goulds_web.jpgGOULDS — Bishop Simeon Downs set out to Goulds in 1984, intending to start a Christian ministry in the community to mentor and help local families.  Oddly, as Downs walked through the poverty-plagued community in search of the right place to build his church, local residents advised him against coming to town.

“They told me I couldn’t start anything in Goulds,” Downs says. “They told me this place was cursed and the people are wicked. But I said I wanted the wicked people, to change them around.”

He didn’t take their advice and instead founded the Triumphant Church of God of Prophecy Southwest 112 Avenue and Southwest 216 Street. Now, 30 years later, Downs is completing a $1million project to enlarge the church using only money from congregants’ weekly offerings. “I’m not doing this for myself,” Downs says. “I’m doing it for the people. I want to bless the people of God.”

The project began in 2008, when the 90 church members or so agreed to save money from the weekly offerings to expand their ministry.

The first church was paid off. Downs, retired from a career at a construction research lab, lives on Social Security and the occasional offering from the church. That meant they could save almost every penny that didn’t go to pay utilities at the existing church.

They began building three years later. The new church is expected to be complete sometime next year and Downs anticipates it will be debt free.

When the new church is complete, it will seat 400 people and will include two floors of offices, counseling rooms, a library, banquet hall and a daycare center, 5,000 square feet in all.

Downs envisions the church will be a place where young people in the community can go to receive mentoring and guidance with relationships, school and work.

“We want to teach the young people how to dress properly and how they must behave and show respect to a boss,” Downs says. He also hopes that the counseling rooms will be used to mentor families in Goulds.

The library was made to create a space for kids to do homework and the daycare, he hopes, will create jobs for church and community members who need them.

Over the years, Downs and a few church members have made it a habit to walk through the neighborhoods in Goulds and knock on the doors of local residents. When they answer the door, they offer mentoring and guidance on things such as finding a job and looking for a better place to live with better conditions.

“I feel like some people here have a bad outlook on their lives because they feel like they have nothing to look forward to,” says Bishop Simeon Kemp, 68, who regularly accompanies Downs when he goes door-knocking. “This new church has given a lot of them something to look forward to.”

Contact Ismeraly Torres at itorr020@fiu.edu