Monday, October 12, 2015

Elizabeth Cruz Joins the Baptist Temple Team

We welcome Elizabeth Cruz as new Program Director. She will be coordinating our community ministry efforts through our Highland Park CAN ministry. She has already made arrangements for social work students from Our Lady of the Lake University (OLLU) and University of Texas San Antonio (UTSA) to serve as interns at our food pantry. Working with Wesley Nurses, Nancy Parker and Sandy McKinney, she will arrange for healthy living classes on Wednesday evenings and health screenings on Tuesday mornings.

Elizabeth has a wealth of experience in the social services field. She has worked with the homeless, foster children, and food pantry clients. While at Christian Hope Resource Center (CHRC), she was instrumental in developing a case management program designed to help individuals become more self-sufficient. She, also, introduced the client-choice pantry to CHRC.

I met with Elizabeth three years ago to learn more about mentoring-based food pantry operations. She graciously offered to help us develop our program. I took her up on her offer a few months ago. She was ready for something new and was excited at the prospect of leading a program she had designed. Moreover, this would be an opportunity to use her skills in a church setting.

Elizabeth earned a BSW from Texas State University (TSU) and an MSW from UTSA. She, also received a Nonprofit Management Certificate for Veterans Service Organizations through the San Antonio Area Foundation.

She has worked for SAMMinistries, Casey Family Programs and, most recently, Seton Home.

Elizabeth has been leading Zumba classes twice a week at BT and is adjunct faculty at OLLU.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

A learning lab for multicultural ministry in an urban context

A student from St. Phillip's College contacted me recently. He is interested in studying Deaf culture for a class project. He is one of many who have come to Family Deaf Church over the past few years to learn more about American Sign Language and the Deaf.

The Baptist Temple campus has become a learning lab for multicultural ministry in an urban context. We currently host three Christian Social Ministries interns and one music intern from the Baptist University of the Americas. Last month we entered into a formal agreement with OLLU and UTSA to help train students in their MSW programs. Earlier this year we hosted conferences for Deaf ministry and small church/bivocational ministry, as well as, the Immigration Service and Aid Center's Summer Institute.

Hands-on experience in a real world environment enhances classroom learning. In the business, non-profit and government worlds internships have provided mutually beneficial vocational opportunities. The host organization receives free or very cheap labor and the intern receives resume enhancing training and experience.

My personal experience of serving a two year internship in a new church start was foundational to my ministerial career. It not only gave me confidence in my first paid ministry position but, perhaps most importantly, paved the way for that job and the next as well.

Beginning with that first ministry position I have committed myself to help ministry students to develop their call. My internship experience allowed me to practice ministry skills under the mentoring and protection of a pastor. On more than one occasion he stepped between an angry church member and myself; even though I was in the wrong. His point was that I was a novice and our church was to show me grace and prepare me for the mission field. It was not until I had to do the same for one of my own interns that I fully understood the risk he took in protecting me.

Beyond traditional ministry training, Baptist Temple has had the opportunity to work with AARP to provide job training in office and janitorial skills. Furthermore, we wish to provide training in early childhood education and cooking.

Being a learning lab for multicultural ministry in an urban context requires providing a network of experiences that are both mutually supportive and independent. Spiritual formation, life skills, emergency interventions, recreation, health improvement and more all offer opportunities to develop marketable leadership skills.