Pilgrimage of faith

Published 3:26 pm Thursday, April 29, 2010

Ben DeLoach’s roots in East Lake trace back to the day he was born. He remembers spending birthday parties in East Lake Park and attending preschool nearby. When he was 5, his family moved to Trussville for better schools. But his job as an associate minister for the Church at Brook Hills brought him back to the area as a volunteer at the Lovelady Center, the faith-based rehabilitation center housed in the old East End Memorial Hospital where DeLoach was born.

Two years ago DeLoach began giving tours of the facility and teaching weekly classes at the center. During one day’s drive to East Lake, a question came to DeLoach’s mind: “What would it look like if families lived in this community and modeled being Christ followers?”

Almost immediately another question followed. “Are you willing to do it?” DeLoach, said his first answer was “no,” but then he started praying about it.

“Within a week I knew this is what we needed to do,” he said. He and his wife Kylie began to talk about moving their family of five from a comfortable suburban life in Chelsea to an inner-city neighborhood to share the gospel.

Around the same time DeLoach was mulling over moving, his fellow staff members felt burdened for the community in East Lake. In a sermon March 7, Dr. David Platt asked his congregation to consider serving East Lake as part of the church’s local outreach. He challenged each person to pray about moving into East Lake to live the gospel in one of the poorest parts of Birmingham.

Forty family units responded. DeLoach is now in charge of organizing 20 families and 20 singles who want to live in East Lake.

“I was prepared to deal with 10 families, and now we have 40 who are interested,” he said.

By June there could be as many as five families already living in East Lake. DeLoach estimates it will take about a year before all 40 family units are able to move into the area. The families will move into a stable area around the Howard College Estates.

Other Birmingham-area churches are also ministering downtown. Keith Stanley, the local disciple-making pastor, listed Shades Mountain Independent Church, Church of the Highlands, Christ Church United Methodist and Redeemer Church as some that already have a presence in different parts of the inner city. Stanley said small groups and families will work with local churches and ministries, such as the Lovelady Center, to serve the people of East Lake.

“We’ve been deeply challenged by the faith in these communities. We’re just coming alongside of them,” said Stanley. “We’re joining God in what He’s doing. Jesus was for people and with people and we want to be both, just as Jesus was.”

Right now DeLoach, Kylie and their three children, Carter, 6, Caden, 5, and Isabel, 3, are waiting for their house in Chelsea to sell so they can move to their new neighborhood. “We’re sitting on go. We’re ready,” said DeLoach.

When people ask him why he’s moving to East Lake, DeLoach said he keeps his answer about the gospel. “We are followers of Christ. He focused on the poor and He has called us to this area to live intentionally for His glory,” he said.

Soon, when DeLoach drives through East Lake, it won’t be just another visit; he’ll be coming home.