Celebrating 25 years of service to the MidTown neighborhood is no small achievement. ZION Development started strong and has grown constantly stronger. After only eight years, ZION won the prestigious Excelsior Award for outstanding community service. All of us now stand on the shoulders of our visionary founding board and early staff members who stepped out in faith in 1982—a period of a deep economic recession—to form a workshop that employed 25 neighborhood residents. Those were heady days when the board and staff must have felt like the Israelites in the wilderness following the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night, trusting God and continuing to walk forward.
ZION Development still follows those pillars of cloud and fire. With amazing frequency, God surprises us with opportunity and strengthens us through difficulty. When an adult bookstore plagued the people of MidTown, the building’s owner called Pastor Denver Bitner, ZION’s founder, offering to sell the building to drive the business out. When contractor bids came in too high as we were building 12 new townhomes for people with lower incomes, we despaired. Then a local banker introduced us to the Federal Home Loan Bank programs, and theproject was resurrected. When we struggled with financing and programming for our total renovation of Longwood Plaza, along came a $3 million grant enabling us to create the worldclass Walter D. Williams Wellness Center.
When business partnerships failed, we were left holding the bag for thousands of dollars. But we learned valuable lessons and God opened new doors in miraculous ways. When I worried about finances, God never failed us, and we never missed a payroll or a loan payment.
ZION Development has a great board and a great staff. We all work hard and bring wonderful talents to this work, which is entirely spiritual, yet fully worldly. It is the Gospel in deed. And, thankfully, with all our hard work and gifts, we trust that we are also led by God’s spirit—often in surprising ways—to love God and our neighbors every day. What a thrill!