Joel Osteen delivers a ‘Night of Hope’ in Detroit

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

For his first “America’s Night of Hope” event in Detroit on Saturday evening, popular pastor Joel Osteen shared a sermon with more than 30,000 attendees featuring a theme particularly relevant in the Motor City: “Trouble is Transportation.”

The Texas televangelist told the crowd at Comerica Park that life problems — whether stalled jobs, financial difficulties or dashed dreams — can pave a path to success. Case in point? Mike Ilitch, who left a baseball career after a knee injury in the 1950s but went on to launch the Little Caesars franchise.

His disappointment “wasn’t the end — it was transportation. It moved him toward his destiny,” Osteen said while standing atop an elevated platform on the baseball field. “...Trouble won’t stop you. It will become transportation.”

Encouragement and spiritual uplift marked the 8th annual “Night of Hope.” Since 2009, the gathering has packed venues in Chicago, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington D.C., Miami and San Francisco.

Despite record warmth and temperatures hovering in the 80s well after dusk, many faithful packed Comerica to hear messages from Osteen — who leads a nondenominational Houston church boasting 50,000-plus members and has a syndicated radio broadcast — as well as his wife, Victoria.

Between swaying in the aisles to worship songs such as “Heart Like Heaven” and “Live in the Wonderful,” the diverse crowd eagerly welcomed inspirational stories and Scripture readings aimed at boosting their faith.

At one point, Victoria Osteen urged the audience not to focus on what they perceive as mistakes or obstacles but future opportunities. “No one determines your destiny but almighty God,” she said.

The Osteens repeatedly cited numerous examples of miraculous healings and triumphs they attributed to faith. Joel’s 82-year-old mother, Dodie, recounted her recovery from liver cancer years ago once “the word of God became my medication.”

“I’m telling you God has been so good and he will do the same for you,” she said.

The event also drew many pastors and leaders from churches across the region and state, who each prayed for the safety and achievements of local teachers, students, laborers, government officials, emergency personnel as well as others.

“We declare that tonight is a fresh start for Detroit and all its people,” Pastor Keenann Knox of Detroit’s Impact Church said as the sun set.

The motivation heartened Kim Jackson, who watches Osteen weekly and trekked to the stadium from Sarnia, Ontario with her husband, son and daughter. “It’s great for the city, absolutely,” she said.

The Osteens also sought support for World Vision International, a Christian relief and development organization.

Their visit yielded other help for those in need, as well.

In the two days leading up to the event, volunteers with the Generation Hope Project, an outreach ministry that works to bring hope through acts of kindness and compassion, teamed up with various area organizations on multiple efforts.

Among them: two Champions Club rooms for special-needs children were unveiled Thursday at Impact Church and volunteers also transformed a 4,000-square-foot basement into a multi-purpose room and kitchen, officials said.

Joel Osteen joined in to help gather coloring books, crayons and a jump rope into hospital gift bags with the teen who founded the nonprofit S.K.I.P. Supporting Kids In Pain. Volunteers assembled more than 500 packets and created 500 encouragement cards for the group.

Also as part of Generation Hope, volunteers made 3,600 sandwiches and packed 20,000 pounds of carrots at Forgotten Harvest; cleared alleyways, painted 19 murals, headed a worship concert event for 400 at the S.A.Y. Detroit Play Center; created a children’s playground and landscaped a community landmark garden through Habitat for Humanity Detroit.

Shortly before speaking during the “Night of Hope,” Osteen said the S.A.Y. group left a mark. “Just seeing the kids excited about life and so many great adults that are pouring their lives into them — those guys are the real heroes, taking time to make a difference and mentor young people.”

His wife loved the city’s spirit and residents. “We’ve met so many amazing people,” she said. “And I love to see the city revitalizing itself and coming back strong.”

Detroiter Carolyn McDonald, who joined seven other relatives at the event Saturday, noted the effort.

“I’m so used to nationwide preachers just coming in for the event that day, speaking that night and then leaving,” she said. “But the fact that he got involved with community stuff was impressive.”

Paul Kenner of Highland Park, who attended with his brother, said Osteen’s involvement showcased his work as “a servant of God.”

“He’s just one of many,” he said while standing in the arena.