Nestled next to both Texas Christian University and Paschal High School lies a small building, which is home to Southside City Church pastored by Darrel and Kim Auvenshine. Before Southside was a church, it began as a group of people meeting at a park to serve the HIV community of Fort Worth.
"We built our church on Matthew 25," Darrel Auvenshine said during an interview. "We wished to serve 'the least of these,' and that our church could feel like their home when they might not have one."
On the southside of Fort Worth poverty has been prevalent for decades. In the past few years, this area has experienced a revitalization.
Several shelters are located in the area, including the Salvation Army, Samaritan House and the Gospel Union Mission. Despite the revitalization, you don't have to look far to still notice that poverty still exists in this area. Many of Darrel's church members were living in these shelters waiting on housing vouchers.
"Once our members received these vouchers, they moved to the outskirts of Fort Worth. They were isolated, and no longer had the ability to make it to church because many of them walk here," noted Darrel.
Through tears, he told me about Susan.
Susan, an active member of their church lived in one of these shelters. After she received a housing voucher, she moved to an apartment, and the church helped her. They moved her in, and furnished her apartment, but two months later the church received news that Susan had died. Being so isolated, she quickly fell back into addiction, and died on the streets. While Susan passed tragically, her legacy lives on. Southside didn't want anyone to have to experience the same situation, and after another pastor encouraged Darrel to begin renting houses in the area, they did, and started a ministry now known as True Faith Community.
This ministry is funded through Southside, and many of the church's members live in these facilities. It is a community, and they avoid calling it "transitional housing" or "halfway houses" because these can be forever homes and focus on discipleship. The first house is the Esther House, which houses four women and a director. With the help of First Baptist Arlington, they quickly acquired two more homes. True Faith Community now consists of eight homes, which can house up to twenty people. Dametra Stevenson serves as ministry director.
The goal of True Faith Community focuses on discipleship, to walk alongside individuals and help them pick up the pieces of their life, says Dametra.
"We remind them God has a plan. Our God is a God who brings restoration and redemption. These homes are home for these individuals. Anything that is lost can be found," she said.
I had the opportunity to meet several members of the True Faith Community who are from all walks of life, and parts of the country. They all have one thing in common: they were once lost, and homeless, but they have found a home, and a family in both Southside City Church and True Faith Community. Members of the church have been through so much - from abuse, sexual exploitation and loss of family to depression and addiction. They have such a deep understanding of the love of Christ, because of the work of Darrel, Kim and their church members.
On Sunday evening, Dec. 6, Southside celebrated what God has done in True Faith Community with a Night of Worship. Laughter, hugs, praise and the twinkling of Christmas tree lights filled the sanctuary. I heard so many amazing testimonies, but was particularly moved by Cecilia.
Cecilia explained she had been on the streets of Fort Worth for awhile. Not only was she homeless, but also a drug addict. She found TFC through another shelter and connected with Stevenson, but at the time the house was full. This fact did not stop Stevenson, who walked into the woods, where Cecilia was living at the time, and helped her bring her things back to TFC. During the night's worship, Cecilia led the choir in "Grateful" by John P. Kee, which sings, "Thank you for a new morning/ You did not judge me/ You reached out and loved me/ That's why I'm grateful for all you've done for me//"
"This community has been amazing," Cecilia emotionally said. "Almost as if it's not real, like I'm in heaven. A place I'll never forget. They set me on solid ground when I was on sinking sand. I've never been so loved. I've learned that community is way more important than independence. I live a 'regular' life now, but it's a blessing. TFC is my family."
Darrel hopes to build two more homes on the church's property, but only will do this debt-free. He expressed his deepest gratitude to the work of the Texas Baptists, by saying, "We know we wouldn't have been able to all we've done, and continue to do without the relationship with the Convention. I can't think of a time when I've asked for help that y'all said, 'no.' Y'all are living out your purpose of lifting up the church."
Southside City Church and True Faith Community receive monthly funding from both the Christian Life Commission's Community Care fund and Multi-Housing & House Congregations Missions ministry, as well as grants from the Texas Baptist Hunger Offering.
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