“If you want to know Jesus,” says Pastor Eric Likkel of Emmaus Road Church, “you have to go where He’s working.” “People need to have a sense of place in their community; you need to know people in your place in order to make a difference.” So the people at Emmaus Road head to the streets, public meetings, and local outreach centers in their Belltown community to serve and love their neighbors.
The Belltown district is one of the fastest growing neighborhoods in the Seattle area. Upscale condos and towers dominate the landscape. However, only 25% of residents own homes. The less visible population rents, has subsidized housing or lives on the streets. Connecting in this community is especially difficult because the neighborhood lacks any community centers or greenspace.
“People from the neighborhood started coming, from the Union Gospel Mission, people in recovery, people from the condo crowd…they loved to worship with us and felt like they could come and belong,” said Likkel.
But for Emmaus Road, it’s not just about “putting butts in seats” on Sunday. Neighborhood building is a long-term investment, says Likkel. Emmaus Road goes out in the community to get to know people, develop trusting relationships, and to let people know we care about them, not just getting them to come to a service. “It takes lots of phone calls, coffee and showing up.”
Emmaus Road is dedicated to being what Likkel calls “sparkplugs and glue” in the community. As “sparkplugs” they inspire people in the community to imagine how their community could be. The “glue” is putting people together with existing ministries where they can plug in. “God’s provided resources…people just don’t know it. If we could bridge the gap between the towers and the street it could transform the soul of the city.”
“A lot of people feel mixed emotions about homeless people pan-handling. They aren’t sure what to do. People are at a loss to know how to get involved in their own neighborhoods. We want to come alongside and help people become aware of the treasures in their own neighborhoods,” says Likkel.
Although it can be daunting to reach out, Likkel reminds us that as Christians, it’s not an option to show love and concern for our neighbor. He says we start by praying for our eyes to be open to the needs around us and to the ministries that are already in place. It takes courage to let God soften our hearts to reach out and care for those who may not share our values.
“Ministry is not about getting people to come see what we’re doing at church, it’s about getting out there. And then you get to see God better because you’re where He is. The purpose is for the church to meet Jesus,” says Likkel, “and when we feed each other, we feed Him.”