Hope Rescued Establishes Spirit-Filled Church in Inner-City Louisville
Alex Kennedy, 28, and wife, Destiny, 24, moved to Louisville, Kentucky, from Phoenix, Arizona, two years ago to minister in homeless encampments and blighted neighborhoods. Their efforts to distribute food and other items to local residents led to the unexpected birth of a church which now draws 80 to 100 people to weekly services.
“Planting a church wasn’t on my to-do list [but] people were seeking spiritual and physical food,” says Kennedy, who describes himself as “the nerdiest AG inner-city missionary you’ll find.”
He has earned five college degrees — three from Southwestern Assembly of God University — including a doctorate.
The Kennedys were serving with Bridge the Gap ministry in Phoenix when they felt stirred to plant a work in another American city. They began to pray, and Kennedy did as he usually does and dove into data, examining homicide rates, gun violence rates, overdoses per capita, total homeless population numbers, human trafficking numbers, and more for America’s major metropolitan areas.
“I’m a thinker, not a feeler,” he says. “I want to analyze it.”
Though neither he nor Destiny had ever been to Kentucky or discussed Louisville, the city showed up on both of their short lists. They flew in for a visit, began driving around the city, and “we felt the presence of the Holy Spirit in the car,” Kennedy says. “We got off the freeway and drove into a homeless camp, never having been in the city. We saw the gas stations with bulletproof glass and said, ‘This is where we want to be.’”
With their two young children, they moved to Louisville in 2022 and started Hope Rescued to serve and evangelize street people, offering recovery solutions through organizations like Adult & Teen Challenge. Their initial reception was chilly — until one day in February when fresh snow fell and the temperatures dropped into single digits, but Hope Rescued teams were still out feeding people.
“That was our breakthrough day,” Kennedy says. “People were so stunned that anybody cared enough to show up in 7-degree weather.”
Support came through newfound relationships with area churches and the Kentucky AG ministry network. Some sent volunteers; others gave rooms to store donated food for give-aways. Bridge the Gap in Phoenix donated a van.
“The incredible AG network here in Kentucky greeted us with open arms and said, ‘We’re behind you. We’ve been praying for an inner-city ministry,’” Kennedy says.
Very quickly, the couples' work grew beyond what they had expected. Spirit-filled churches seemed scarce in the immediate area, so Kennedy started a Tuesday night Bible study which began drawing 60 people, many of them new believers. Soon, Alex and Destiny were baptizing people in a horse trough in the back of a pickup truck, even in freezing weather.
As their ministry began to look like a church, Kennedy decided to call owners of abandoned buildings in the neighborhood in search of a bigger place to meet. He asked the owners of an old, defunct Baptist church to donate their building to Hope Rescued, and they did — plus the remaining $50,000 in their bank account.
The brick building had been stripped of copper and other valuables and was illegally occupied by squatters, who had filled it with trash. Hope Rescued volunteers renovated it entirely, adding a kitchen for cooking group meals, plus a room for kids’ ministry, and a space to relocate the clothing closet from the Kennedys’ own living room.
That was last summer.
Since then, their main services on Tuesday evenings have been “packed out,” Kennedy says, and their “midweek” Sunday morning services, though begun more recent, already draw around 50. The church has baptized more than 40 people, this time in the sanctuary’s built-in — and heated — baptismal tank. The congregation is almost entirely made up of local people who weren’t attending church before.
One of them is Simone O’Neal, 56, who started walking to the church from her nearby home last September.
“It’s been amazing for me,” says the motherly figure who until recently worked in the child care industry. “When I met Alex and them, they made me feel at home. They taught me about the Bible.”
The accessibility of the people and the teaching won her over.
“When Alex preaches, it’s like he’s teaching you,” O’Neal says. “Most preachers are screaming and hollering and you don’t get a good understanding of what they’re saying. If I didn’t understand something in the sermon, I can go to Alex and he’ll tell me. We’ll sit down and have a talk about what he preached today. That’s what drew me to him. I like the way he preached and I like how they made me feel at home.”
O’Neal helps manage Hope Rescued’s clothes closet, giving blankets, toothpaste, toilet paper, and other commonly-needed items to people who request them. She was pleased to receive a new Bible from her mother for Christmas.
“I feel a change in myself,” she says. “I didn’t have [any] beliefs; none at all. I never had a belief until I got into Bible study and started listening to Alex and [other Hope Rescued ministers] preach. Now I’m a believer.”
In 2023 alone, Hope Rescued gave away 18,000 bags of food, and since its inception has helped 135 people get off the streets and into recovery. It has also helped 24 women escape trafficking situations. A team knocks on every door within a mile radius of the new building every two months, offering prayer, food, and practical help. More than 40 people ride the church van every week.
“We are a fully Pentecostal AG church with numerous Spirit baptisms, discipleship classes, a Christ-centered recovery meeting, and with a youth group that meets every week,” Kennedy says. “It’s not uncommon during our worship time and altar time that people leave bags of drugs there, never to use them again.
Already in the plans is a second church campus, as soon as they can find another place to meet. All this for a group who were told by some that an inner-city church like theirs “could not survive — it was financially an impossibility and you’d never see growth,” Kennedy remembers.
“I’m absolutely stunned in a human, practical sense [by what has happened], but spiritually I’m like, this is what we do. It’s God moving and changing people’s lives and setting people free,” he says.