Innovative Houston ministry to receive ACU's Christian
For Immediate Release
Feb. 15, 2000
Abilene Christian University will present one of its
highest honors, the Christian Service Award, to Houston's
Impact Church of Christ Monday, Feb. 21, at a noon luncheon
in the Teague Special Events Center.
The award recognizes the efforts of the church to
evangelize and restore spirit to a downtown Houston
neighborhood facing multiple hurdles.
Impact church co-founders Charlie Middlebrook, Ron
Sellers and Doug Williams have a unique perspective on their
work. They say they didn't set out to organize an
inner-city ministry when they began their careers. And in a
way, that's made their job a bit easier.
"None of us planned to be where we are," says Middlebrook
(ACU class of 1968). "We don't have to worry about the
expectations. We can just let God be God."
Middlebrook, Sellers (ACU class of 1969), Williams (ACU
class of 1964) and a group of others joined together in 1986
to create Impact Houston Church of Christ, a near-downtown
congregation serving some of Houston's poorest residents.
Paul Woodward, Leslie Rose and others have since joined the
effort that has borne remarkable fruit responding to the
debilitating power of poverty - financial and spiritual - in
ACU presents the award to the Impact Church of Christ to
recognize its service, leadership and commitment to Christ.
Among honorees will be the church's ministers and
organizers, including Charlie and Molly Middlebrook, Ron and
Linda Sellers, Doug and Bethel Williams, Leslie and Yvonne
Rose, Paul and Susan Woodward, Steve and Lynette Austin and
Alejandro and Lynda Arango.
Over the past 13 years, the Impact church has built a
thriving congregation from scratch within the inner city.
With growing support from area congregations and fellow
Christians in Houston, the church has wrestled with the
unique problems plaguing Houston's poorest neighborhoods.
The goal - to return the body of Christ to an area blighted
by "white flight" and afflicted by substance abuse,
illegitimate births, brutal violence and racial discord.
Impact targets the need of young and old. It has
developed a vibrant children's ministry, regularly working
with 400-500 kids by offering summer reading programs and an
eight-week vacation Bible school. Three years ago, Impact
spun off the Small Steps Learning Center, a nonprofit
daycare program for low-income families.
Community outreach and involvement has consistently been
a cornerstone of the Impact model. The church stocks a
warehouse of clothing and food. It offers free Sunday lunch
to all comers - no questions asked. And over the past 13
years, groups working with Impact have painted 250
Three years ago, Paul Woodward helped create the Impact
Youth Development Center, geared toward teaching basic life
skills to teen-agers at risk of remaining in the cycle of
violence and cultural despair. And minister Doug Williams
leads a twice-weekly Bible study for the homeless, which the
Impact group calls "outdoorsmen."
"It has gone way beyond anything we envisioned," Williams
says. "We just wanted to start a little ministry down here
and it kind of got away from us. There's something going on
here every day of the week."
From the beginning, Impact's mission has been unity
across economic, social, political and racial lines.
"It has always been a multi-ethnic, multi-class church
with an emphasis on the poor," Middlebrook says. Half the
church is Hispanic, another quarter is black. A year ago,
the church appointed its first elders, which include
Middlebrook, Sellers, Williams, Doug Brown and Dimas
Velasquez, an El Salvadoran immigrant.
Organizers say they still face the challenge of trying to
deal with poor without resorting to soundbite answers and
"We came in here with an amazing ignorance about what the
needs were in the inner city," Middlebrook says. "It's just
amazing how little we know about urban poverty."
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- Last update: Feb. 15, 2000
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