When You Believe: Renata + Beau
by Yolande Michelle
Have you ever prayed for miracles in your “planting season” or the season of life where your faith and finances were as tiny as a mustard seed?
Meet Renata and Beau Lee, the pastors of Hope Hill Church, a new church community in New York City. Renata is an entrepreneur, stay-at-home wife, mother, friend, sister and “Chief Helpmate” to her husband Beau. I interviewed them at their home, a beautiful apartment in a gorgeous high-rise building in the heart of Downtown Brooklyn. As I entered their home, I kept thinking to myself, how did a church-planting pastor and his wife end up here? What I soon learned is that their lives, relationships, and home, were all “miracles” from God.
They are both from the Midwest and they attended sister churches in neighboring communities near Madison, Wisconsin. When Renata met Beau, she never dreamed that he would become her husband. She had surrendered her desire for a marriage and future husband to God.
“Who we choose to become in our single season determines who God is going to match us up with,” says Renata. “I had a lot of baggage from my previous relationships – I am a prodigal – so God had a lot of healing to do in my life and in my heart. So I just embraced it and chose to dedicate my single season to doing the things of the Lord, serving in ministry and going on missions’ trips.”
Even more radically, Renata felt that God was asking her to fast not only from relationships but also from some of her superficial confidence boosters such as makeup and shapely clothes. She says, “He was breaking off some of my insecurities and I knew that I wanted the guy that I would marry to love me for who I was on the inside. Like, 1 Peter 3 says, what is beautiful is a gentle and quiet spirit and I really wanted my future husband to be in love with that part of me. So that when I am 50, 60, 70, and this shell of a body is not what it used to be, he is still in love with the real me.”
Beau was in a similar place in his life and didn’t want a relationship that wasn’t designed by God. He wasn’t even interested in Renata or anyone else at that stage in his life. Plus, she made it clear she wasn’t interested in anyone including him.
“She would only wear sweaters and never wore makeup,” says Beau. “She always wore glasses. She was trying to not come close to even attempting to attract any guys.”
So the two remained friends for two years and both served in their respective churches. When Beau decided to create a monthly large group meeting for the young adults in the neighboring churches, Renata was chosen as her church’s representative and the two started working together. Around that time, Renata started to develop feelings for Beau but she pushed them aside because she wanted to guard her heart. However, during her private time with God, she sensed God reveal to her that Beau would be her husband. She went to her parents and senior pastor to ask them to partner with her in prayer.
Then nature intervened in the form of the earthquake that devastated Haiti in 2010. Beau immediately started looking for a way to help and he connected with an organization that asked him to teach business development skills to those affected by the disaster. After being in Haiti for a few months, Beau knew he needed help. He sent an email to his friends, including Renata, to see if anyone was willing to work with him in Haiti. Renata replied that she was available to help with the recovery efforts.
“During this time, God was softening my heart toward Beau because I had put up some walls and guards around my heart,” she says. “I was serious about not getting into another relationship until it was His time. So God had to break down all those things in my heart and even then I had no idea how Beau felt. I spoke to my parents and pastor about going to Haiti and they all thought it was a good idea to go, even knowing that I would be alone with him in Haiti. I guess they knew something I didn’t.”
Unbeknown to Renata, God had spoken to her father a few months prior and confirmed that Beau would indeed be his daughter’s husband and he had begun to pray for the couple.
So off to Haiti, she went and Beau began to see her in a different light. She was still the same women on the outside but he began seeing a side of her that he hadn’t noticed before.
“Within a week of being alone with her and being able to just see who she was – her Godly character and the deep developed wisdom of an awesome woman of God – I knew she was the one because I had been looking for that for a long time,” says Beau. “She was someone who had that deep, rich, God-cultivated character and when I saw that I was like WOW!! I think that she is very beautiful but I don’t think that beauty alone is a quality that makes you want to marry someone.”
The two were in Haiti for a month and then went home for a short break. Once they were back in Wisconsin, Beau reached out to her senior pastor to request a meeting over coffee. It was there that Beau confessed that he was interested in Renata. Things moved quickly for the couple after that meeting since Renata had already met with him several months prior. They became engaged as soon as they returned from Haiti and were married four months later, all without ever dating. Then a few years later, they were off on another adventure, this time to plant a church in New York City.
The only way for Beau and Renata to start a church was to take a bi-vocational approach and so they settled on two business ventures. The first is a music studio where Beau teaches private and group guitar lessons to students in Manhattan and Downtown Brooklyn. The other is a tour company called Israel Bible Trips, which takes groups on annual tours to Israel. Renata does all of the administrative, marketing and customer service work for both businesses.
“We came to New York City about three and a half years ago to plant Hope Hill Church,” says Beau. “Compared to what church-planting organizations say you should come with; we came with a small percentage of that amount. It was just Renata and me when we came and it was the challenge of a lifetime.”
They remember a time when they didn't even have any money in the bank and they were struggling to believe God for their financial provision.
“Two Christmases ago, we had only $3 so we didn’t buy each other Christmas presents and since our anniversary is on January 1, we didn’t buy each other an anniversary gift either,” says Beau.
“We had each other,” says Renata.
“We asked a handful of people from two churches in the Midwest to give and month-after-month they gave,” says Beau. “Money for the church started pouring in from people we had never met and each month I was amazed at God’s provision. I kept thinking, ‘wow, I can’t believe you took care of us again.’ And while this was going on, the financial pressure from our own finances was incredibly intense so I just feel like I don't know how we could have stood if we had to worry about the church as well. Somehow God just brought in the funds.”
Today, the couple are not just living in New York but they are thriving. Hope Hill has grown into a vibrant church that meets weekly in Union Square. Beau and Renata were also selected for the housing lottery for a two-bedroom apartment in the heart of downtown Brooklyn, right after they found out that Renata was pregnant. Their daughter Ahava was born three weeks after they moved into their new apartment.
What I have learned over the years is that God never wastes anything in our lives,” says Renata. “He is teaching, developing, and sanctifying us as He leads us into his promises for our lives. The fire that came in the form of worry and financial pressures only came to purify our faith. We developed that rich, golden faith through those sanctifying years.”