On the near east side of Indianapolis, just west of Brookside Park, sits First Free Methodist Church, a small, but beautiful building that has served the neighborhood as long as it has stood. Across the street from this church is a building that many years ago served as the neighborhood grocery store. The store was forced to close in the early 1990s, and the house sat in a state of disrepair for several years. After a time, people heard that the house had a potential buyer. It was thought that perhaps someone could move in and clean it up, or even open up a new business. However, they soon learned the sad truth: the Outlaws, one of America’s oldest renegade motorcycle gangs, was looking to purchase a new clubhouse for their Indianapolis chapter, and their sights were set on this building. This gang has notoriously been involved in all sorts of criminal activity for much of its existence, truly living up to its name.
So when Don Meyer, then the pastor of First Free Methodist Church, heard who his new neighbors would be, he knew that something must be done. After collecting as much money as the church could, they outbid the Outlaws, forcing them to find a new home in Indianapolis. Pastor Meyer’s fears were vindicated later in 2012 when federal investigators conducted numerous coordinated raids in Indianapolis, arresting every member of the Outlaws in the city, and charging them with using violence to collect on debts, insurance fraud schemes, illegal gambling, and trafficking numerous illicit drugs including cocaine and prescription painkillers. And so, through the work of the church’s congregation, this criminal menace was kept out of the neighborhood.
It took many years before the church was able to start working on the building, but they eventually received a small grant to fix the outside. As they were finishing up these renovations, the congregation reached a crossroads. The neighborhood had slowly been deteriorating, and the church with it, and soon enough, they were unable to hold onto the property. They decided to sell it in 1997 to a board of directors in the Indianapolis area, made up mostly of Free Methodist pastors and influential members. Though they wished to establish a ministry for the neighborhood in the building, they lacked the funding and resources to do so for many years, causing many to doubt that their goal could ever be realized. But the president and founder of the board, Chuck Ellis, would not let go of their dream. When many others maintained that there was no point to what they were doing and that the best option was just to sell, he refused to give up on it. Finally, ten years later in 2007, the board was able to develop the building into a non-profit and create a mission statement and by-laws, officially establishing LYN (Love Your Neighbor) House. Soon, they received a $7,000 donation from the Wabash Conference, a collection of Free Methodist Churches throughout the Midwest. This revitalized the struggling ministry and prompted the board to hire its first employee in 2009. That employee was Heidi Lyda.