Over the last couple of years, communities in and around Louisville have suffered a barrage of bad news. It’s not hard to find stories that dampen hope and adversely affect mental and emotional health. The bleak picture that 2020 painted left people yearning for safe spaces to be heard and understood.
This leads to the question: What would be good news here? Stepping into a community and asking that question can lay the groundwork for small, measurable solutions to problems. As the nation has a larger conversation about mental health and addiction, what would be good news to those who are struggling and hurting?
Highlands Community Ministries (HCM) is an interfaith nonprofit that seeks to build community through programs and activities that promote human and spiritual growth in Louisville’s Highlands neighborhood. Their work through the pandemic to serve the 40204 and 40205 ZIP codes literally saved lives by meeting needs with their food pantry and emergency assistance.
In the Summer of 2020, Tiffany Murphy, who has run the HCM pantry for the past couple of years, identified and addressed a deeper need among the individuals the organization serves. Offering food and financial assistance is certainly good news, but the growing number of clients battling mental health and addiction was impossible to ignore.
“I think getting to know the clients on a personal level showed us the need for it,” Tiffany said. “The clients identify with this place as a safe place and a home for them. There needed to be another option to help them, especially during COVID, to meet their needs. They just need a safe outlet for them to talk about situations in life and struggles they’re having.”
This led to the question of what good news might look like to those clients. Could there be a safe space for them to talk through their struggles? Meeting a physical need is never bad, but what about the emotional and spiritual needs plaguing the community?
Encounter is a ministry of Southeast Christian Church that focuses on the power of connecting to others in a support and recovery group to experience the hope and help found in Jesus and community. Open to any adult regardless of background or belief, Encounter works to cultivate a community of people who seek help and healing through more than 80 groups that offer support in such areas as anxiety, depression, addiction, and grief.
It became clear to both HCM and Southeast that there was an opportunity to meet an important need for the neighborhood. In October 2020, a dozen or so people began meeting in the HCM basement for Encounter. With the exception of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s, people from all walks of life have come together each Thursday to hear a devotion, check in, and share their feelings and experiences with one another.
There is a powerful thing that happens when a group creates safety and space for what others may think or feel. People can share their story without judgment and are free to find healing—and many have at Encounter at HCM. Life transformation can happen in the most unlikely of places. Good news came to the Highlands through a small group in a pantry basement that seeks to love and listen to people one at a time.
“What it does for the people is incredible,” Tiffany said. “This is the first time I’ve ever witnessed something so moving and impactful in people’s lives…You meet their basic needs, but you can’t forget the emotional support and spiritual support.”
This group and others like it are still meeting in the community. Both at Southeast Christian Church and HCM, there are groups that want to help people who are hurting and struggling find support.
“Take the risk and be vulnerable,” Tiffany said. “What it’s done for those that go is unbelievable. When people come in, they’re nervous, but everyone that comes feels so welcomed and safe and has nothing but positive things to say about their experience.”
To learn more about
Encounter and for a group schedule, click here.