Imagine worshipping in a congregation located in the heart of your city’s drug and violence problem. You come to this church on a regular basis, not just to worship but also to serve. That is exactly where the members of Redeemer Lutheran Church find themselves, and that is where they plan to stay.
Over 50% of Redeemer Lutheran’s neighbors live in poverty, and many suffer from chronic illness, obesity, and a host of other medical conditions. A recent study by the Louisville Health Department found that, compared to the national average, residents of Redeemer’s neighborhood are 18% more likely to die of cancer and heart disease, twice as likely to die from diabetes, nearly four times as likely to die from HIV/AIDS, and more than seven times as likely to die from homicide.
Into this environment, the Redeemer Lutheran congregation shines as a ray of hope. In fact, you could say this congregation thrives on ministering to those around them, those who so desperately need Jesus’ grace and mercy. With a long tradition of service and outreach, volunteers place a particular emphasis on food and health programs, garnering national attention and securing a two-year, Stand with Your Community grant in the process.
It all started with a food pantry, which has grown exponentially in the past ten years. Last year alone, Redeemer Lutheran distributed food for over 37,000 meals, feeding over 8,000 people. That’s a total of over $38,000 worth of food! In addition, the church hosts a bi-weekly farmer’s market during the summer growing season. Known as Fresh Stop, this grass-roots co-op is dedicated to providing urban neighborhoods with access to fresh, local, organic produce. They even offer special rates for people who receive SNAP/WIC benefits.
But that’s not all. Redeemer Lutheran also hosts a yearly street and health fair, offering local residents food, live music, children’s games, and free health screenings. Here, residents can get education about and/or screening for diabetes, vision, hearing, mammogram, colon cancer, and more.
In the last few years, these simple-yet-effective programs have expanded further into the area of health and wellness, thanks to the efforts of Dr. Karen Krigger, a University of Louisville physician and member of Redeemer Lutheran. Specializing in the areas of HIV and AIDS, Dr. Krigger has helped the church launch HIV testing as part of its monthly food pantry ministry. “HIV is not the killer that it used to be,” explains Rev. Steven Ensley, pastor, “particularly with early treatment. Our mission is to help people who are HIV positive get on track for a better and longer life.”
Dr. Krigger’s efforts recently captured the attention of Thrivent Magazine, which featured her on the front cover. Building on Dr. Krigger’s efforts, Redeemer Lutheran is poised to launch a two-year health ministry program that will organize lay members to provide a different health and wellness outreach program each month for 24 months, thanks to a Stand with Your Community Grant. “These programs say a lot about our members and what they believe about the love of Jesus,” says Pastor Ensley. “We have been blessed with a lot of people with loving hearts.” To learn more, visit redeemerlouky.com.