Restoring Abilene
When Jerry Strader commented to Jonathan Storment recently, “I wish you could have known Glenn Owen,” and although Glenn died several years before Jonathan moved to Abilene, Jonathan quickly replied, “I do know Glenn. I know him because the Highland Church has built on Glenn’s dream of taking the Good News of Jesus throughout the world. I know him because the current Highland elders continue to emulate Glenn’s life of prayer.” The past lives of Godly women and men in the Highland faith community provide us a strong foundation, a vibrant present, and an imaginative future. Christians like Glenn Owen, Bill Nash, and originators of Christian Homes of Abilene, Disabilities Resources, FaithWorks, Freedom Fellowship, and Grace Fellowship recognized significant needs and prayerfully encouraged all Highland Christians to use our spiritual gifts and resources in ministering to people in Abilene. Highland’s long legacy of kingdom living in this West Texas town provides us with groundwork on which to continue living the Gospel in the 21st Century.

In announcing our future vision this spring, Highland is once again prayerfully and courageously planning to participate in missional living. Recently the Highland staff and elders, working together, designed a vision for the Restoration of Highland, the Restoration of Abilene, and the Restoration of the World. As we prayed and discussed how God might use us in the Restoration of Abilene, many questions surfaced. What if we work together to eliminate homelessness (“houseless” is probably a better term) in Abilene? What if we partnered with the Abilene Independent School District in providing nurturance and encouragement for students? What if the Freedom and Grace Fellowships ministries were expanded in reaching out to families and children in their neighborhoods? What if we partnered with faith-based Abilene non-profits in addressing poverty and oppression in our city?

Those questions, and many more, helped shape our vision of the Restoration of Abilene. Specific plans will emerge as we move forward, but there are some principles, which serve as a compass in our restoring Abilene. First, we are committed to partnering with others in this region to address homelessness in our city. Our prayerful intent is to eliminate homelessness in Abilene. Research indicates that when homeless men and women acquire a place to live, many of the other challenges in their lives are systemically addressed. Using a “housing first model”, we desire that every homeless person in Abilene has a safe and adequate place to live.

Second, adopt an Abilene public school and work with the administration, faculty, staff, and parents in providing necessary resources. This is not a new idea. In past years our congregation has partnered with College Heights Elementary School, Ortiz Elementary School, and Alta Vista Elementary School. These partnerships allowed many in the Highland Church to minister regularly on the school campuses. We desire to join with the AISD to enrich the lives of elementary age children.

Third, we desire to further develop the Grace and Freedom campuses for after-school tutoring with computer labs and other educational technologies. For some years now both the Freedom and Grace Fellowships have ministered daily to friends in their neighborhoods. Future after-school programs will provide more opportunities to bless children and families, and many of us in the Highland Church will use our spiritual gifts in the spiritual formation of these children of God. Many other ministry possibilities will emerge as we live into our new vision. Highland leaders always encourage Christians to image new ways to serve in the name of Jesus, and we anticipate future dreams and creative ideas as we minister together in the Restoration of Abilene.

As we move into God’s preferred and promised future, there will be numerous opportunities for each of us. We can all be praying that God will continue his redemptive work in restoring Highland, Abilene, and the world. We can each seek to develop relationships with friends and neighbors throughout Abilene, especially those who are homeless, and with families living in the Freedom and Grace Fellowship neighborhoods. We can designate our personal and congregational resources to the Restoration of Abilene.

For more than eighty years Highland Christians have believed deeply in God’s restoration of Heaven and Earth. As we continue living out God’s vision in this city, we once again commit to joining God in the restoration of all things. We commit to being God’s people as together we live out the gospel in this place and at this time. We pray for God’s leading as we join together in the Restoration of Abilene.