Friday, November 15, 2019

Belonging

Guest Blog: Diana Aranda-Curtis

I was born in 1958 with Cerebral Palsy, due to a complication during birth. My first memory of learning that I was disabled came to me during a doctor visit at the age of seven. My life changed. The doctor told my mother about a school for children with disabilities. They decided that it would be better for me.

I had just started 2nd grade at the same school my siblings were attending. We all walked to school together but now I was being sent to a different school. A school bus would pick me up and bring me home each day. I would no longer be able to be with my siblings.

I didn’t want to go to a different school. I protested when the bus came to pick me up. It was a struggle to get me on but soon I was on this school bus filled with children with many different disabilities. I saw children in wheelchairs, children with crutches and walkers, and children who needed to wear braces to walk. I examined myself and wondered why I was at this school. I didn’t use a wheelchair. I didn’t need a walker, crutches nor leg braces.

My life was now very different and I had to adjust. I grew up not being around my brothers and sisters. They all shared or knew the same principals, staff, teachers, and friends. I had a life of loneliness. Even though I went home each evening, I was going home to a family who didn’t know anything about me. They didn’t know my principal, my teachers, or any of my friends.

The school I went to was for children 1st through 12th grade, located in the Southeast side of San Antonio, and had students from all over San Antonio. Most of those in my grade, and there were not many, lived in the Northside or Westside. I lived on the Eastside. I couldn’t go to a friend’s house after school or during the summer. My siblings were able to visit their friends but I felt left out.

It wasn’t until I was in the 10th grade that many students were being streamlined to regular schools. Some were able to make it and some did not. I was one of the students who could not make it at a regular school. I had no idea what to expect at a regular school. I didn’t know anyone there. I felt insecure and afraid of this change.

The school became an elementary school and still uses the mascot that we voted on but there is not anything left of the school that I attended. There are no school reunions; many of my friends died at an early age due to their disability. I was left to find a way to live in a world that I never got to know.

I have struggled since graduating and I still struggle today. Bringing those with disabilities to be a part of this world is very important. It teaches everyone that we are all different; but that we all matter.
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Diana Aranda-Curtis became a wife and mother, raising four children and has eight grandchildren. She is a compassionate person who serves at Baptist Temple in many ways but particularly through the Highland Park CAN thrift store and food pantry.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Servant Spotlight: Tracy Zayasbazan

Guest blog: Melissa Baxter

Shortly after graduating high school, Tracy Zayasbazan went to see a recruiter with her friend who wanted to join the Navy but it was Tracy, instead of her friend, who enlisted. Her dad was a Navy man but, before that day, she hadn't really considered it.

Her walk with Jesus was tough. She hadn't found a place for Christian fellowship and discipleship between boot camp, school and her first duty station. God carried her and protected her through her time in the service.

Tracy's time in the service prepared her for life, giving her structure and a mission. She was stationed in Florida, Mississippi, Bermuda and, prior to her discharge, the Great Lakes Naval Hospital; near her home town.

She married Jorge and served a church where she connected with other believers and really begin to learn what it is to be a true follower of Jesus. Tracy, a cancer survivor, said, “God has always been my rock especially when my health was compromised or our finances weren't aligned to what He would want them to be. My times of trials have drawn me so much closer to my savior and have allowed me to mature and completely depend on Him and live in a way that glorifies Him.”

There is a strong military tradition in Tracy's family. Her father is a retired naval officer, her brother a Colonel in the Marine Corps and her son serves in the Army Reserve. Her sister, too, is a veteran, serving a tour with the Air Force. She had to lean heavily on her faith when her husband, Jorge, was called to serve in Operation Iraqi Freedom; leaving her a solo parent for over a year.

She continues to serve today as a pastor's wife and at the American GI Forum National Veterans Outreach, where she helps find housing for homeless veterans.

Thursday, November 07, 2019

Reaching counter-culture youth

Basilio Carrillo, a Westside San Antonio native, experienced a life changing moment at 15 when he saw the British punk rock band, The Clash on MTV. He identified with their anti-fashion and angry counter-culture message. He quickly became immersed in the underground punk rock world of clubs, booze and drugs. He started playing drums with punk rock bands and soon found himself the front man for the “The Deceased;” writing songs and singing lead.

At 29, his girlfriends mother convinced him to take his kids to to church. He chose a particular church because he knew the youth minister, who was cool. He showed up on a Sunday morning looking like the lead singer of a punk rock band: blue hair, piercings, tattoos, leather jacket and biker boots.

He did not receive a warm welcome. In fact, during the greeting time, two men reached across him to shake hands. No one shook his hand.

Yet, as worship began, Basilio felt the Holy Spirit come over him like a wave. He felt convicted by the sins of his past and, broken, he began to weep. On his knees he sought God's forgiveness.

It was a while before he returned to church but he'd heard about a church called Rise Above Ministries led by Skip Brooks, who also had a punk rock past. Skip wanted to reach kids in the punk rocker, heavy metal and other counter-culture worlds; showing that people who look like them can follow Jesus. Basilio felt right at home and, in 2005, became associate pastor.

The church dissolved in 2013 and Skip moved to Tennessee. Rise Above rose again when Skip returned in 2017 and asked Basilio to work alongside him. Basilio took over as pastor following Skip's recent death from cancer. He has the same desire to reach young people who reject and are rejected by the mainstream.

Rise Above Ministries meets in the Baptist Temple Campus Chapel Sundays at 3 PM. They are the sixth church meeting on a campus that is also shared by two schools and several service organizations.