• Will Spink
    Senior Pastor
  • Wyketa Shipman
    Executive Assistant
  • Ron Clegg
    Associate Pastor, Discipleship
  • Shannon Clark
    Administrative Assistant
  • James Parker
    Chief Musician
  • Peter Render
    Assistant Pastor, Youth/Families
  • Christine Betts
    Assistant Director, Youth/Families
  • Ty Commons
    Youth & Families Intern
  • Kim Delchamps
    Administrative Assistant
  • Derrick Harris
    Assistant Pastor, Shepherding & Young Families
  • Angela Sierk
    Director, Children's Ministry
  • Niña Banta Cash
    Director, Nursery
  • Robert Blevins
    Director, Community Development
  • Janice Crowson
    Director, Facilities/Finance
  • Daniel Brown
    Print & Digital Media Specialist
  • General Contact
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Transforming Lives & Restoring Communities: One Southwood Family’s Experience

At the end of 2011, we moved into Lincoln Village with grandiose ideas of bringing the Gospel to the other residents and being a witness of Christian living. We were completely clueless about community development and how to engage our neighbors, but we knew that the Lord had brought us to Lincoln Village for a purpose. We were quickly humbled by the Lord as we watched our finances plummet at least $20k a year for the first three years as Adam was going back to school and I was pregnant with our boys. Suddenly, instead choosing to live in Lincoln Village, we had no other choice. I struggled with our financial situation for a long time because I didn’t want people to look at us and think that we were “less than”; we would try to slip it into conversation that we lived there to help the ministry and we weren’t like our neighbors. But as we became friends with our neighbors, we realized we were wrong. Many people in our neighborhood already knew and loved Jesus and were serving Him faithfully but were struggling financially. We were able to experience the shame, fear, and anger that our neighbors had experienced. When we sought assistance through the food bank next to our house in Lincoln, Lisa was sexually harassed as she waited in line. We were denied assistance the Department of Human Resources because we hadn’t hit rock bottom yet. Those hardships began to change our point of view on racial and socioeconomic issues, but it was our relationships that really changed our hearts.

“Suddenly, instead of choosing to live in Lincoln Village, we had no other choice.”

April and Chad were our next-door neighbors and their daughter, Summer, loved to play with baby Silas. Small conversations grew to daily cups of coffee, dinners, and Alabama football games between our families as our children played. The issues of racial reconciliation, social injustice, and life’s hardships became regular topics of conversation and we felt free to ask difficult and uncomfortable questions., One example came through an organization called Save Our Sons (SOS) Huntsville, a ministry that April and another friend of ours, Toya, had started in 2014 that to address healthy, safe interactions between black youth and the police. SOS became a more frequent meeting of people, young and old, black, white, and Hispanic as the number of police shootings involving black men increased in 2016. We attended the meetings to support our friends, but also to gain knowledge. At the first several meetings, things were said that made us feel defensive and we didn’t agree with the idea that we were more privileged, but we decided that we were going to be quiet and just listen. The Holy Spirit began to break our hearts as precious image bearers of God shared of the ways they had been hurt and how they wanted their pain to matter to their white brothers and sisters in Christ. The heartbreak that Michael Brown, Philando Castile, or E.J. Bradford’s family and friends have endured hits much closer to home now as our perspective has changed because so many of our loved ones are black.

Another step came this past November, when we were able to attend the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) Conference. The sessions there affirmed many of our developing instincts about racial reconciliation while opening our eyes to new issues. The subject of lament was brought up several times and we never fully grasped its meaning until we entered into the pain minorities have experienced at the hands of those in power. We have seen how the world works and it is disturbing, infuriating, and utterly heartbreaking; we are far from Eden. Lament isn’t only a deep mourning, but a crying out to the Lord.

While we pray for God to move in our church and our city, we have felt led to start conversations to produce change. Adam has discovered that as a white man, he has access to people that our minority brothers and sisters don’t have, and I am able to interact with close to one hundred children, their families, and teachers in some of the most disadvantaged schools in Huntsville. We can’t change hearts, but we can lead by example.

Because we have these goals, some of our friends have asked us why we don’t attend a church that is more economically and socially diverse. We have explained that we don’t want to leave Southwood because we don’t believe in finding a church that serves our needs and comfort. We stay because we realize that while Southwood appears to be very wealthy, this is not the reality for all who attend here. We also want to see Kingdom diversity grow by encouraging others to recognize bias we may harbor and move beyond our comfort zones. We want to participate with the body of our church in uncomfortable conversations. We want to support others on the journey of racial and socioeconomic reconciliation and learn to engage our community in healthy ways that maintain and restore dignity to our brothers and sisters throughout Huntsville. We want Southwood to do the hard work of giving time and not just money to various ministries. Establish relationships with people who are different from you. Those relationships will stretch and maybe break you, but they will bring to life the beauty that is the body of Christ.

We should embrace the differences that God has established, whether in appearance, musical style, or culture. That is a way we can experience a piece of heaven on earth.  We understand that this article may make people uncomfortable or even angry. Please, come talk with us! Come over for dinner and let’s start the conversation. We love you and are praying for God to move among us.