddy is praying for more churches to start in the city and for the Gospel to begin to take root.
"But it's going to take some help," Gaddy said. "It's going to take some folks who have the Word and who have the heart and who have the resources to come into the city and to partner with those of us in the city.
"Those of us who recognize that the time is now, we must begin to take up the cross, walk forward and do the work of God," Gaddy said. "And so I just say that if there is a call of God, if there's ever been a call of God, the time is now."
Tobin Perry writes for the North American Mission Board. For more information about partnering in Detroit through Send North America, visit namb.net/Detroit. Visit namb.net/onmission to subscribe to the redesigned On Mission magazine. For a multimedia presentation on Gaddy's ministry, visit namb.net/gaddy. To connect with him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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