Mission meets in couple’s home, practices serving others and promoting common good
— Most folks invariably have become members of families other than those into which they were born or have created.
A work family who shares office space may also go to the same gym, but chances are they may not attend the same house of worship or have children attending the same school.
Lots of factors lead to this lack of fusion: different religious beliefs, affordability, convenience, transportation … and of course, choice.
But imagine dwelling in a community that does not segregate but instead provides a sense of connection among your church, family, workplace and friendships.
“We asked ourselves, ‘What would it look like to position the entirety of our lives?’”says Jeremy Lile. “We didn’t want to compartmentalize. ‘I work there, come home here, go to church there … In other words, we want to share life together.”
A visionary leader, Lile is the founder of City Hope, which he and his wife of 10 years, Christy, founded in 2013 after meeting with other families in 2012 to share their vision.
The couple initially talked about doing missionary work overseas but decided to stay close to their Akron home “to love the people here with God’s love and express our faith in tangible ways,” Lile recalls.
City Hope’s tagline, its mission really, “Stewarding all of life for the life of the world.”
“For us this [mission] is applicable to all belief systems, across multiple understandings, world views and perspectives on life,” Lile says. “This sense of stewardship is an understanding that we are all made in God’s image, that we’ve all been given gifts, talents and passions. And these qualities are not just arbitrary or circumstantial.”
It’s those qualities that City Hope strives to further — on a more macro level.
“How do I bless and love my neighbor and other people with these qualities, or make my city a better place?” Lile asks. “Instead of ‘How can I get more stuff?’ Ask, ‘How do I turn these things out for the blessings of others?’”
An ordained Anglican priest, Lile was born in Akron and received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Taylor University in Indiana and a master’s of divinity from Ashland Theological Seminary.
He met his wife Christy in a college ministry, where they worked with Akron’s inner-city children.
Christy is the Hope Communities Coordinator for City Hope who also works as a professional photographer and “does phenomenal work,” Lile says.
Lile is paid a salary as Hope’s visionary director and also works in Akron Public Schools as a substitute teacher.
Belong as you believe
City Hope has a core group of about 30 people and continues to grow. Its model is more non-traditional than other organizations, such as it does not measure membership or tithing.
On the second and fourth Sunday of the month from 10:30 a.m. to noon at the Lile’s West Akron home, folks are invited for worship and Bible study, as well as sharing a meal and communion.
“Belong as you believe,” Lile encourages. “You don’t have to have the same beliefs as us. We want to say, ‘Hey, first of all you belong here in a relationship; we’re on equal footing as fellow human beings.’”
One of the remarkable aspects about City Hope, Lile adds, is that it comprises people with a diverse breadth of world views and religious beliefs.
Lile says though he’s an Anglican, which “influences the flavor of who we [City Hope] are, we like to say we’re multi-denominational.”
He concedes that with the Christian belief system at times there is a kind of an “escapist mentality.”
Lile illustrates, citing that an individual may have been “saved” but may have forgotten about the “big bad world.”
“It’s not just what you have been saved from, but what do you have a sense that you’re saved for?” he asks. “There’s something in you, an original design that says, ‘You have meaning, purpose and value.’ So how do we release, encourage and support that?”
Since the start, the Lile home and the homes of other believers have been a gathering place for City Hope.
These homes will continue to be meeting places but will become a sort of annex to a permanent space, which “Christy sees as kind of an extension of our living room, kitchen and backyard,” says Lile.
Lile hopes the building at 933 W. Exchange St., purchased in December, will be renovated by summer.
Funding for City Hope comes from private donors and the Copley-based St. Luke’s Ministries, where Lile was formerly its pastor of local and global mission.
Communities of Hope
A principal way City Hope helps its followers “discover how to become image bearing stewards of their vocation for the life of the world” is through its Communities of Hope.
During the first three Tuesdays of the month at Lile’s home, the group meets informally over dessert and coffee or a meal to worship and examine vocational stewardship.
“Probably my favorite aspect of City Hope is the cross-section of so many different socio-economic, race and ages … from all walks of life, really, and to see these people coming together …,” Lile says enthusiastically.
On the last Tuesday of the month, folks are encouraged to create their own way to serve others.
That service includes City Hope’s Partners for Common Good, when it aligns itself with others to promote the greater good.
Case Elementary School is one such recipient with whom City Hope has partnered. The Food Backpack Program ensures students will have food for the weekend by giving them food items on Friday to take home. There’s also a Mentoring/Tutoring and Christmas Gift giving component to the partnership.
On the final Friday of each month from 5:30 to 7 p.m., City Hope assists The Landing at ACRC (Akron Christian Reformed Church) on Marshall Avenue to provide guests with a meal and to shop its food pantry.
The Liles have two biological children, an 8-year-old daughter, Maeva, and Levi, their 6-year-old son. Twelve-year-old Rebka, and her sister, Lidiya, age 6, were adopted by the Liles from Ethiopia.
“Through our feeling a sense of calling to adopt two girls from Ethiopia, we wanted to know what more we could do to help orphans and widows in that country so that hopefully there wouldn’t be as great a need for adoption,” says Lile. “While we were in the country as part of the adoption process, we met the couple who runs Resurrection Orphans and Widow Service (ROWS) and One Changed Life (sister organization of ROWS). We made quick friends with them and loved their vision for working with orphans and widows. And so, we have done as much as we can to encourage people to support their work…especially through child sponsorship.”
Other Communities of Hope include Brothers, Brews and Bible and Women, Wine & Worship.
“It sounds like these are about drinking, not at all,” Lile offers with a laugh. “We’re hanging out, talking about life, God, the community and relationships, maybe we’ll work on a project, build a bonfire.”
Lile says he and Christy feel like they are beginning to live their dream.
“A year ago we looked at each other and said, ‘We’re not talking someday anymore, we’re talking about today, what we get to live, and that’s a remarkable thing.”
Lile pauses … “We’ve put an emphasis on relationships first. We’re not going to do something for you that we can do with you, you know? We don’t just identify needs in the community but work on them together.”