I grew up in Abilene. I lived here the first 23 years of my life except for 18 months in Sacramento, California when I was around 4. I don’t remember much about Sacramento; I do remember Abilene. Many of these memories involve the 900 block of Fannin, just down the street from Abilene High. My world was the block, Cobb Park, State Street from Fannin to Valley View Elementary, and Woodlawn Church of Christ, which was a whole 2 blocks west up 10th Street. In my mind, I was a ruler and protector of all things in this area of town. I knew all the cool places to discover life [i.e. Horny Toads, Crawdads, other children, moms who were welcoming and had food!]. I knew all the places that had Smarties, Tootsie Rolls, candy cigarettes, Twinkies, and other vital vittles. We played from early till late, rarely wore shoes, and even more rarely, told the whole truth about what we’d been up to. It was a wonderful time and place to be a kid! We had a wonderful community that both indulged us [RIP Winnie Cagle and Carol Wilson] and intrigued us—what goes on in that house? That church? That school? That drainage pipe? That neighborhood?
After moving away for thirty-some years, I returned to Abilene in July of 2017 to become the Executive Director of Connecting Caring Communities. This job is a great adventure, but the idyllic Abilene of my youth is now buried in the previous century. It is still a great place to live, but now I see more clearly. Now I can see that there are many here who are not really connected to others in the community. We do need more connecting, caring, and community! And the best way to help that happen is to work collaboratively across all the sectors of Abilene: Business, Government, Education, Healthcare, Arts and Media, Church, Nonprofits, Neighborhoods, etc.
This past Tuesday, April 2nd, I attended a one-day conference put on by the Texas Christian Community Development Network. It was called, “Community Transformed: Creating Change Through Collaboration,” and was hosted by Hardin-Simmons University in the chapel at Logsdon Seminary. Around 80 or so people from Abilene and other West Texas locales, gathered to learn about various ways we can collaborate in our efforts to transform our community. Here are a few of the things I heard:
It’s not about housing; it’s about home.
If worrying about theft, make sure that it’s food that is stolen, not dignity.
Practice a lifestyle of honesty; teach a lifestyle of honesty.
The Old Testament book of Nehemiah is an illustration of taking a collective impact approach to a significant problem.
Hunger, housing, health and home are all vital to all people.
The St. Ann’s renovation into a housing first apartment community is actually going to happen, and hopefully this year! [It is a project being coordinated by CitySquare in Dallas in partnership with Highland Church of Christ.]
Collaboration is inherent any time we are working to answer this prayer: “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven.”
Our speakers were:
Darrel Auvenshine and Demetra Stevenson from True Faith Community and Southside City Church in Fort Worth.
Larry James from CitySquare in Dallas.
Scott Sheppard from 6 Stones in Euless.
They all did a great job! And as I often say: “We’re better together!”
NOTE: I recently began serving on the Board of Directors of TxCCDN, representing West Texas. It is a great organization of people, ministries and nonprofits that are serving people and developing community all across the state. Our annual statewide conference [“No Need Among You”] this year will be in San Antonio, September 11-13 [txccdn.net/event/nnay].