I joined Church of the Reconciler in the early Spring of 2009. Dr. Lawton Higgs had spoken at the UAB School of Nursing the previous year and I was a student in the class of Community Health Nursing. He spoke about the church and about the health disparities of people living on the streets and the “working poor”. I worked weekends and attended school and clinicals during the week but when I graduated I visited the Church of the Reconciler. I had never heard any preacher in my life preach about social justice and what Jesus had to say about empire versus the Kingdom of God until I heard Dr. Kevin Higgs preach. I was moved by his sermon and his love for the people. I saw people who are homeless giving what money they had in the church offering basket when they had not had a meal or a bath or a safe place to sleep, and yet they gave what they had. I saw a man with schizophrenia, his face and hands dirty from living on the streets for years, walk up to take communion, the body and blood of Christ Jesus, with his bag of aluminum cans he had collected in tow. I saw all these people, the least of these, being treated with dignity and respect and these “least of these” people were participating in community and being a part of something so much bigger than we are. I fell in love with the church and the people immediately, I was home.
I started serving in the health center with Mary Wade, CRNP, and Travestine, RN. The health center is where I get to know the names and faces and stories of the wonderful people who worship at the Reconciler while I hand out cough drops and Motrin. People trust us and come to us for help. Just last Sunday the sweetest man came to us with tears streaming down his face and he said he had had enough of alcohol and what it had done to his life. He wanted help to get in an inpatient rehab facility to turn his life around and be free from alcohol addiction. Mary Wade filled out the form and we all held hands and prayed the power of the living Jesus over this man’s life. Julie, one of our sweetest members, started using drugs when she was just 10 years old. Thanks to God and the people at the Reconciler she has been clean from drugs and alcohol for two years. A lady came in seeking a soft, safe place to be heard and helped; she too is suffering with addiction. Julie ministered to this lady that came in the health center and she told her that God and the people at COR helped her when she couldn’t help herself and now she is helping others who are in bondage of drugs and alcohol. Every time I worship and work at the Reconciler I see the evidence of lives changed by the healing power of Christ Jesus through his blessed servants. I see this evidence of healing in my own life and I too am changed and renewed. I’ve been working in the clinic with these wonderful women of God ever since.
When Kevin and Lawton were taken away from the church it was devastating to me. I had learned so much from them true but they were also my friends. We prayed together about our lives and families, careers and friends. We ate together and laughed and cried together and, my most favorite of all, we discussed the word of God together. I miss their compassion for people, their wisdom, and their zeal for the kingdom of God. Wednesday night Bible study was as unique as Sunday morning worship and the study of God’s word lead by Kevin was powerful. Neither I nor any members of COR have been allowed to even talk to any of the Higgs family because they were told if they spoke to us Dr. Kevin Higgs would lose his credentials. Bishop Willimon and DS Ron Shultz have bullied this church for over a year by threatening our friends and taking away our rights to govern our church. I thank God for Kevin and Lawton Higgs for being living examples of the love of Christ Jesus.
I have noticed during this difficult time it is tempting for people to come to Reconciler and think they are going to “fix” us, that our church is somehow broken and in need of “fixing”. The many lies that have been told about our church, its members, and our beloved former pastors have taken a devastating toll on the fragile lives of the homeless community and on our finances. COR survives day to day on the monetary and food gifts from people willing to help and the lies that have been told about us has caused people to stop giving. Please come and visit us and find out the truth for yourself. Please help us keep this wonderful ministry alive
Love in Christ Jesus
Mary Ann Martin – RN