"We love this community."
Signs that say “Drive-By Prayer" and "Free Gift Cards” draw a long line of cars to the parking lot at Fountain of Faith Christian Center in West Louisville.
A woman asks volunteers to pray she’ll have strength to handle the deep grief she’s experienced since her nephew was murdered. A young, distraught mom asks for prayer for her unborn baby girl who may have serious health issues. People in line talk about being lonely, afraid, and worried about bills and decisions their children are making. Some wonder if anyone sees or cares about the problems they face.
Volunteers pray with each one, invite them to church, and give them a gift card.
“It’s our favorite outreach,” said James Byars, pastor of Fountain of Faith Christian Center. “Drive-by prayer gives us an opportunity to pray with people. They wouldn’t wait in line if God wasn’t already working in their lives. If somebody pulls in just to get the gift card, we still get a chance to pray with them.”
These days the overwhelming need is hope.
“People are so isolated, and, often, problems seem too big to handle,” James said. “Without God, our issues are too big. That’s why we need Him.”
One woman began attending Fountain of Faith after stopping at a drive-by prayer outreach. Men in the church helped her move into a home in the neighborhood. She stopped attending during COVID, but members of the church have continued checking on her.
“We don’t look at involvement in people’s lives as gains or losses,” James said. “We look at it as an opportunity to meet them, see their needs, and begin a relationship. God knows all about their situation. He’s already working. We’re just following Him.”
Sometimes they get to see the rest of the story. The mom who wanted prayer for her unborn baby girl returned a few weeks later carrying her healthy daughter—and the church celebrated.
James and his wife, Carmen, planted Fountain of Faith Christian Center in January 2004. They believe God led them to the West Louisville neighborhood where James attended church as a child when staying with his grandmother. She never missed a Sunday. In fact, when he hid his shoes to avoid church one week, she said he’d go barefoot if he didn’t find them. They miraculously showed up.
While James returned to that neighborhood as a young pastor to preach—not far from his grandmother, who will turn 100 this Spring—his and Carmen’s request for a loan was rejected by several banks that saw no promise in establishing a church in the area.
James and Carmen never saw it that way.
“We love this community,” he said. “It is quiet for the most part, hard-working. There are some incidents, but our neighbors keep a close eye on the church. We have grown, paid off our mortgage, and hope to expand space for our children’s ministry. Our members are very giving, loving people.”
During the quieter days of COVID, church members mapped the neighborhood surrounding the church, gathering the names and needs of neighbors. When weather permits, they still prayer walk the streets, sometimes knocking on doors to check on people.
Some of the neighbors become as close as family.
One of those is Linda Smith, a 60-year-old Army veteran dealing with ALS. She had been a member of another church for 40 years, but said no one came to visit once she could no longer drive. Every Sunday, Fountain of Faith ushers knocked on her door to escort her motorized wheelchair to worship services. She loved the attention and tried to tip them.
“Miss Smith became a huge blessing to our church, a giver and encourager who needed a church family to love her through the challenges of ALS,” James said. “We miss her since she passed away last September. She taught us a lot about giving and blessed us a lot.”
James knows outreach is making a difference. When he introduced himself at the gym one day as the pastor at Fountain of Faith Christian Center, the man said, “I heard that’s a giving, praying church.”