October 10, 2012
Detroit, MI—“Hope” is not the first word that comes to mind when you hear “Detroit.” The eroding skyline and cityscape in some ways reflect the heart of many Detroitinites nowadays. Truth be told, Detroit has been a broken city for several decades, recently garnering nationwide attention due to the crumbling US auto industry in light of the Great Recession. Once devoted residents have since moved away; the city has publicly declared its seemingly irreversible financial woes; even a documentary titled “Detropia” analyzes the depth and breadth of Detroit’s decline, which was once the fastest growing city in the US until the 1960’s.
From a general perspective, Detroit was not the most ideal place to hold the 2012 Christmas Cantata finale. However, ironically, Detroit could not have been a better place for it. The same way Jesus Christ was born in a filthy, dirty Bethlehem manger, it felt appropriate that this Cantata could offer hope, peace, and happiness to a city in a painfully similar position.
The Christmas Cantata was held at the famous Masonic of Detroit, one of the top 10 most beautiful theaters in America. Venue management was touched at our mission to bring a small, but powerful dose of hope to the citizens of Detroit that could help change the city for the future. The Masonic itself also felt like a symbol of beauty in the midst of destruction and hopelessness, like an oasis in the desert where one could come to rediscover the hope of life.
IYF received a very low rental rate from the Masonic as a result. The biggest issue was how to fill the hall, which has a capacity of 4,000, for performance night. An assortment of volunteers, comprising Good News Corps members, missionaries, and Good News Detroit Church congregation members walked the streets of Detroit, sometimes in dangerous areas of the neighborhood, to hand out fliers and invite everyone they could meet. Neighbors were amazed at the brightness of our volunteers and how they were devoting themselves to promote this important event.
Powered by the words in Isaiah 61, the volunteers, who begrudgingly began this work, realized that Detroit was the perfect opportunity to experience the grace and powerful work of God. In particular, IYF reconnected with the principal of Casstech High School, one of the premier high schools in Detroit. The principal had heard so many good things from parents of students who attended last year’s Cantata that she not only committed to attend, but connected us to 1000 potential volunteers, allowed us to offer tickets to all the teachers, and gave us the channels to promote the Cantata to parents of all Casstech’s students. 60 volunteers from Casstech High eventually joined the Christmas Cantata as ushers and greeters.
2500 on hand for the Cantata finale, many of who were dressed in Christmas-themed clothes, expressed their amazement at each turn of the performance. The endless applause of the audience even held Gracias Choir from moving on to the next song on several occasions throughout the night. The Little Santas, the Choir’s pre-school school-aged performers, captured the hearts of everyone with their energetic and festive dancing in between Acts 2 and 3.
When Pastor Yeongkook Park took the stage to deliver the Cantata message, the hearts of the attendees were wide open. Like throwing pebbles into an ocean, each important point of Pastor Park’s sermon made a lasting impression on those listening. “RIGHT!” reverberated off the ceiling and walls of the Masonic when Pastor Park spoke about the hope that God can give even when things are utterly hopeless. “YES!” was the answer to the words preached from 1 Corinthians 6:10-11, which states, “But ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified.” Just being in the room, you could feel the hearts of the people rise together as one through the Word of God.
“This was better than any other performance,” proclaimed an attendee named Coleman after the finale ended, “More spiritual than other Christmas performances I’ve seen. We could feel the energy from the Choir. It was a fantastic evening. Please come back next year. I promise to bring more people.”
There is no way to know the circumstances of everyone who attended the Christmas Cantata finale yesterday evening. Some could have been going through very rough patches in their lives. Others could have been wondering where their next paycheck was coming from. A few may have just been happy with a free show. But, regardless of who they were or where they were from, the music of Gracias Choir and the Holy Spirit that emanated through the word of God and the lips of the servant allowed the sprout of hope to blossom in each and every heart.
Looking back, Detroit was the perfect place for the 2012 Christmas Cantata finale. Because, only in the darkest of places does the light of God shine the brightest. Pastor Park ended his Cantata message with this: “I promise you all tonight. We will return to Detroit next year, bearing a brand new Cantata.” Fitting last words for such a groundbreaking and blessed 2 weeks on the road with Gracias Choir.
Sadly, there are no more stops. But on behalf of everyone involved in the 2012 Christmas Cantata Tour, thank you and God bless!