by Jack Smith
Alex Robison knew she made the right choice to attend Highlands College in her first class.
Robison had been searching for her purpose. Suddenly, she found it.
Pastor Mark Pettus delivered a powerful message about God’s plan and purpose to each of the bright-eyed students on their first day. “I remember Pastor Mark was talking about our purpose and (that) God has a plan, and I started weeping,” Robison said. “This dream that was always in my heart was being affirmed by like-minded people that wanted to serve God. For the first time in my life, I could say, I was in the place where I knew God wanted me to be.”
It was a big moment for Robison, who felt lost trying to discover her purpose during her first year of college at a four-year university, where she changed her course of study multiple times and never really felt at home.
That changed when she took the step of faith in transferring to Highlands College.
It might never have happened had Robison not been applied earlier to an internship called 24/7, the program that became Highlands College.
She had heard about the program through her youth pastors who had had connections to a ministry in Birmingham, and they encouraged her to look into the internship at Church of the Highlands. After her initial interest, she went through the application process for 24/7. Though deciding instead to go to a four-year university, this would not be the last contact she had with the Highlands program and staff.
While away at college in Philadelphia, Robison stayed in contact with her friends from Highlands College. As she was unsure of her current course of study, she was encouraged to visit the Birmingham campus while she prayed about her future, but she had no way to make the trip.
And then what she calls “the miracle ticket” happened.
Her friend who worked at Highlands College knew of someone in a Church of the Highlands small group who had two expiring one-way plane tickets. This small group member donated them so Robison could visit the campus.
The rest is history.
“Even after my time at Highlands College, I wasn’t totally sure of working vocationally in a church, but what was certain after my weekend visit to Highlands College was, ‘Hey, God has a purpose for my life, He hasn’t forgotten about me, there’s something so much bigger that He wants me to be a part of.’ So, when I visited, I remember that I felt firm in that plan.”
Robison flourished at Highlands College, gravitating toward international ministry.
Close to graduation, she considered nursing school as a way to open the door to missions, but while attending an ARC conference, Pastor Mark Pettus approached her about working for the college as Student Life Coordinator. Organizing mission trips would be one part of the job.
Toward the end of her first year on the job, Robison had the opportunity to co-lead a mission trip to Nuremberg, Germany.
An interesting thing happened while she was across the Atlantic. She felt at home.
“I didn’t know why because I had never been to Germany before and didn’t speak the language, but as soon as I got to the city of Nuremberg, it just felt very familiar, so then after the trip, I was even more in love with my job in student life and helping students find their purpose at Highlands College.”
As much as she loved working with students, she also heard a call from God.
“When I came back, I remembered how that was always a dream for me - international ministry - and God was able to reveal to me through the trip that that dream was still there.”
Robison took time to process and talk to her pastors about her vision. A pastor at Highlands College was good friends with a church in Nuremberg and inquired about an opportunity to serve for the summer.
“I went there for that summer and served, and it was at the end of that summer that I knew God had called me there,” Robison said.
Robison is still serving at Ecclesia Church, which is part of a Pentecostal denomination in Germany. Ecclesia is part of the Grow church network, which has strong ties to the Church of the Highlands.
What she experiences every Sunday is a lot like a Church of the Highlands Service—only in German. Principles considered best practices for modern churches are being applied in a country that gave birth to the Protestant Reformation and the first printed Bible.
Despite its rich heritage, Robison wondered if the stereotype of Germans as not being open and approachable would be true.
“I had always heard that it was one of the hardest places to evangelize, and they were closed off in Germany,” she said. “But what I have learned about German people is that they don’t say something that they don’t mean. So maybe they aren’t the most overly social, friendly people with strangers, but for the most part they are very kind, very hospitable, very real and I think because of that, the Gospel is so relevant because the Gospel is so real. So, when it is communicated in a real way, an authentic way, people are very open to it.”
Since Germany has a state church, there is some skepticism of free churches like Ecclesia. Yet there is also a hunger for something more. “I think there’s a real hunger for authenticity and a real hunger for something real. And what we have seen is that authentic love, authentic hope, authentic conversation is something that people are very open to.”
In her current role, Robison has been launching a leadership program. She draws on her experience and education at Highlands College every day. “Basically, we are trying to implement everything Highlands taught me and apply it to our church in Germany.”
At Highlands College, the purpose is to develop leaders who can go out into the mission field while leading lives of eternal impact. For Robison, leading a life of eternal impact means a lot of things.
“It’s winning souls for heaven and building the kingdom of God. I think eternal impact is kingdom building, and it’s humbling to serve a God that calls us to create whether that’s creating a leadership school or creating an atmosphere where people can feel comfortable and experience the presence of God. But it means to follow His call wherever it leads me and help create something that’s lasting.”
Just as Highlands College helped her become a leader, Robison wants to send more leaders into the mission field, fulfilling the mission of the college.
“Through God’s help, I want to help raise up other leaders. Highlands College helped me because it helped me discover my purpose, so that is what I want to do with my life- share that message of hope from our God about our purpose and God’s plan for us. I want to do that for others.”