Muche and Diamone Ukegbu
Born and raised in Houston, Texas, Muche Ukegbu grew up not believing in God or having a godly influence in his life. “I was raised around a lot of brokenness,” Muche shares, “and I was in the ‘Bible belt’ feeling like God either didn’t exist or didn’t care about me.”
But when Muche was 15 years old, a youth pastor invited him to a Southern Baptist church, where he heard the gospel for the first time. “I’d known in my conscience that something was off about life and myself, but I’d never known it was called sin and that Jesus was the solution,” he says. Muche surrendered his life to Christ. Throughout high school and college, Muche’s heart for discipleship grew, and in 2009, he and his wife Diamone moved to Atlanta to serve at a church plant, but they both knew Atlanta wasn’t their final destination. “We always knew God was calling us to church plant. It was never a question of if, but when,” Muche says.
In 2013, the Ukegbus felt the time had come to invest, impact and influence a new city. “We didn’t know where God wanted us, so we looked for a place with tremendous spiritual and social need,” he says. “Miami just kept coming up.” God confirmed Miami for both Muche and Diamone by breaking their hearts for the city. “There’s such distortion of the gospel and racial division here,” Muche explains. “So we wanted to be a more healthy representation of the gospel in Miami.”
Miami is one of the richest cities in the United States, yet a fifth of the city is below the poverty line. “When people think of Miami, they think of South Beach, but when you walk around the whole city, it feels like a third-world country,” Muche says. “That economic disparity produces other problems in people, like pride and corruption.”
In Miami, strip clubs drastically outnumber churches. “The brokenness of the city lies open on the surface. It’s humbling, by God’s grace, to model holiness in a clearly unholy culture,” Muche shares. He laments the lack of qualified leaders in Miami to point people in the right direction and disciple them in the faith. “We really feel like the lostness of Miami is due to lack of churches and lack of quality leaders,” he explains. “The list of healthy, sound, gospel churches in Miami is very short.”
The Ukegbus moved to Miami in August 2014. People from all over the country moved with them to help start their church, named The Brook. In January 2015, they began preview services, and on Easter Sunday 2015, they officially launched with 170 people in attendance. "Sixty percent of our church is African-American, with 30 percent of that including Haitians and Jamaicans. Another 20 percent are Latino, 10 percent are Caucasian and about 10 percent other," says Muche of the diverse congregation. "People often talk about diversity, but at The Brook we feel like it shows not just on Sundays, but in the way people share life and minister together.”
The Brook has four city groups and is in the process of launching more. City groups enable members to grow together and impact the city regionally through relevant outreach projects, and the community is responding positively. “We want to deal with issues like injustice and disparity by reaching people through culture that reflects Jesus and His kingdom, so we do things like beach ministries, concerts and art drives," says Muche. "We have a heart for the arts, and we’ve partnered with another church and downtown organizations to hold art camps for kids." About 150 kids come to the art camps to be mentored and taught about art and Jesus. In the community, The Brook’s goal is for their members to live on mission by developing relationships with people, which ultimately build bridges leading to the gospel. As Muche says, “Every Christian is either a missionary or an imposter.”
He shares the story of a Miami woman who was prayed for, cared for and engaged with the gospel for over a year. “It was so cool to see the slow fade of her hardness of heart, of God grabbing her heart to the point that she wanted to come to know Jesus and follow Him on her own. Now she’s one of our most faithful members. She was baptized in the ocean. She wants to be a missionary overseas, and now her mother wants to be baptized.”
One of the greatest aids to The Brook has been the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering®. Muche says, “It’s very difficult to start new things in Miami because of the cost of living. The fact that people have given and allowed our church to get off the ground is a testament to other people's faith. People outside our church have given, and that's created opportunities for people to hear the gospel and be saved. I don’t feel like we can show enough gratitude."
Muche, Diamone and The Brook are praying for God to raise up seasoned leaders to help carry the shepherding load. Muche says, “Here in Miami, God is making people alive who were dead and also growing people who had life but were stagnant and unhealthy. We need an influx of leaders who can step in immediately and shoulder the weight.”
Planting a new church is a noble assignment, but it is not necessarily an easy one. That’s what Justin Pearson and his wife discovered when they answered the call and planted the Sojourn in 2012. Learn about the struggles Justin and his family went through to spread God's love and discover why they would go through it all again. More