I stood outside the basement fellowship room of New Hope Church in Lansing, Illinois, talking to Pastor Ildefonso Torres. He was telling me stories of people finding new life at New Hope. Stories that even he, after a lifetime of ministry service, could do little more than shake his head and smile at.
The feeling I got was, “This is really church.”
For example, Pastor Torres told me about a financially destitute couple attending Bible studies at churches all over town—not just at New Hope, but at Living Word, and First Reformed, and one or two other churches in Lansing. “This lady is so hungry for the Word,” he said, “we don’t have enough for her. She has to go all over!”
He mentioned a woman who came to New Hope after moving to the neighborhood (from Benin, Africa!). The house she and her family moved into was one she had seen in a dream. She didn’t know at the time that this house was in the ministry area of New Hope Church, but she received three invitations on her doorknob, left by members of New Hope’s “Walkers Ministry.” The third one she accepted, and she attended church for the first time on Easter Sunday last year. Today she’s a member. When she professed her new faith in front of the congregation, she told them, “Finally, I have found my home.”
Pastor Torres also told me about a lesbian who wandered in, wondering about God, church, and the Bible. She thought she knew what to expect, but instead she was welcomed. Surprised and disarmed, she now attends regularly.
According to Pastor Torres, each of these stories is “just the beginning of a long journey. I could write 10 pages with all the blessings, opportunities, and challenges that these families bring to our church. God is teaching us some things about reaching out to our community. Blessings through the shaking of our comfortable lives. Sometimes it gets very messy.”
New Hope states their mission this way: “To bring a diverse community into a growing relationship with God and one another.” Diversity. Community. Growth. Messiness. Now that’s church!
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