When Aimee and I left Baton Rouge, LA for Memphis, TN on April 1, 2012 we were little more than a month away from meeting our baby girl Iley Harper who on the 4th of May introduced us to parenthood for the first time. We were staying at my in-laws then, so we actually became parents in Memphis before we became residents. Memphis was quite an unfamiliar place to become such unfamiliar people. Six months after Iley came along, we moved into our first home together as a family, but not before discovering Highpoint Church.
When Iley was born, I was working at a large format sign company. One day a work order landed on my desk to print a massive billboard banner that was nothing more than a black and white photo of what looked like favelas – those clusters of substandard apartments in the slum towns of Brazil. Across the picture was a graphic with the words “Love Works”. This spoke to me about the mission, the community, and the heart of Highpoint Church. It intrigued me. I saw in that one banner a community that could imagine some of the most desperate places of human depravity, and still see the hope and love of Christ – That unexpected LOVE that works where all expectations of love have failed. Aimee and I had just talked about looking for churches anyway, and I thought why not let this be our first stop. It would be our last. On my first Sunday visit, I texted Aimee who stayed back with our newborn “we are home”. Highpoint describes themselves as a “perfect place, for imperfect people”. In our time there, I came to know the truth at either end of that statement, that indeed Highpoint Church was and remains for me and my family, a perfect place. 😉
In our three years in Memphis, we barely had time to become true Memphians. We weren’t even good tourists. My Drivers License still says “Louisiana”. I didn’t get pulled over much, thankfully. 🙂 I never had time to become a Grizzlies fan. (Geaux Pelicans!), I never visited Graceland, The Stax Museum, The Loraine Motel, and I never spent more than a day or two in the downtown or midtown parts of the city. The only Memphis we knew was Highpoint Church, but for a time it was all the Memphis we needed. We witnessed life change on a weekly basis at Highpoint, and we saw our lives changing as well. Our children (we have two now, Iley & Ezra) benefited from one of the finest kids ministry programs I’ve ever witnessed. The commitment and determination in the work of the staff and volunteers in the Highpoint Kids family is just awesome! I will never forget Krystal Durfee and all the beautiful people who greeted us at our kids classes every Sunday.
I also got to enjoy being a volunteer on the praise team at Highpoint under the leadership of Josh Maze. Josh is true leader and dear friend, and I am very thankful to him for investing in me and for all the leaders on the creative team at Highpoint! (Love you Tyler, Joe, Carolyn, Andrew, David, Wes, Chad, Candace, Laramie, Joel, Bill, Byron and the whole lot of ya! You guys ROCK!)
What I know I will miss most about Highpoint Church is the teaching of our pastors, and the testimonial ministry of baptism, or “Going Public”. Andy Savage and Chris Conlee are firmly committed to teaching the Word of God and introducing the lost to the God of the Word. The compassion, honesty, and sincerity of their teaching is something that you just know comes out of a deep almost burdensome longing to preach Truth. The responsibility they carry for the staff and partners of the church is palpable and man do they ever deliver on their commitment. With integrity, transparency, honor, humility, and excellence every leader on staff at Highpoint, though ever so short of perfect, is certainly of the highest possible quality. I am grateful to them all.
In these last few years I have been blessed to have several men of faith from Highpoint come alongside me to encourage, instruct, and pray with me through difficult times. I cant thank any of them enough for their kindness to me and the benefits of their counsel. Not the least of these men of faith was our pastor Chris Conlee who from the moment that I met him never ceased to remind me of the divine potential within me, and that I should never settle for less than God’s best. Under Pastor Conlee’s teaching in April of 2013 I began what has been a journey of overcoming self hatred and the influence of decietful voices. I am even now still learning to live a life of victory in resistance to the lies of the enemy. After years of looting and plunder, I didn’t believe there was much left in me for the enemy to steal or destroy. I’ll never forget the restoration that began in me over those few weeks. I still listen to those sermons at hpmemphis.com often, and I’d encourage anyone feeling the opressive weight of past failures, loss, bitterness, demoralizing shame, or lonliness to listen to this sermon series. Click here.
One of the single greatest acts of kindness anyone has shown me was when Pastor Chris took me before the congregation and pointed everyone toward a crowd-funding campaign that would fulfill a dream to record only my second record in over ten years. I couldn’t believe, and still can’t believe the outpouring of love and support from the partners at Highpoint to help eclipse my campaign goal substantially. I was speechless. I was honored. I was loved.
I love you Highpoint Church, and I will miss you dearly.
…That album is finished by they way! Well, at least in principle. There’s still a great deal of post-production work to be done. I completed work on it a few weeks ago in Baton Rouge, LA (look for a new blog entry soon). Not long after our last Sunday and the announcment of our departure, I came down to Louisiana to make good on the commitment to get this record made! I can’t wait to make a trip back to Memphis to share it with everyone!
Aimee, Iley, Ezra, and I are now embarking on a new journey with a new faith family in Wilmington, NC. We leave the birthplace of our children and the only Memphis we know, Highpoint Church, to bring the only Love that we know to as many people as we can. As you remember us, Please pray for us, for Reach Community Church and for the people of Leland and Wilmington, NC.
We thank you, we love you, and will miss you! Our prayers are with you and the city of Memphis always.
“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance on you and give you peace”
– Team Zachary