Wednesday, 06 June 2012 14:44

Inner City Evangelism; A Family Changed Leads to a Life-Changing Minsitry

Written by  Rachel Fisher
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Five years ago, Jeff and Jennifer Hand were living what they believed was “the good life.” Jeff worked in construction and Jennifer owned half of four businesses. Their multiple cars, investment properties and large home seemed to say they were living “The American Dream.”

 


Spiritually, the Hands were dry bones in need of the breath of Life. “I grew up atheist,” explains Jeff. “I didn’t believe in God at all.”
“I would say that I believed there was a god, but I didn’t know if it was Buddah or Muhammad or Jesus. I thought Christianity was a cop out religion,” says Jennifer. “It seemed too easy to me.”

“We attended church, but I had no belief in the God of the Bible,” says Jeff. “I knew church taught good moral values, so I took my family.”
The economy was just beginning to tilt, and then it tumbled. The Hands lost everything they had built their lives on. “We financially hit rock bottom,” says Jennifer. “We lost our house, our cars, our property, pretty much everything.”

It was at this moment when Jeff and Jennifer began to realize there was something more to life than possessions and wondering if there was a God and who He was.

“I broke down in my room and said, “Lord if you’re real I need you to tell me something,” says Jeff. “I opened my Bible to Matthew where it says, “Do not worry.” Jeff explains in that moment he was learning to take off the yoke of worry and the stress of having so much stuff and just let it all go. Jeff was learning to surrender his life, plans and family to Jesus Christ.

“When you truly meet Christ, when you know Him, you realize He really is better and bigger than all of the things,” says Jennifer,“it’s freedom.”
Such a drastic change in their lifestyle caused the Hands to begin to look at people and situations differently. They began to spend time reading God’s word and realized following Jesus wasn’t as easy as Jennifer had been led to believe.

“It wasn’t until I really started reading the Bible and read the things Christ said, like ‘Pick up your cross and follow me,’ that I realized it’s not easy,” Jennifer explains. “Those words made it substantial for me.”

Jennifer and Jeff began to see Christ was truly their Lord and Savior. They were willing to follow him at all costs. Like the apostle Peter said to Jesus, “Lord where else would we go?” Jennifer and Jeff realized they too were at a place where they had nowhere else to turn but to Jesus.

Little did they know God was using their financial situation and new awakening to who He was to redirect their hearts and equip them to serve the people of Montgomery in a radical way.

A Family is Changed, A New Ministry is Born
Inner City Evangelism (ICE) started as a simple decision Jeff and a couple of guys made to go share the gospel in the housing communities in Montgomery. Jeff grew up in an under resourced neighborhood in Montgomery and knows the kind of hopelessness that environment can create in the hearts and minds of the people who call it home, so it made sense for him to go there.

“You see nothing but bad things all around you,” says Jeff. “Everyone you look up to lets you down. Drugs saturate into every aspect of life in these poor communities…I can relate because I was there.”

What began as this small group of guys going out to the housing projects has turned into a growing ministry with a leadership team and volunteers who put on monthly outreaches in four different housing communities on the West side of Montgomery. Each month, they go to a different housing community and spend the afternoon sharing the gospel and spending time with the kids in the communities. “We do a lesson for the children, share the gospel with the adults and just enjoy being with the people and learning about their lives,” says Jennifer.

As God began to grow the outreaches, he also began to do something else within ICE. Friday Night Church was the product of Jennifer and a couple of people getting together to pray for their family and friends who were lost. “It started out with just a few of us and has grown to where we had to move it to a room at Frazer Memorial UMC,” says Jennifer.

“If you would have told me five years ago that we would have a church and this ministry I would have said you were crazy. There are other things I would have rather done on a Friday night.” The Hands believe there is nothing better than a group of people coming together to worship God. Sometimes until two o’clock in the morning.

The “why” of this radical change in their life is simple.

“It all comes down to loving your neighbor as yourself,” says Jennifer. “That’s all Jesus really asks us to do.” To the Hands, this command from Jesus is not only lived out during their monthly outreaches and Friday nights, but in their practical day to day life as they utilize their gifts, talents and abilities for the Kingdom of God.

Over the past few years, the Hands, along with their two young daughters, Faith and Izzy, have settled into a new life, directed by God’s spirit and not driven by money or defined by what they have. One year ago, in partnership with Frazer UMC, they moved into the Village Green apartments to serve the people in this lower income apartment community.

“We are simply living life with these people,” says Jennifer. “We baby sit their kids, cook dinner with them, eat with them, and disciple them along the way.” Jennifer and Jeff believe the most important thing is loving people and telling them the good news about Jesus--the same news that rescued them from a life that from the outside seemed great, but that Jeff says was all about themselves.

Today, the Hands are beginning to transition their lives to the Washington Park neighborhood closer to the housing communities they serve. Jeff is using his construction background working with House to House (H2H), a partner of Common Ground Montgomery. H2H is seeking to develop the neighborhood through physical improvements to real estate as well as develop Christian families by providing better housing, educational training, family counseling, and employment opportunities.

“We are excited about the move and to see what else God has in store for ICE and the people we serve,” says Jennifer. “It’s an adventure for sure.”
“We want to change lives for the Kingdom. We believe that if anything happens, God has to do it,” says Jeff. We can do nothing in and of ourselves,” says Jeff. “I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that from a scriptural standpoint we went from death to life, from darkness to light.”

If you are interested in getting involved with Inner City Evangelism contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Visit their website at innercityevangelism.com to find out more information about how to get involved!

Rachel Fisher loves learning what God is doing in the world and writing about it. Rachel and her husband, Chase, are members of Strong Tower at Washington Park, a church plant of Common Ground Ministries. (Photography by William Frye.)

Last modified on Friday, 08 June 2012 23:09
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