This weekend, January 21-22, 2011, the Strengthening the Black Church for the 21st Century (SBC21) annual training event will seek to empower local churches for growth focusing on the Conference priority of “missions.”
This article features one of the churches participating in the SBC21 event that has been involved in missions for more than twenty years.
Restoration Mission, under the leadership of Rev. Al and Sister Pashion Lewis, has served the Arlington West –End Community in Birmingham for the past twenty-two years. With the motto of "One Heart, One House at A Time" the congregation has developed multiple ministries including The Imani New Life Recovery Program, Inc.; Dream Garden, Inc. (Children & Youth After School and Summer Program); and The Bread of Life Food Ministry (Families served with Groceries weekly).
Rev. Lewis explains, “Twenty-two years ago our community was plagued with violence, crime, prostitution and drug abuse. Today, we give glory to God for the transformation of our community due to the efforts of our neighborhood association, police and churches praying and working together to enhance the lives of residents here.”
Restoration Mission has helped to secure four houses in the same block as the church. One house is owned by the pastor and wife who embrace the concept that it is important to reside in the community in which one serves. Another home was purchased by the Imani Alumni and is now owned by a family of the church. The church parsonage is being renovated into a duplex -- one part will be rented to a church family and the other will be used for the Recovery Program.
Brother Willie Moore is an alumnus of the Imani Recovery Program. Once a homeless alcoholic, he is now faithful in his commitment to Christ and is respected in the community. For fifteen years he has served as the church’s custodian, residing in the parsonage in exchange for his services. However, in 2010 Restoration Mission was able to secure a house that is now occupied by Brother Moore and his wife of one year, Sister Brenda Moore. Brother Moore has come from homelessness to homeowner as he and his wife are renting to purchase at a very minimal fee per month.
Mr. Moore says, "God used this church to save my life from alcohol and my soul from hell! I was homeless and a drunk but my life was changed when I came here. I became the cook for the recovery program and custodian for the church and they gave me a place to stay; now I have my own home, my family back and a new way of living."
“It is our concept that the more church residents we have in our community, the greater the possibility to impact our neighbors for Christ!” Lewis adds.
Another Imani Alumnus Brother Charles Moultrie has served as a volunteer counselor leading four classes each week for five years and has received his certification.
Rev. Al Lewis notes “Restoration Mission is involved in this ministry because it has always been our concept of being called by Christ to make disciples. Making disciples means growing disciples. It means meeting people where they are and sharing the love of Christ believing that the gospel has the power to impact every aspect of one’s life. Therefore we must not only ‘preach’ but we must ‘reach’ and reaching sometimes means risking. Thousands have come and gone but testimonies such as the following give us the encouragement to continue on.”
In reflecting on what Restoration Mission did for her life, Sister Katrina Thomas says, "Restoration Mission changed my life for it is where I gave my life to Christ. I was an addict for many years but have been free from drugs for three years. I love Jesus and I love my pastor and his wife and my church family!"
Charlie Moultrie adds, "Restoration Mission gave me something to believe in and with that, strength that I could be something different. With the guidance of Pastor Al Lewis and Brother Trevor Patterson (Our Clinical Director) I’m giving back by getting my certification and sharing my stories with others. I will always give God all praise, glory and honor for this change in my live"
Over the last twenty-two years the ministry of Restoration Mission has shaped the lives of many including Deanedra Donald. She explains, “My family were members of Restoration Mission (then New Community Church) when I was born. I am now a sophomore at U. A. B., on the Presidential Scholars List and will begin Nursing School next semester. I grew up in the children and youth program, which is now Dream Garden. Sister Pashion is like a grandmother to me (that’s what I call her). I thank God for Restoration Mission, for it has given me the foundation to build upon. It helped to make me who I am today."
Rev. Lewis concludes, “We at Restoration Mission are thankful to God for the support of the United Methodist Church in our efforts to reach our community ‘One Heart, One Home’ at a time.”