Paul Fernandes grew up in Belleville, Illinois, and never imagined he’d be planting a church there someday. It wasn’t until he was a young man, alone at a movie theater watching The Passion of Christ, that he began to think about faith.
That experience stayed with him, and after a brutal fight with a family member, he hit rock bottom. He was confused and hurt; longing for support and understanding. But amid his despair, the faith he’d been pondering became reality. Paul called out to God and believed the gospel for the first time. He was forever changed—and he vowed to dedicate his life to leading others to the God who rescued him.
Paul was a youth pastor for eight years and loved serving in that capacity. It allowed him to travel worldwide for missional work, which ignited an interest in global ministry. His life and job were great, and he was comfortable. But in that comfort, he grew restless, knowing there was something else on the horizon for his family’s ministry. He assumed that would mean moving overseas or to a larger city.
It’s not that Paul didn’t believe his hometown needed the gospel—of course, he did. He just wasn’t convinced that was a place for him and his family to plant a church. However, it was his older brother who poignantly told him, “Remember, Belleville needs help, too.” He began to see Belleville in a new light and realized the great number of people there, like his brother, who were hurting and in need of the gospel. Click To Tweet
Paul’s life was changed when his brother tragically passed away. He recalled, “It was really hard being in ministry and losing someone that you love.” Paul and his family were considering their next ministry move, and the sudden death of his brother affected him deeply. He began to see Belleville in a new light and realized the great number of people there, like his brother, who were hurting and in need of the gospel.
A Heart for the Community
Paul never forgot his brother’s words about Belleville, and it eventually led him to plant in his hometown. He connected with local Acts 29 pastors for guidance and started talking through what church planting in Belleville would look like. Shortly after, he and his wife began the assessment process.
His church was set to launch in 2020 but had to delay. This was difficult but proved worth it; they secured significant funding from Acts 29 and other donors, which laid a solid foundation for what would become Living Hope Church.We work together as a missional network to plant gospel-centered churches because we believe this is the most effective way to make disciples of Jesus. Click To Tweet
Living Hope Church is reaching Belleville for Christ. Whether it’s serving at a chili cook-off or organizing prayer walks, they’re visibly present in their community. Paul says they’re dedicated to seeing more churches planted in their city and around the world because people who are hurting need more places to call home.
This is how we change the world—one life at a time, one community at a time, as local churches proclaim the gospel. We work together as a missional network to plant gospel-centered churches because we believe this is the most effective way to make disciples of Jesus.