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Just a few short weeks after Cohort Detroit launched, the COVID-19 outbreak hit Detroit hard. Ministry looks a little different, but Cohort fellows continue to serve their neighborhoods. From left to right: Josh Cook, Nathan Groenewold, KJ Pearson

When Cohort Detroit met together for the first time in February 2020, they had no idea how COVID-19 would affect their city and the neighborhoods they serve. Within a few short weeks, Detroit reported more cases of the coronavirus than any other Michigan city (or entire county).

“We did not anticipate that what lay ahead would involve keeping social distance from our neighbors and each other,” said Nathan Groenewold, director of Cohort Detroit.

Changing Plans

A Resonate Global Mission initiative, Cohort is an opportunity for young adults to explore their callings, serve in a grassroots ministry, and grow spiritually. Cohort Detroit launched in February with two participants: Josh Cook and KJ Pearson.

Both Josh and KJ work with Hesed Community Church, a Resonate partner that serves neighborhoods through small ministry houses that provide discipleship opportunities, but also food and other resources for those who may need it. Josh and KJ are house supervisors—Josh in the Brightmoor neighborhood, and KJ in Morningside.

When Cohort started, they had plans and goals to engage their community. Josh was meeting off and on with a group of guys that had been coming to Hesed Brightmoor and planned to start something more formal; he was helping to lead Bible studies and an AA meeting; and he had plans to take a small group of teenagers in the neighborhood on a service-learning trip across the city.

In Morningside, KJ had plans to meet and get to know people. Both she and the ministry house are new to the neighborhood, and she planned to get involved in a local school, host after-school activities, and hand out food and supplies to neighbors.

The restrictions put in place because of COVID-19 have put a lot of those plans on pause, but both Josh and KJ continue to serve their communities. Nathan said that the coronavirus has provided ways for Josh—and especially KJ, who is ministering in a new neighborhood—to build trust with their neighbors, which can often take a long time. 

“Crises like these are ways we can get to know our neighbors, even when you can only stand six feet apart from them,” said Nathan. “In some ways, it can take a crisis to prove that the church is the church.”

Proving that ‘the Church Is the Church’

Josh continues to help lead Bible studies over video call, and he’s on-call for members of the AA group to respond to urgent needs. Both he and KJ continue to check in on neighbors, asking if they need food, face masks, or some words of encouragement. 

Local churches and ministries have stepped up to help. Members of Ann Arbor CRC, a church that is helping to launch and develop Cohort Detroit, have gathered food and sewed face masks that Josh and KJ can distribute in their neighborhoods. Students, faculty, and staff who are part of Resonate partner Campus Chapel at the University of Michigan have also gathered and donated supplies.

“I am so encouraged to see people from surrounding churches reach out and be really excited to give,” said Nathan.

Personal Growth 

But Cohort isn’t just about serving—it’s also about personal and spiritual growth. While Nathan, Josh, and KJ are able to continue meeting over video call during the coronavirus pandemic, they have lost important aspects of Cohort. They aren’t able to travel, for instance, to learn from ministries in other cities that face similar challenges as Detroit.

“I really wanted them to travel and learn from different contexts,” said Nathan. “As we know in our quarantine houses, it quickly becomes suffocating when you live, work, serve, and go to church all in one place and can almost never leave.” 

But as Josh and KJ spend more time at home in their ministry houses, they have more time to devote to reading, praying, and personal reflection.

“We spent a long time in February discerning how the Spirit was leading Cohort participants toward personal development,” said Nathan. “They can continue to be goals we can develop together throughout this period of quarantine.”

Thank you for your continued prayer and support of Cohort Detroit during the coronavirus pandemic as Nathan continues to disciple Josh and KJ, and as Josh and KJ continue serving their neighbors through Hesed Community Church.

“At the core of Cohort Detroit's work, we aim to grow leaders who respond to the needs of neighbors with Spirit-led action as they learn to love and trust God more deeply,” said Nathan. “Crises are times for deep growth, and I am committed to supporting our community leaders through this challenging period, excited for how God will lead.”

Prayer Requests

  • Detroit has a lot of cases of coronavirus. Nathan said that almost everyone he talks to in the city knows someone who has COVID-19, and many know someone who has passed away from the virus. Pray for protection from the virus, healing for those who are sick, and comfort and encouragement for those who are grieving the loss of loved ones.
  • “The virus doesn’t discriminate between rich and poor—or black, white, and Latino—but systems do,” said Nathan. Pray for people in Detroit who are more vulnerable to the coronavirus because they need to take public transportation, live in tight spaces, lack medical access, or have pre-existing health conditions. Ask that the church and government can work together to better care for all people.
  • Many people in Detroit are quarantined in tight spaces, which can lead to domestic violence or even small tensions in relationships. Pray for God’s grace in relationships. Pray for protection for those who suffer abuse.
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