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Highland Freedom Fellowship Church Invites Community To Recent Saturday Covered Dish Dinner, Worship, and Testimonies; Ministry Director Joe Almanza Accepted Jesus in Prison

By Frances Gonzalez-Boyd



Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is Freedom, and where there is Fellowship there is a community of people with a purpose to serve God. Ever since Freedom Fellowship opened it doors on Chestnut St. in Abilene, TX. to the local neighborhood, it soon emerged into a church family and began to meet every Wednesday night. Highland Church of Christ Ministry Director Joe Almanza and his assistant volunteers at Freedom often plan a covered dish dinner with fellowship including praise and worship on Saturday nights.{{more}} An invitation from all the leaders: Almanza, Terry St. Pierre, Bruce Campbell, Darrell Mauldin, and Gary Tucker, is always given to the community as new people are welcomed all the time. Recently, the fellowship invited the public on a Saturday to join the congregation. Sometimes there is bible study, speakers, and even leaders like Almanza who continues to share his testimony. “I found Jesus in a trash can. I told my homeboys, “That’s enough. I am not bringing any more dope in. I want Jesus.” One day I went back to my cell. Man! I felt so separated so excluded without God in my life. I said, “I am going to kill my self and when I am reincarnated, I want to come back like a white person because they have all the good Daddies’, and all of a sudden, when I was down to nothing, some amazing thing happened. I started hearing a little voice, “Jesus loves me, yes, I know”, and then I remembered Freddy Garcia from the Barrio. I wondered if God could help me, and then I said, “If you are real God, than are you going to show me? I can’t believe in something I can’t see. That night I was in a Maximum Security Prison where they send people that are never going to change.” Shares Almanza “In retrospect, the next morning, after I said that prayer, I was being transferred to another prison. I did not know I could preach. I got up there and started to preach. I had a Conjunto . I met a Christian brother, Pablino Bernal. He had a song, “Te Vengo Ha Dicer. Que Yo Te Amo a Ti. Con El Corazon.” . It hit me right there. That is when I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior. Jesus pulled me out of the sand. You need to hear that Jesus loves you so much that he gave his life for you. God never lets go. I know that he hears and God is with you. We need to remember that in the midst of storms, in midst of pain; God is ready to grab us out of the pit.” Almanza said. Fellowship leader, Terry St. Pierre, has given his heart to serving the Lord and helping meet the needs of those at Freedom. “In 2003, I went to Brazil on a mission trip. It kind of builds a fire in me to seek God, and serve the Lord. I needed something to fill that void. It started when they were asking people to walk the neighborhood. We met and prayed for the longest time. People started coming in. We started experiencing God. The core group that started was about six of us.” He said.Terry St. Pierre with Children Jordan and Reanne Photo by Frances Gonzalez BoydSt. Pierre’s testimony is one of a blessing. He took over ownership of The Muffler Shop on Treadway St. after having worked as an employee. His wife Karen, who was his high school sweetheart, is his receptionist. St. Pierre’s first car was a “67 Camaro which he used to race on North 1st on what they used to call “The Drag” with other teenagers, and also at a race track. Although, he did not mention anything about getting traffic tickets, these days he is fixing customers cars for a living.Worship leader Michael Gilliland who plays the keyboard plays beautiful songs with the band and one is called, “Never Let Go”….. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death. Your perfect love is casting out fear. Oh no…I’ll never let go….never let go of you, Jesus.” “This is not intermission. It is fixing to be even better. I hope you feel you have found safety tonight. Paul Mathis, our previous speaker is here again. Paul came from New Jersey with his wife, and two children. They want to pray with their Dad tonight,” said Fellowship Leader Gary Tucker. “Just to see my children growing up sometimes is a blessing. I want to speak about hope. My hope is built on nothing less than righteousness. Christ is the rock from which we stand.” Mathis said. “Do we always believe those words? Am I honest with myself? There have been times in my life when I have wanted to give up.’Mathis teaches the Celebrate Recovery class, a Christian support group for individuals that meet after service at Highland Church of Christ that are dealing with hurts, habits, and hang-ups and are healing from addictions towards recovery.“There was a time when in Rochester at Hope Lutheran Church when we started attending. Hope changes everything. When we got there, I did not feel much hope. Positive things started happening. What is the use? Is that true? Is hope really that powerful? To him be glory and church!” Mathis said.Mathis used Voice Project video that retold some of the New Testament, and a songwriter for the Artist, Psalm 137 cries out in his song lyrics how after everything it was hard to go forward. The video showed different scenarios of children and people struggling. “We are in the midst of the storm. Tell God how big your storm is. Lord, we feel like Job who curses his children. Some of us are ready to give up, so why do we even have hope? My hope lies in…boy, in girl, in lives of all of those ordinary people to help other people rebuild their lives, to him be glory to Christ Jesus, in a manger, on the cross where the man is hanging where he gave his life for us, not in anything in the world, but the relentless in this world, his oath, his covenant.” Mathis said. Freedom Fellowship is serving its purpose by touching the lonely and saving the lost. It is a place where those that are invited are not just there for a season, but are celebrating their new relationship with God, and the coming of Jesus Christ. It is an invitation to a permanent place without tribulations and strives of the world. There is hope for all who seek, knock and enter.

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