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Restoration Vision Helps Eternal Threads Rescue Women from Sexual Slavery
Highland leaders presented Eternal Threads with $10,000 in funding from Highland’s Called Campaign on April 21 as one of the initiatives of Highland’s vision to restore Highland, Abilene and the world.

Eternal Threads, an Abilene-based non-profit that helps women in impoverished countries earn a sustainable income by buying their handmade products, also provides vocational training in tailoring and cosmetology in Afghanistan and Nepal. The gift from the Highland Called Campaign will be used to help support the work that Eternal Threads does in Nepal to rescue girls from sex-trafficking by funding two anti-trafficking border stations and a safe house.

“We are so very grateful for this gift from the members of the Highland church,” said Linda Egle, founder of Eternal Threads. “Knowing that you are partnering with us in this work is such an encouragement, and the lives we will restore are precious in the kingdom.”

Ramesh Sapkota, Eternal Threads partner in Nepal, was also at Highland as the check was presented and spoke at a fundraising dinner that weekend.

At one of the Nepal border stations, more than 200 girls are interviewed by the staff each month, and as many as 10-15 are rescued. After being identified and taken out of the trafficking situation, the girls return to their home village or to a safe house where they receive counseling and vocation training, Egle said. After six months to a year in the safe house, they are able to open their own tailoring business in their home villages.

Based on requests from women in Afghanistan, Eternal Threads is also looking to expand opportunities in that country, providing additional tailoring courses and training for beauticians, as well as scholarships for the children of the women in the courses to attend school.
Auditorium Renovations Take Place Over Next Year
IMG_1_ssPlans to renovate the Highland auditorium are underway, with a projected completion date of August 2014. Elders and senior leadership have assembled an Auditorium Renovation Team, which includes Highland members with expertise in fields related to the project, with meetings to begin this month, said executive minister Ben Siburt.

The team is tasked with considering traffic flow, variety of usage, comfort, experience, aesthetics and current audio-video technology as it decides how to replace seating, carpet, paint, among other changes.

The process will be as transparent as possible, Siburt said.

“Our hope is that as soon as we can, for example, pick new chairs, there will be pictures of the new chairs on the wall,” he said.

The Called Campaign leadership team waited until the project could be funded without incurring debt before agreeing to move forward, Siburt said. The projected budget for the renovation is about $600,000.

Since the beginning of the Called Campaign, Highland has paid roughly half of the $972,000 remaining from previous capital projects; the debt now stands at $481,329.96. The church could choose to pay the balance by the end of this year or extend payments through the next two years.

“We didn’t feel like we could go into more debt while we’re trying to pay off debt,” Siburt said. “We’ll be paying as we go.”

Although the auditorium at first blush seems internally focused, Highland leaders see it as a way for the physical worship space to project a more welcoming atmosphere for visitors from the surrounding community, said elder Roland Orr.

The projected schedule for the auditorium renovation is as follows, with dates remaining subject to change:

June-November 2013: Planning and pricing
December 2013: Final plan approval
January-March 2014: Permitting and preparation
April-July 2014: Renovation
August 2014: Renovation completion
Restoration Vision Implementation
prayer picMore than two years after Highland’s elders, ministers and other members began the process of discerning a new vision for the church, that vision is in various stages of implementation, now led by a nine-member team. A Restoration Movement: A Ten Year Vision of the Highland Church of Christ was presented in 2012 and called for all members of the Highland church to partner with God in 15 initiatives to restore Highland, Abilene and the world. Highland members in November gave or pledged $3.42 million over the next three years as part of the Called Campaign, and in January, the elders approved an implementation plan that included the appointment of a leadership team. Vision Implementation Leadership Team members are Ben Siburt (chairman), Royce Curtis, Jennifer Green, Jim Litton, Roland Orr, Alan Porter, Diane Rose, Gus White and David Wray. Some of the initiatives included in the Called Campaign have already received their funds for the first year, and others will be distributed as campaign commitments are fulfilled. “Because most of the commitments are three-year pledges, implementing the funding of various initiatives has to be managed relative to cash inflow,” Orr said. “Managing the cash inflow and outflow is one of the responsibilities of the Vision Implementation Leadership Team.”
Jonathan talks with Gabe Lyons
Jonathan sat down with Gabe Lyons, author of Unchristian and The Next Christians, to talk about restoration, the early church and why the idea of restoration is vital to reaching the next generation of Christians. Gabe's books are available on amazon or in your local bookstore.