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Huss Stories: Affirming the dream

Cymantha Channey

Cymantha Channey

Above: Cymantha Channey-White and her son collaborate on a mosaic at Huss Future Festival 2012.

Reverend Luther D. Channey’s first trip to Three Rivers, Michigan took place in a dream.

A renowned evangelist in Detroit in the 1960s, Rev. Channey had no intention of leaving his ministry on the east side of the state when the widow of a Three Rivers pastor asked him to visit her late husband’s parish. As a man who perpetually sought new ways and places to affect positive change, for Rev. Channey, a short trip to a small farming town was all in a day’s work.

“But God had a different plan for him,” said Cymantha Channey-White, Rev. Channey’s daughter.

According to Channey-White, her father had had a dream of a rural place and a little white church sometime prior to the widow’s request, and much to his surprise, that’s exactly what he found upon arriving in Three Rivers. Putting faith in his vision, Rev. Channey officially took over as pastor of All Nations Temple Church of God in Christ in the early 70s, where he preached for 40 years until his untimely death in 2006.

Soon after the relocation, Rev. Channey began to see the needs of the community, particularly in the school system, where prejudice and inequality were prevalent.

“My father was always involved in youth ministry, always,” said Channey-White, “He knew what young people needed and wanted: affirmation. They need to be affirmed. If children are not affirmed, then when they become adults they’re floundering. He wanted to make sure that youth and children knew who they were and knew what they could become, and empower them to achieve that.”

During his time in Three Rivers, Rev. Channey founded a number of organizations to uplift and empower struggling youth and families. In 1991, he put together the Community Outreach Development Corporation, and from this organization, TRAFC (Three Rivers Area Faith Community) was eventually born.

“As he moved more into the families, his ministry began to see more problems. When you dig deeper, you begin to hit rocks,” said Channey-White, who moved back to Three Rivers last year and has since worked to carry on her father’s pursuit of social justice within the community.

Shortly before his passing, Rev. Channey made a bid to purchase Huss School, hoping to use it as a housing component for a recidivism program he’d started with his friend, Jake Schwartz. In time, the campus was to become a place of transition: somewhere ex-offenders could live while gaining viable life skills. However, after his death, negotiations to acquire Huss School fell through and the school went to a private individual. *cino then purchased the property in 2009.

“My mother has a saying, ‘God is never going to be left without a witness,’” said Channey-White. “Even though daddy is gone, a portion of his vision is continuing through *cino, and they never even met. But it shows how God connects people and continues his vision.”

In the future, *cino would like to host organizations like the ones started by Rev. Channey to provide local non-profit groups with encouragement and with room for potential growth.

“He’d be so pleased to know that someone is getting it,” said Channey-White, “Someone has caught the vision. Someone sees the needs of the people, and someone has the desire to meet those needs. He would be happy to know that there are people willing to roll up their sleeves and to do what is right. Even faced with opposition, he’d be happy to see people willing to go forward anyway. That’s what *cino is doing. He’d be so proud.”

“We’re very aware that we stand in the wake of visionary community leaders like Rev. Channey who have worked for justice in deeply relational, creative ways,” said *cino co-director, Kirstin Vander Giessen-Reitsma, “We’re thankful for his legacy and the opportunity to continue growing hope and compassion in our community.”

The public is invited to share in a celebration service commemorating the life and work of Luther D. Channey on August 23, 2013—the seventh anniversary of his death.  Share a song of encouragement, words of inspiration or a gift to support the continuation of Rev. Channey’s visionary ministry.  The service will take place 4:00-6:00 p.m. at All Nations Temple (19842 Moorepark Road, Three Rivers).