Linda hadn’t willingly stepped inside a church her whole adult life. Several years of homelessness had finally improved to a stable home in an old apartment complex behind SE Beechmont. The first time she visited the church, she only went as far as the parking lot. Church members and community friends were sitting around fold-up tables eating grilled hot dogs and finding common ground.
It would be months of the weekly Sunday night dinners before she walked in the door.
SE Beechmont is one of Southeast’s community campuses. It launched in the Fall of 2020, in the iconic Beechmont neighborhood of South Louisville. The area is intensely diverse, with more than 100 languages spoken within a mile of the campus.
In addition to refugees and immigrants, the area has a large population of those who struggle with the long-term effects of trauma—including addiction, homelessness, unemployment, and poverty. Despite its obstacles, it’s a community of resilience, loyalty, and creativity.
Campus Pastor Matt McGuire and his core team of church members are consistently leaning on the Spirit, trusting Him to help them show the people in this community that God is faithful and will never stop pursuing them.
“We are thankful to be in such a diverse community with people not only from all over the world, but also with people who have so many different life experiences,” Matt said. “Our hope is that as we continue to share about Jesus and share our lives with people, they continually see all that God has done for them.”
IMPACT OF HOPE PLACE
The church shares a building with Hope Place, which paved the way for SE Beechmont. Hope Place, a branch of Hope Collaborative, is a faith-based, trauma-informed center, where the neighborhood has been finding a haven for years. Many of the children who come to SE Beechmont on Sunday evenings come to Hope Place every other day during the week.
Without the reputation that Hope Place established in the community, SE Beechmont would still be trying to win over a guarded population. It’s a combined effort that overlaps and flows together naturally.
When Southeast launched SE Beechmont, there was already a core team of men and women committed to loving and serving the people there. They know that without one another, without a lot of creativity and encouragement, and without a total reliance on the Spirit, the community they love might never hear the Gospel.
Some had lived in the area for years, like Jeff and Amy, who moved there after living as missionaries overseas. They were drawn to the international community, serving regularly at Hope Place and longing for a church that would bring the light of the Gospel into the neighborhood. A little over a year later, the church gathered around Jeff and Amy’s oldest daughter, commissioning her to serve in Ghana as a missionary on the same night that an African Muslim refugee was baptized into Christ. It was a powerful moment, reflecting the beauty and purpose of SE Beechmont.
“We are so excited about SE Beechmont because it’s meeting the needs in the immediate area, both physically and spiritually,” Amy said. “It’s just a few minutes’ walk for many people who don’t have a church home or even a relationship with Jesus. It’s a true light in the community.”
Others from the core team discovered a love for the Beechmont population when they were invited to help launch the church. Chris walks through the apartment complexes behind the church several days a week. He has lists of every tenant he meets. He knows their stories. He follows up with their prayer requests. He helps connect them to opportunities. His wife, Cathy, knows many of the children in the neighborhood. She alters their dresses. She helps with their homework. She treats their injuries. They moved to Beechmont from the other side of town because they fell in love with the people there. They’ve redefined retirement.
GUIDED BY THE SPIRIT
The local population is always shifting, with people constantly moving in and out. Some come on Sunday nights for dinner, but vanish the moment the conversation shifts toward their spiritual hunger.
Outreach efforts are constantly being adapted. When the campus launched, they began with a traditional-style worship service, though songs are sung in a combination of English, Spanish, and Swahili. Later, they added dinner before the service and groups that included overcoming adversity, introductory Bible studies, ESL studies, and soccer with the local neighborhood.
Matt reflected, “Something I’ve shared frequently is 1 Thessalonians 2:8 where Paul says, 'Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.’ As we do this, it’s imperative that we listen to the Spirit as we engage with people. We want to continually ask the question, ‘What does church look like in this neighborhood?’.”
Because of this need for the Spirit’s direction, prayer remains a constant focus for the church. Most of the earliest meetings were spent prayer walking the nearby apartment complexes and gathering to pray for one another. The spiritual opposition is never far away and is often almost tangible.
Though God often changes the methods, the emphasis is always loving one person at a time. It’s making a difference.
Linda has a community now. She is starting to believe that God loves her. She’s an integral part of one of the women’s Bible studies, where she asks thoughtful, hard questions. She’s telling other people about Jesus. For the first time in her life, she wonders if maybe there’s hope for her. She wonders if she’s found a home.