New Literacy Program Part of Buechel's Commitment to Diverse Community
Buechel United Methodist Church has a wonderful legacy of improving the lives of people in need in the Hikes Point/Buechel area of southeast Louisville. For 60 years, Buechel UMC has reached out to its community for the cause of Christ and His kingdom. However, the church’s neighborhood has experienced a massive transition since the church’s founding half a century ago. Over the past two decades, the area surrounding the church has witnessed an explosive growth in immigrant and refugee families from around the world. At Goldsmith Elementary, located within walking distance from the church’s front door, over 30 languages are spoken by the student body.
In response to the changing environment, the church’s leaders gathered last year to pray and ask the Holy Spirit for new opportunities to continue Buechel UMC’s rich tradition of caring for its neighbors. Soon after, the church was blessed with the opportunity to launch a weekly worship service in Spanish for Hispanic and Latino families, which are projected to reach 10% of the area’s population by 2020. Last fall, the church partnered with Centenary UMC (Lexington) to provide “I Am 3rd” Soccer to over 50 children in the neighborhood, including families from several different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. In October 2011, a group of volunteers from the church launched an after-school tutoring program that now reaches over 20 elementary and middle school children, including several children who speak English as a second language, from places as diverse as Liberia and Central America.
In January 2012, Buechel UMC partnered with the Jefferson County Public Schools to become a new host site of the Family Literacy Program, which offers free ESL (English as a Second Language) and GED classes to immigrant families in southeast Louisville. Free childcare is provided, so that parents may drop off their children while they attend class. On February 8, the Family Literacy Program celebrated its official opening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Dr. Donna Hargens, JCPS Superintendent, and Steve Imhoff, Jefferson County School Board chair, along with several local media outlets, came to Buechel UMC to tour the program and celebrate with the students. Rev. Rebecca Curry, Louisville District Superintendent and Assistant to the Bishop, opened the ceremony with greetings from Bishop Davis and the Kentucky Annual Conference.
Whether it’s Spanish-language worship, tutoring children, playing soccer, or hosting ESL and GED classes, Buechel UMC’s congregation is overjoyed at all of these new opportunities to be the hands and feet of Jesus to its neighbors. The church has seen its first growth in average worship attendance in many years, along with new life in its ministries with children and youth. Hallways that have long been empty are now filled with life throughout the week. Buechel UMC continues to seek the direction of the Holy Spirit in its task of making fully devoted disciples of Jesus Christ.