Day: October 1, 2017


TaylorFieldHSUChapel (1)
Taylor Field, pastor and director of Graffiti Church in New York City, speaks to Hardin-Simmons University students Sept. 26. Photo by Loretta Fulton

By Loretta Fulton

The advice Taylor Field heard from a chapel speaker once while he was in college was so powerful, Field shared it with other students in a similar chapel service more than 40 years later.

“Find the thing that makes your heart sing,” was the advice Field heard as a student in the 1970s at Wake Forest University.  He shared it in a chapel service with Hardin-Simmons University students while on a trip to Dallas and Abilene to visit with partner churches, including Pioneer Drive Baptist Church.

For Field, that thing that makes his heart sing is serving as pastor and director of Graffiti Church on the lower east side of New York City. Once in the middle of a drug-infested, deteriorating neighborhood, Graffiti Church has transformed the area and the people it has been serving for more than 30 years.


Dallas Broekhuizen, a junior from Georgetown, visits with Taylor Field at Hardin-Simmons University Sept. 26. Broekhuizen interned with at Field’s Graffiti Church in New York City after his freshman year at HSU. Photo by Loretta Fulton

Field spoke during the morning chapel service Sept. 26 and again that evening as a guest of Baptist Student Ministries. After the evening talk in Logsdon Chapel, Field visited with students and answered questions from those who are interested in volunteering at the ministry.

Whether they are able to intern at Field’s church or not, they certainly were inspired for service. In the morning chapel service, Field talked about the destructive power of envy. He told a story of two shopkeepers who despised and envied each other.

In the story, God tells one that he will give him anything he wants, but with a warning.

“Whatever you want, I’m going to give twice as much to your neighbor.”

The man’s response was astonishing because it shows just how destructive envy can be.

“Make me blind in one eye,” the shopkeeper said, understanding that the request would result in the other man’s total blindness. That is the blinding power of envy.

“Who should we envy and why?” Field asked. “Our envy of others devours us most of all.”

At the evening service, Field talked about Graffiti Church, where he has served since 1986. Today, there are five Graffiti Churches in the city. The church serves by following five principles, Field said.

  1. Meet the need first
  2. Serve the unserved
  3. See the unseen
  4. Remember that “small is big”

“We never bring God to anyone,” Field reminded. “God’s already there.”

In the morning chapel service, Field urged the students to listen to the voice of God within them, calling them to do what makes their heart sing. If that thing is service, even in an unknown place like the Manhattan’s lower east side, it’s worth responding to that voice.

“A ship is safe in the harbor,” Field reminded, “but that is not what a ship is made for.”






WHAT: David Phelps, an award-winning singer, will present a benefit concert for Abilene Hope Haven
WHEN: 7 p.m. Nov. 18
WHERE: Abilene Convention Center, 1100 N. Sixth St.
TICKETS: $25, $35, and $75 (VIP, includes hors d’oeuvres  and an opportunity to meet Phelps;

By Loretta Fulton

Three months into his new job as executive director of Abilene Hope Haven, John Cooper had the rug pulled out from under him.

A federal grant that provided 70 percent of the funding for the nonprofit that provides shelter and a path to security for the homeless. Cooper and members of the board of directors got on their knees and prayed for guidance.

“We just believed God wasn’t done with Hope Haven,” Cooper said at the Sept. 27 meeting of the Abilene Association of Congregations.


John Cooper

He had reason to believe. When Cooper was 15, he experienced homelessness himself, staying for a short while in a shelter. When he turned 16, his grandparents  took him in and provided a stable home. They took him to church for the first time in his life.

He understands the plight of people living at Hope Haven.

“It was only by the grace of God that I was able to escape some of those circumstances myself,” he said.

A benefit concert for Hope Haven will be held Nov. 18 at the Abilene Convention Center, featuring vocal artist David Phelps. Tickets range from $25 to $75 and may be purchased online at

Those top-end tickets include hors d’oeuvres and the opportunity to meet Phelps. Only 100 of those tickets are available, and they are popular.

“Those are going faster than the others,” Cooper said.

Proceeds will help pay for all the services provided by Abilene Hope Haven. The agency operates a 21-bed temporary housing unit on Treadaway Boulevard called Bridge 2 Home and an assistance program called Hope Housing Services.

HHS provides housing identification, financial assistance, and case management, with tailored supportive services to individuals and families experiencing homelessness.

The Bridge 2 Home shelter has undergone a radical change since Cooper arrived, not only in physical appearance but also in atmosphere with an emphasis on “radical hospitality.”

From his own background, Cooper knows how important atmosphere can be in a shelter. So, it’s not just a rhetorical question when he asks, “How would I want to be treated?”

The shelter has new light-colored paint with wall decorations and literal “welcome” mats. Dr. Stephen Baldridge, director of the social work program and an assistant professor of social work at Abilene Christian University, and his family live in the shelter.

Having the director living in the shelter with his family has changed the dynamic of Bridge 2 Home, Cooper said, and sent a message:

“You are our brothers and our sister,” he said, “that’s really how we’re trying to treat them.”

Cooper included a pleas in his talk. He noted that donations from churches accounts for only a small percentage of giving. Only one Bible class donates consistently.

“We’re trying to grow that awareness,” he said.