Brief History Of How We Got Here…… Well, I suppose you could say that it goes all the way back to 1974. That would take us into the life of a 25 year old heroin addicted alcoholic named Steve Upshur. Steve had lived in Detroit most of his life, primarily growing up on the West Side. As he ventured into his teen age years, like many of us he began to hang out with the wrong crowd and get into trouble. He began to quickly fall prey to the drugs scene, which at the time wasn’t known or understood as well as it is today. Steve developed daily habits of marijuana, alcohol, LSD, speed, barbiturates, and finally…..heroin. Heroin proved to be the mother of all addictions as it took Steve’s life to new lows. In and out of jails, homelessness, burning bridges with loved ones and a life of crime was all that was left. The physical addiction to heroin was too great, and when it couldn’t get any worse he also became a regular customer of the methadone clinics.
The addiction to methadone became so overwhelming that Steve was visiting three clinics on a daily basis using fake I.D.’s, and consuming amounts of the drug that would kill most people. He needed to do this every day, just to get rid of the physical sickness and “get normal.” It was impossible to stop, there was no way to detox….and Steve seemed to be sentenced to an entire lifetime of this vicious cycle….”Once a drug addict, always a drug addict” as the saying goes. As far as he knew, the only way out was prison or death.
In 1974 however, Steve Upshur became introduced to Jesus Christ while out in Oklahoma. He was radically and miraculously delivered from all drug addiction – with no withdrawals! To hear Pastor Steve’s full testimony click here This is medically and scientifically impossible….but as we at Peacemakers know….”With God all things are possible!” Steve’s experience with meeting God out in Oklahoma is a long story in and of itself. Suffice it to say, he ended up back in Detroit as a changed person! He became very eager to reach out to others who were also desperate and searching for hope, as Steve once had been.
As the years ticked on he began sharing what he knew, teaching Bible studies to the youth on Detroit’s east side. Over time, as more people began to attend it naturally formed into what we would call a “church”. There was no plan to make a church, it just happened. As time went on and relationships developed, there was a decision made to merge Steve’s new ministry, “The Breadline”, with another group of Christians in the area. This happened in 1980. The end result was a new church equally pastored by three men: Tony Mancina, Bob Pannecouk, and Steve Upshur. They called their new ministry “New Life Fellowship Of Believers.” Before long they were able to obtain a new location for services in St. Clair Shores, MI. The years at New Life were a great experience, with three Pastors co-leading a growing congregation of hundreds of people. A new school was birthed, “Zoe Christian Academy”, and also Pastor Steve began and hosted the “New Life” TV program for fifteen years ministering to the needs of people all over South East Michigan. He also began to get more involved with prison and jail ministry, making multiple trips each month to these institutions reaching out to those incarcerated. Pastor Steve remained strong out in the streets, always exercising a strong evangelistic gift – helping others to get to know Jesus. There was also much involvement with outlaw motorcycle clubs, Pastor Steve being one of the only Christians ever accepted into places like these.
But there was a chronic itch in the back of Pastor Steve’s mind…a drawing back to the streets of Detroit. There had always been a pull there that had never left. Ministry and life was good out in the suburbs, and many wonderful people had been met and helped….but as the years ticked on, Pastor Steve began to wonder more about how God may want to lead him back to the city. One day Jim and Zilpha Fox, members of the New Life congregation, approached Pastor Steve. They had an old four story warehouse in the inner city of Detroit where they resided. In was located on a street called, “Chene.” They said, “Pastor Steve, if you every thought that the Lord may want you to establish a ministry to help people in Detroit, we would be willing to donate our building to you.” It was in that conversation, that Peacemakers International was birthed! After much prayer and thought went into the decision, Pastor Steve began to announce that he was pioneering a new work on Chene St., in the inner city of Detroit! There was much work to be done in the building and grounds that had been donated, and groups of volunteers began to roll up their sleeves every Saturday to make a difference! All this took place in 1994. Over time, as the property began to be made more suitable, “Chene St. Outreach Ministry” as it was then called began to put on events to reach out to the community. Barbeques, campfires, live music….and there the relationships with the community began to develop.
As time went on, it was apparent that Chene St. needed more time and attention than just on Saturdays. It was obvious that a much greater commitment was needed if real and sustainable change was ever to be seen. In 1997, there was a decision to come full time to Chene St, and walk out of the beautiful premises of New Life one last time. It was not an easy decision, hundreds of friendships had been developed over the years. New Life was a very nice and well established ministry! Some people weren’t understanding, but most were, knowing that Pastor Steve had been created for “such a time as this.” At the same time, Pastor Tony Mancina also felt led by the Lord to establish a new ministry towards New Baltimore, called “Salt River Christian Church.” Pastor Bob Pannecouk stayed in St. Clair Shores to pastor the remaining congregants, and thus one ministry became three: multiplying the positive effects of the gospel in a wonderful way! Peacemakers International has been going strong full time since 1997. It is interesting: Peacemakers arrived in Detroit, at a time when everyone else was leaving Detroit. Peacemakers set up shop in Detroit at a time when “Detroit” was not a popular buzzword amongst many churches, as it is now. Pastor Steve has had a strong vision for the Chene community that has never faltered over all these years. His wife Elaine has co-labored with him faithfully from the start, helping to bear the tremendous burdens that are experienced at times. They have kept their hand to the plow, building an organization literally from “the ground up”. It has never been easy, but they along with the rest of the Peacemakers have always believed that its worth every minute of labor – because people are important. And God loves people. Many good things have happened since 1994…..but this my friend, has been the “History”, of how it all began.