It’s a part of Detroit a lot of people try to avoid. Block after block of abandoned houses, not much more than brick piles, the definition of urban decay.
But shining bright in some of those battered neighborhoods are a handful of well-kept homes filled with blue-collar families breathing life back into Southwest Detroit. Families like the Esparzas.
Mom, dad, and four kids live in a 1940s home with a beautiful lawn. Dad, a tradesman, has been off work nearly 60 days after contracting COVID-19 in March. He was hospitalized for weeks. Mom caught it and had high fevers, severe, chest-rattling coughs that left her so weak she couldn’t get out of bed.
Then the three younger kids, four, seven, and ten years old, caught it. Their 18-year-old sister, a psychology major, came home from college to care for the family. Within a week, she had COVID-19, too.
The family quarantined and tried to heal, but knew once they recovered, they’d need masks to help keep them from catching it again. By then, masks were impossible to find.
A Few Keystrokes Make It Possible
“The internet makes this a small world,” said Mary Carmen Munoz, Director of La Sed, a community assistance organization in Detroit. “We got a text about a church in Texas, of all places, that had masks, so we reached out.”
It wasn’t long before masks were headed north from Plano.
“We are incredibly grateful to Chase Oaks Church,” said Munoz. “They’re helping people they’ve never met a thousand miles away, providing them with a sense of security, with the protection of these masks, that is the epitome of Christ-like serving.”
Chase Oaks Church’s Chinese Ministry Saw a Need
Chase Oaks Chinese Ministry Pastor Jianbo Guo helped lead the charge getting the masks. He was pleased and a bit surprised to hear about the Detroit community that benefited from them.
“We did this to show everyone the all-encompassing love of Christ, we want all to experience that,” he said.
The gift of those masks has helped thousands of people. They’ve been delivered to metroplex police departments, fire departments, hospitals and nursing homes, neighbors undergoing cancer treatments, and yes, working class families in the Motor City.
Chase Oaks Church’s Chinese Ministry recognized the need months ago.
“Masks were getting in short supply here, and we knew where to get them in China,” Pastor Jianbo said.
The Chinese Ministry dug into their own pockets, raised thousands of dollars, and bought a total of 20,000 masks.
The first batch of 5,000 were gone within hours.
“This was crucial,” Pastor Jianbo said. “This virus is scary. Masks help prevent its spread, help prevent the spread of panic as well.”
10 Healthcare Workers, 10 Masks
The shortage was felt from the largest hospitals to local doctors’ offices.
Dr. Kimberly Smith, a pediatrician with Lone Star Kid Care in Allen said just before the virus hit the United States, her office ordered additional masks for her staff and patients. They’re still waiting on them.
Word of their need got to Chase Oaks, and masks went out that day.
When they were delivered, the smiles and warmth that usually emanate from the staff had a different undercurrent.
“We were concerned, it was scary,” Dr. Smith said. “We did not want to reuse disposable masks. If you’re examining someone who is feverish, who may have coronavirus, you need to dispose of the mask you’re using, you don’t want to spread an infection. Our supply was stretched incredibly thin. It was great to get the masks; we truly appreciate the kindness.”
That’s what Pastor Jianbo hoped would happen.
“We want our church to have an effect in the community, we want people to feel the presence of Christ in this crisis,” he said.
He’s honest when asked if one of the reasons the Chinese community shared the masks was because some folks blame them for the pandemic.
“Yes, we hoped this would help smooth over relationships, help people realize we were here to help,” he said. “But above all, we wanted them to feel safer, to be protected, to feel the love of God through the church.”
It’s the Small Things
We’re often told God uses small things to make His presence felt. During this crisis, something as simple as paper masks provided a sense of safety, hope, and the feeling, for some folks in Detroit, that they’re not battling this pandemic alone, they’ve got the Almighty in their corner, and this time, His presence was clearly postmarked: Plano, Texas.
Just like Chase Oaks Church’s Chinese Ministry, we all have opportunities to be here for good. Join us this Sunday, May 24, from 2-4 PM, for Here For Good Sunday where we can come together to be here for our community. Our drive-thru event will include food, games, and goodies, all while practicing social distancing! Hope to see you there!