I walked with Dennis Noble through the Five Points neighborhood of Denver. He and his wife, Shelley, started ministering in the area shortly after he graduated from Denver Seminary in 1972. As their first ministry to the community, the Nobles started a Christian, summer day camp. That same summer, Dennis was appointed as a missionary with Missions Door. After three summers of day camps and three years of raising support, Dennis and Shelley started the Church of the Risen Lord. Today their ministry is simply and exhaustively living life with a variety of inner city people in and around the Five Points area: sharing meals, homes, time, and the love of Christ with their neighbors. The Nobles’ heart is to give urban, problem-plagued, and dearly loved people a chance to know Christ through the church.
As Dennis and I continued through Denver’s only “historic, cultural” neighborhood, he pointed at the old, brick homes and recounted stories of families that had lived there. These stories were not separate from the Nobles; they were also a part of their story. For example, after several hardships, one family allowed their son to move in with the Nobles from middle school all the way through college. While that is an exceptional example, the Nobles’ lives are intertwined with this community in much more subtle ways as well. Dennis often walks the blocks around his home to chat with his neighbors, but admits he runs into many of them at the Safeway supermarket. He asks about their lives, their families and their stories.
When the Nobles moved to the neighborhood, they bought two houses side-by-side. One was to be their home and the other, their church. That “church building” is now used as a sort-of halfway house for members of their church or others in the community who need transitional housing. Dennis shared that a man, a friend of his, who had been previously incarcerated, is currently living there. Forty-one years later, the Nobles still live in the same house, but the church has moved… all the way across the street.
Upon entering the church, smiling faces of church members greeted us on two large corkboards filled with photos. Dennis gestured at each one and shared who they were. “This is Latoya. She is learning to drive right now. Look how photogenic she is…” Then, “This is José. He lives just down the street from us. We invited him to church when he was younger, but he left for awhile and then came back…” and so on.
In their home, I sat across the table from Dennis and Shelley as they shared countless stories of friends and neighbors who had entered, and sometimes exited, their lives. Some were success stories and others ended sadly. They worried over a young teen who would appear in criminal court the next day, but they beamed about a single mother who often serves in their church and also helped Shelley immensely through her recent back issues.
The Nobles recognize that each of these people have a story that is deeper than the face value of their situation. They understand that the circumstances people are in, the trials they face, or even the mistakes they make do not make them broken. It is simply a part of their story. Dennis knows this reality personally.
When Dennis was born, his biological father abandoned him and his mother. His mother tried to raise him but could not take care of him on her own. They moved in with other family members, but Dennis was soon “adopted” by relatives. In his short life to that point, Dennis experienced life being abandoned by a parent, with a single-parent, and in an adopted family. He reminisced about growing up this way, with different families, and attending church with a neighbor before accepting Christ as his personal Savior and heavenly Father. His circumstance, the beginning to his story, gave Dennis an understanding of what some might call a “broken” family or life; however, the Nobles do not use the word “broken”.
Through his early experiences, Dennis gained the ability to communicate with compassion and respect to others in similar circumstances. He knows that they, their families, and their homes are not “broken”. Instead, he is understanding of their story, a story that needs a Savior. The Nobles and their church seek to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ in the Five Points neighborhood. From working with single-parents and pro-life organizations to the homeless population and people in trouble with the law, from children to the elderly and all those in between, the Nobles want to introduce the hero, the protagonist, Jesus, into the story of their community—not a broken community, just one waiting on a Savior.