KANSAS CITY, MO (May 20, 2015) — The wind whipped around hard making the air, which already was 20 degrees below zero, even more bitter and painful. Still the church decided to hold its first preview service outside.
Those who attended the service were homeless. They also were the reason the Worship Wagon church was worshiping on the corner of Seventeenth and Beasley Streets that November night last year. The church, which was launched by Freedom Covenant Church in partnership with the nonprofit organization Hope in the Streets, has held weekly services since January.
Every Monday, members of Freedom Covenant or several other churches take turns leading worship under a bridge alongside the Missouri River. There have been many cold nights, but the homeless people, many of whom live in the nearby woods along the riverbank, continue to attend.
“Probably 100 folks would refer to it as their place of worship. Usually around 50 of them show up on any given Monday night,” said Bruce McGregor, pastor of Freedom Covenant. “We expect the numbers to grow as we just started in mid-January.”
About 80 percent of the attendees are men, and 20 percent are women, McGregor said.
The church already is turning into something of a multi-site campus. A new Worship Wagon will target the unreached people in a federal housing development where roughly 500 people live, said McGregor.
“We consider the Worship Wagon as an inter-denominational church that several Kansas City-area churches have sponsored,” McGregor said. In addition to Freedom, other Covenant congregations involved include Hillcrest Covenant Church and Community Covenant Church, who have contributed funds or helped lead worship.
Freedom Covenant was launched in 2009 and has held its worship services in a warehouse in a low-income area of Kansas City. Its congregation consists of 50 percent homeless people, 30 percent families from public housing, and 20 percent suburbanites, McGregor said.
Lives are being changed, McGregor said. In a recent Midwest Conference newsletter, he shared the following story:
Gary was standing alone in the back, away from the sound system. I went back to stand with him so he wouldn’t be by himself. We ended up having a little conversation. During that time, I learned of some of the struggles that this older, weathered man had endured growing up in the inner city. He had been homeless for a number of years.
This tough life was evident in both his appearance and in the stories he told. As he shared, it became apparent that he was desperate for divine help. He indicated that he wanted to surrender his life to Jesus.
I encouraged him to come up after the service for prayer. He looked at me for a moment and asked, “Can’t we pray now?” My first silly thought was, “No, because it’s not the right order of service,” but then I came to my senses and said, “Of course!” I then led him in a prayer of surrender, asking Jesus to become his Lord and Savior.
Gary wept openly through the rest of the service. At the end, he was so happy about what had taken place. Afterwards, he showed me the abandoned building where he was living and asked me to come visit. I took this as a legitimate sign of trust. Gary has been coming to church faithfully ever since.