My name is Rob Strickland. It is my honor to serve as Pastor of Highland Community Church, in Columbus, GA. In fact, this October will mark my 13th year as pastor of Highland. My wife, Carrie, and I have been married for 13 years. We have three sons: Noah, Luke and Jude.
I graduated from Columbus State University with a degree in Special Education and Carrie graduated from Auburn University with a degree in Exercise Science. After graduating from college Carrie served as part of the Campus Crusade team which was positioned to do inner-city ministry within south Chicago. We dated during our latter college years and into that first year post graduation. During that time, we both were aware of the Lord’s command upon our lives to share the gospel with and disciple the poor, but little did we know exactly what the Lord had in store for our lives. In October of 2004, we married. From the start, His plan began to unfold in a glorious way. We are just honored to be part, even in the painful parts.
At the start of our marriage we knew that we were being compelled by the Lord to serve the poor, though we were really unsure as to exactly how the Lord would flesh out that calling. Through a series of painful events orchestrated by the Lord, Carrie and I came to realize that the Lord fully intended for us to serve the poor in our hometown of Columbus, Georgia. Specifically, the Lord was prodding us to move into a neighborhood called, North Highland. Going into this decision we were already involved in a struggling church in this neighborhood. The name of the church was Highland Community Church. As you can see, this was not a glamorous start for a newly married couple. North Highland is considered one of the poorest cities in the United States. The vast majority of the people here have been impoverished for generations.
So needless to say, we could not understand why God would ask us to move move into this neighborhood and commit our lives to what seemed to be a dying church and a dying community. However, reluctantly, we obeyed and in October of 2005 we moved into the neighborhood. All we knew to do at the time was to tell people about Jesus, disciple those who might submit to His Lordship, and serve our neighbors through the ministries of Highland Community Church, thereby giving our lives to them. That may sound “spiritual” but to be honest, the first year of living in the community was an absolute disaster. My wife had given birth to our first son, Noah, and she was overcome with depression and fear as a result of living in North Highland. Throughout that year we considered moving out of the neighborhood many times, but the Lord continued to remind us of Philippians 2 which states (I’m paraphrasing), “Christ became a servant and submitted Himself to death, even death on a cross…”. The Lord continued to remind us that before we had anything worth offering to the people living in North Highland that He first had to put everything to death in us that was not of Him. So that first year was a very painful year as the Lord put to death our desires and our dreams for our family, so that He could bring about His desires for our family. Little did we know all the amazing things God had in store for our family and the North Highland Community!
In 2009, in an effort to be more intentional about loving our neighbor, Truth Spring was born.
1. Housing: In essence, the housing initiative serves to provide low-income families the opportunity to own a quality, affordable home in North Highland while agreeing to uphold and carry out the mission of Truth Spring. Homes are renovated using skilled labor from right here in North Highland.
2. Education: Truth Spring understands that families in a neighborhood like North Highland desperately need their lives to be realigned with God’s purposes – to know Him and walk with Him. They also realized it was very hard to do this when you only see the families and the children for 2-3 hours a week on Sunday. So, in an effort to bring about generational change they sought to start a private, Christian school designed for children in North Highland. It is called Truth Spring Academy. After years of prayer, ingesting counsel and fundraising, Truth Spring Academy opened its doors on August 10th, 2015. Truth Spring Academy exists to align these students with their God-given destinies by providing a quality education that focuses on: rigorous academics, character development based on God’s word, and servant leadership traits.
Fast forward 13 years and it’s hard to even put into words all that God has done. Highland Community Church and Truth Spring are both thriving and we are seeing more and more people from within the community come to know and love Jesus Christ. They are learning how to love the Lord with all their heart, soul, and mind and how to love and serve their neighbor. We have seen people, through the power of the Gospel, overcome drug addiction, alcoholism, homelessness, depression and so much more.
My wife likes to summarize the last 13 years this way, “At first we cried over the thought of having to live and be a part of the North Highland community. Now we cry out of humility and joy regarding the opportunity God has given us to be a part of what He is doing in the North Highland community.”
We have truly seen and experienced the favor of the Lord resting upon our community over the last 13 years and we are excited to see what He has in store for the next 13 years. We invite you to join us in this amazing journey and to allow God to write you into the story of His redemption and redevelopment of the North Highland community.
– Rob and Carrie Strickland