On February 1 Restore Church & the EFCA will begin our first Church Planting Residency with Tyler St. Clair of Northwest Detroit. Tyler is already well known & loved by the Restore family having served on the Plant Midwest Detroit Team, preached at The Post Office, and participated in several Restore events. This two year three-phased residency will culminate in a church plant in Northwest Detroit. Tyler and his wife Elita have four beautiful children. We are looking forward to what God will do as Pastor Tyler serves on the Restore pastoral team! Here is Tyler’s story in his own words.
The stories of my wife, Elita, and I both begin in the city of Detroit. We both were raised predominantly by our mothers. Both of us come from broken homes, yet with strong support systems from extended family. We were raised in church from young ages. Unbeknownst to us, we had grown up literally within blocks of one another. But this is where our similar backgrounds end.
Elita was a “good girl” with excellent grades, and even attended a Christian school. She came from a successful, close knit family. She was beautiful (and still is) and even did some local modeling. When she was to begin high school, her mother and stepfather moved their family to Southfield, an affluent suburb just outside of Detroit. Following high school, she attended Wayne State University in downtown Detroit on a full academic journalism scholarship, graduating with her Bachelors of Arts Degree in three years. Despite an enviable upbringing, as an adult it became obvious to her that she had been crippled by fear. These issues resulted in battles with anxiety, depression, insecurity, unhealthy relationships and ultimately a waning of her faith. She finally came to realize she was merely “religious” and morally righteous. She was lacking relationship with the One she professed for so many years to know, love and serve.
I was “that kid.” You know “that kid.” I was suspended constantly, fighting in school, had terrible grades, and an volatile attitude. I dabbled in minimal criminal activities and befriended drug dealers and hustlers. I was told by a male teacher in my school that I would never graduate high school. A female teacher declared I would never live to see the age of 21. My mother, unfortunately, worked nonstop to support my younger brother and I. So as a result of often being home alone, I discovered porngraphy and sex at age 13. Finally, after barely graduating high school, I found myself feeling impossibly bound by promiscuity, depression and fighting suicidal thoughts in college. I was on my way to Hell, until Jesus Christ saved me from myself and offered me hope at 19 years old.
Me and my wife’s distinct stories intersected in the Spring of 2002. I had since surrendered my life to Jesus Christ and begin serving Him intensely. She was struggling in her faith and drifting through life as a religious Christian. Soon after we met, she surrendered her life to The Lord Jesus and began serving Him. Though I was a little further in my walk with God, we grew together in Christ and especially as friends. We married two years later and continued to do ministry together in the city of Detroit.
I have always felt the Lord called me to start a church (even before I learned of the term church planting). Through much prayer, fasting and confirmation from (both former and current) pastors, my wife and I both believe this call to church planting on Detroit’s West Side was God’s will for us.
The year of 2008, however, was a transitional year in my ministry for Christ. Our former church, located in the heart of Detroit, was celebrating its 50-year anniversary. Yet, as I looked out of our church’s beautiful stained glass windows at the crumbling surroundings–a community where the selling of sex and drugs was visible literally just across the street–I could not manage to muster up a celebratory attitude. I will never forget a strung out mother sending her four children (including a sick and severely diaper-rashed newborn) to our church for help. People were even shot and killed just steps away from our church.
At the same time, I had taken on leadership roles with two ministries outside of my church. One being Sons of Promise, (a mentoring program for inner city young men), and ReTool (a mentoring and after-care program for incarcerated youth). Working with these ministries further exposed me to the plight of the people and families in my city. Our country, at that time, was also in the midst of an economic recession and political upheaval. Then at the end of the year 2008, on Christmas day, my life most certainly changed forever. That morning, the life of my younger brother, Tahir, was ended. My 23-year-old brother was shot and killed in an apparent robbery just around the corner from our childhood home on the Northwest side of Detroit.
Despite the overwhelming grief, I felt led to eulogize my brother. I had never seen such pain, grief, and despair in my life from my family, friends, and many strangers. At my brother’s funeral, I realized, to a greater extent, Detroit’s dire state of emergency. At that very moment, I felt an urgency to be a catalyst for change and restoration through The Gospel in my city. Since then, I have also lost a ministry partner and a young man I was mentoring to violence in the streets of Detroit. The darkness that has overpowered Detroit can only be overshadowed by the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Elita and I are excited to begin this church planting residency with the EFCA and Restore Church. Restore Church has been close to our hearts, but it is wonderful to be officially connected. We believe this partnership will result in many disciples made, many church planting churches and bring much Glory to The Lord Jesus.