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Dunn in Detroit

Isaac Dunn is a young adult in mission assigned to the NOAH Project in downtown Detroit.


When was the last time you watched the Wizard of Oz? For me, it’s been probably over ten years. However, I’ve found the Wizard of Oz to be very memorable, apart from its popularity as an iconic American movie. The Wizard of Oz is iconic because its story is relatable to those who feel uncertainty when they find themselves in a different place from home. There’s something comforting about where we call home. For me, it’s the level of familiarity I have of how things work and operate. I know the best places to eat, I know how to get around, I know how people talk, and what they’re really trying to say. Sure, there are parts of living in Texas that I don’t appreciate, like the traffic, some of my state government’s stances on pertinent issues, and how long it takes to get to certain places. Nevertheless, it’s my home.

Just a few weeks ago, I found myself in Dorothy’s slippers. On August 11th, I began my journey as a Global Mission Fellow in Detroit, flying from the small airport in Abilene, Texas and landing over 1,300 miles away at Detroit Metro Airport. Although Texas may not be Kansas, and Michigan is not the Land of Oz, I still felt like Dorothy after her house plopped down in the Land of Oz. I was nervous, unsure of where I was, and asking myself “Why am I really here.” There’s nothing like walking off the airplane and realizing just how far you’ve really traveled. Or realizing that this new place is now your “home” for the next two years.

Since coming to Detroit, I’ve quickly discovered how much uncertainty there is in transitioning to a new place, and a new job. I’ve found myself lost on several occasions, and thinking I know exactly where I am, only to figure out I really have no clue where I’ve ended up. I’ve discovered that Michigan lefts are my least favorite thing (Google it). I’ve come to realize that working with people in crisis takes grace, flexibility, and a need to celebrate the moments of hope and success, no matter how big or small.

If there’s anything that the Global Mission Fellow Program will teach you, it’s that you can talk about transitioning to a new place all day, but actually going through the process looks a whole lot different. I have to give our director, Liz Young, a shout out for her wise words. “Transitions can feel like a rollercoaster,” she said. “You work so hard to adjust and feel like you’ve climbed up the hill, only to find yourself falling back down the other side.” Nowhere have I found this mantra to be more applicable than in my role as a case worker, in which I hold one-on-one sessions with clients experiencing homelessness and work with them to figure out how they can move forward. There are sessions where I feel like a client and I took some steps in the right direction. Other sessions end with me wondering what exactly it was that the client and I accomplished.

“God is asking for me to simply remember who it is that I follow, why I follow, and that the One who leads me does not want my successes or my talents.”

Through all of this transition, my fellow Global Mission Fellows in Detroit have introduced me to a writer named Thomas Merton. Over the past few weeks, I have found his words to be a good reminder of what Christians working for social justice looks like. One of his most helpful quotes hangs up in my office. It’s a passage from Merton’s book Thoughts in Solitude:

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”

I’ve found it easy in the midst of transitions to feel as though I have to find some inner strength or an “aha” moment where everything comes together at last. However, neither of these modes of thinking really point out why I’m here, or why I responded to God’s call to service. Merton’s words have reminded me that God is not looking or asking me to end the cycle of homelessness for my clients. Instead, God is asking for me to simply remember who it is that I follow, why I follow, and that the One who leads me does not want my successes or my talents. It’s my desire to serve with those in homelessness that God wants. It’s my trust in God’s plan to rectify a world of injustice where children of God sleep on the cold, hard ground and wake each morning to a society that often forgets their value as human beings

Unlike Dorothy, I don’t get a special yellow brick road that leads me to where I need to go, or magic slippers that can take me back home to Texas in three short clicks. However, I do have the privilege of being led by a God that can be trusted, and who is concerned more with having my heart in the right place, than my successes or accomplishments. I know that I will not fear, for God is always with me and will never leave me to face my perils alone.

As I continue to post updates to my blog about my service in Detroit, I invite you to journey with me. My hope in writing this blog is simply to share the lessons, struggles, and joys of my service with each of you. As always, your thoughts and prayers are most appreciated.

~Support for Isaac Dunn may be sent to the Detroit Conference Treasurer, Global Mission Fellow (US-2), #3022220.