2WordStory Campaign Spreads to Northville
More than 500 interdenominational churches have joined the campaign to uplift Metro Detroit.
Ken Skinner knew he had a story to tell. He just wasn’t sure people wanted to hear it.
Still, he began sharing it—with friends, with his pastor, with members of his Bible study group.
“I told it to a bunch of people,” said Skinner, 31, of Livonia. “I would tell my story, and then I would try to figure out what word or what idea or concept really came out as I told my story.”
With prayer, he said he found it: His story was about confidence—how he lacked it without Jesus, and, he says, how he gained it when he returned to the church four years ago. In two words, his story is: “Confident? Confident.”
Skinner joins 18 other metro Detroiters at www.2wordstory.com who have shared their stories—all the same word repeated, first as a question, and again as an answer—as part of an unprecedented, multidenominational, 530-church campaign aimed at injecting faith and hope into Detroit and its suburbs.
The campaign originated in Novi but quickly expanded: Churches include dozens in Dearborn, Detroit, Livonia, Farmington, Warren and beyond. They span from Flat Rock to Port Huron and from Lake St. Clair to Brighton.
One participating church in Northville is the First Baptist Church on Wing St.
2WordStory has garnered attention for its catchy repetition, meant to symbolize the uncertainty that the storyteller had without Jesus, and how his or her life has changed with Him.
Joy? Joy. Valued? Valued. Empowered? Empowered. Rescued? Rescued.
“The second word isn’t a question anymore,” explained Ron Rischer, 54, of Northville, one of the campaign’s organizers. “The second word is, ‘I’ve come to know Christ, so I have hope, I have purpose.’ There’s no question.”
An Idea Born in Novi
2WordStory was borne of another campaign called EACH, or Everyone a Chance to Hear. That was the brainchild of Pastor Bob Shirock of Oak Pointe Church in Novi, said Rischer, EACH's executive director.
Shirock got the idea after seeing missionaries at work in the Phillipines and India, said Oak Pointe's Executive Director Jim Bahbah.
"After interacting with those believers that were having such a great impact in their countries, he came back here and said he was driving from his house to his church, about three miles, looking at the homes and thinking of all the people who didn't know what's going on inside the four walls of our church, let alone know anything about Jesus," said Bahbah, of Novi.
The initial idea was for the church to reach out to residents living in a 12-mile radius to spread the gospel, but that soon blossomed into reaching out to other churches.
Shirock contacted First Baptist Church of Northville, among others, said Keith Bushey, 64, of Redford Township, an elder and a Sunday school teacher there.
"At first we were probably like other people, thinking, 'What is this? What are they trying to do?' But when we looked into it and saw it was an outreach program for people in our community, we really enjoyed it," Bushey said.
Bahbah, also of Novi, said the church had seven other churches on board in January 2010; by April 2011, more than 500 had joined, including many in Detroit.
After all, Rischer said, “We’re all Detroiters.…We believe that Detroit still is the epicenter here. If Detroit can get turned around, so can the rest of the region.”
Giving Back to Detroit
2WordStory has piqued region-wide interest with its stark and enigmatic T-shirts and yard signs, but EACH is about more than one publicity campaign, said volunteer Mark Besh, 55, of West Bloomfield. It’s about reaching out to people in need, especially those hardest hit by the economy’s downswing.
Several churches contacted by Patch said that Time magazine's recent description of Detroit as a disaster area was one impetus for the campaign.
Pastor Jeremy Gyorke, who founded the Wyandotte Family Church with his wife Julie in September, said he learned about the budding coalition in the fall and was immediately on board.
“It’s always neat to see churches of all different denominations come together,” said Gyorke, 32, of Wyandotte. “What we believe in together far outweighs how we differ.”
Some churches were more leery than others, especially those in Detroit—“probably because of the scars of the past,” Rischer said. “The Detroit reaction was, ‘Who are you, what is this about, what are you trying to get accomplished.’ It took time to get started.”
A steering committee was formed that included members of churches from across the region, a cross-section of denominations, races and geography. EACH began sponsoring job fairs and providing medical treatment. The goals were both micro—such as feeding the homeless for an afternoon—and macro—such as backing Life Remodeled, an endeavor inspired by Extreme Makeover: Home Edition that provided a needy family with a new home, as well as financial and psychological counseling.
But it has been 2WordStory that's had most people talking so far, said Skinner, a member of Ekklesia in Westland. Congregants were asked to wear their two-word story on T-shirts while doing good deeds for a 40-day span beginning on Easter Sunday.
The good deeds were appreciated, and the T-shirts always seemed to spark a conversation, Skinner said.
“2Word lets us be Jesus in our community, really,” he said. “When Jesus walked into a colony, he did good deeds and he shared what he knew to be true.”
Paul Kwasniewski, minister of discipleship at Dearborn Free Methodist Church, said that one congregant likened EACH to a woman in her second trimester of pregnancy: "She will begin to show soon," he said in an email to Patch. "Our hope and prayer is that God will use the efforts of the 500-plus churches involved in EACH to see our area turn from a dim candle to a beacon of light for our area and the country."
As for 2WordStory, he said it's a tool meant to provoke questions. The T-shirts, bus ads and banners are meant to work service projects, such as food distribution and medical assistance.
The ultimate goal, Gyorke said, is to uplift Detroit and the rest of the region. Even though the 40 days after Easter have passed, the campaign seems to be maintaining momentum. As of Tuesday, a Facebook fan page had 3,800 followers and counting.
"Christ is hope and light and healing and salvation and freedom," Gyorke said. "He's what a lot of people are looking for right now, and it's been phenomenal."