Church bringing hope to Naked City in downtown Las Vegas

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Church bringing hope to Naked City in downtown Las Vegas

By Beth Fisher. CREATED Feb 7, 2014

Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- Every city has an area known for crime where people go to buy drugs and women. In Las Vegas, that part of town is called Naked City.

It's changing though in large part because of a tiny church and the local couple who started it.

Under the shadow of the Stratosphere Tower lies a part of town where many people find trouble. But now, it's where people are going to find God.

Casa De Luz may be the most unexpected addition downtown has ever seen.

For years, this is part of town has been known for the sounds of gunshots, but not anymore. The sound you'll hear now? The sound of people praising Jesus.

Four years ago, Casa De Luz opened its doors transforming this neighborhood. Community leaders took note and several months ago they paid to remodel Casa De Luz. The building was falling apart and mostly unusable.

Now, they use the indoor space to distribute more than 5,000 pounds of food a week. It's also where the children gather. But on Sunday mornings, the adults remain in the alley, worshiping outside.

Jaime Muneton said, "Some churches get wrapped up in buildings. Our church being held outdoors, we are literally where Christ was. Christ wasn't in a building. He was outside preaching. He wasn't here for the saved. He was here for the lost."

Pastor Chris Chapel and his wife Laura are from Las Vegas and started traveling to Mexico to pull women out of prostitution. Then they realized the same thing was happening here. So, they made Naked City their new mission, opening Casa De Luz.

"We have a huge variety of folks, and they all come from different backgrounds like you've described. They all deserve love, and that love has restored and changed their lives," said Laura.

So much so, crime in this neighborhood has plummeted. Though statistics vary, Las Vegas police's downtown area commander said violent crime has easily dropped 40-percent in the four years Casa De Luz has been open.

"That neighborhood is no longer what Naked City was. Not comparable. Open air drug markets. Prostitution rampant. Significant gang presence in Naked City."

Pastor Chris Chapel said change started to happen just six months after Casa De Luz opened its doors, "I look at it as a black eye on Christianity. Shame on people for not coming down here because they were too scared. The Bible says we weren't given a spirit of fear but power, love, and sound minds."

Church member Nicole Moore and her husband Daniel moved out of their suburban home in to the apartments next door to Casa De Luz last summer determined to make a difference, "In reality, people down here are amazing people. They're still human. They are still God's creation, and when you talk and hear their story you find they have an amazing story. Going through struggles just like someone in suburbia."

But the biggest change is still to come, in the lives of the children. About 80 of them show up on Sundays, the vast majority come alone.

"They come and spend their days here, church, come to be fed. To just have family around essentially. Somebody that was safe to spend time with," said Laura.

Now the children are starting to bring their parents, and the result has been incredible. Broken families are reuniting. Felons are finding jobs. A community has hope all because of one couple that refused to judge Naked City.

"I believe Jesus didn't do that and the way he operated is he hung out with people and got to know them. That's the way to do it. follow his example," said Pastor Chris.

Chris and Laura do freelance work to support their three children. They are not paid; no one at Casa De Luz earns a salary. The church has no money.

But they have plenty of help. People who were, according to them, once terrorizing the streets are now volunteering at the church every chance they get.

More proof, the Chapels say, that the change is real.

Beth Fisher

Beth Fisher

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Beth Fisher is an anchor for Good Morning Las Vegas and reports on the positive news in Las Vegas.