The interrelated problems of crack dealing, black-on-black crime, unwed motherhood, joblessness, and school delinquency have created a perception of hopelessness in the inner city. Yet there are points of light, models of positive change, including the Detroit-based ministry Joy of Jesus, which in April received a “Point of Light” award from President Bush. The ministry’s “urban Renaissance” project, launched in 1986, has helped revitalize a 38-block area in Detroit known as Ravendale.

The Joy of Jesus ministries include: offering youth a week in the woods at a camp so they can escape the turmoil of the city; sponsoring home-improvement projects and neighborhood cleanup efforts; and running organized sports activities for youth and a job-training and job-placement program.

In 1987, the ministry started the Joy of Jesus Academy in Ravendale, a grade school offering poor families an alternative to problem-plagued public schools. From this has developed a Motivation and Learning Center. Operating from a Christian perspective, the center provides counseling, positive role models, and tutoring, with the goal of encouraging youth not only to stay in school, but to do their best.

Joy of Jesus programs are financed mainly by donations from individuals, churches, businesses, and foundations. The ministry accepts no government funds. Beneficiaries of Joy of Jesus services are expected to help themselves or they will be cut off. Said administrator Mary Edwards, “We offer a hand up, not a handout. That’s what separates us from the department of social services.”

One thing Joy of Jesus has proven is that black-led ministries can be helped by suburban churches without losing a sense of ministry ownership. In 1989, Joy of Jesus launched its ...

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