Monday, May 28, 2018

Deacon Spotlight: Melissa Baxter

Guest Blog by Robert Newman

Melissa Baxter was born in New Jersey and moved to San Antonio in 1965, which now calls home. She is the second oldest of six children, raised by a single mother only a block from Baptist Temple Church. She is the third of five generations in her family to be members of Baptist Temple. 

As a child and in her youth, Melissa was involved in many ministries at Baptist Temple. She accepted Christ as her Savior as a teenager at Alto Frio Baptist Encampment youth camp, and began serving at Baptist Temple as a youth in the bus ministry. Along with adults, she went out on Saturdays to visit the families who were picked up in Baptist Temple’s bus. She was also active in GA’s where she learned to love God’s word and to share God’s love with others. Her passion for music came from being a part of the very active youth choir at Baptist Temple. 

After high school, Melissa was told by her mother that she had three choices: get a job, get a college scholarship, or go into the military. With no job skills and no response to her applications for scholarships, her only choice was to join the army. It was there that she met the love of her life, Billy. They married and celebrated 38 years together until his death in 2013. 

From her childhood, Melissa dreamed of traveling, but that had to wait. It wasn't until her youngest was in high school that she was started on the path to international travel. She and her family hosted 13 exchange students over the years, some for just a few weeks, but most for 10 or 11 months. She made many lifelong friends who have opened their hearts and homes to her on several trips to Europe. The students she hosted and gotten to know over the years have made a lasting impression on, and have forever changed, the way that the Baxter family looks at the world. 

Melissa has three grown sons, Billy, Brandon and Brad, all of whom grew up in Baptist Temple. She has five grandchildren. Two of them, Landen and Sydney, often accompany her on Sundays. 

Melissa and Billy were coaches of the youth volleyball teams and played on adult softball and volleyball teams. Melissa has taught Sunday school, from the nursery level through adult, and loves to serve wherever there is a need. Her ministry extends to her work environment as well. She leads a Bible study each week for her coworkers.  

Having served a year-long internship, Melissa was ordained as a Deacon on May 27. She is an exemplary servant of Jesus Christ, encouraging the sorrowful, visiting the sick, recruiting and developing leaders, serving wherever needed and supporting all the ministries of Baptist Temple. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

It's Time Grant Helps a Church Find a Place in a Transitioning Community

Our gym stood vacant; a sad reminder of a day when the church was thriving. The 80,000 square campus that once had 1500 enrolled in Sunday School was now mostly silent during the week and not very active during the three hours it was open on Sunday.

A $21,000 grant would change the course of this inner-city church in a transitional neighborhood.

When I arrived at Baptist Temple almost ten years ago, we were on the verge of celebrating our 100th anniversary and in search of a vision for the future. The It's Time, with an accompanying grant, was how the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship was helping churches like ours find ways to be on mission for God.

In 2009, San Antonio led the nation in diabetes and obesity. At the same time, we had a gym no one was using. The answer was simple. We decided that we were going to help our church and our community become healthier by developing programs for all ages. We used the grant dollars to purchase fitness and recreation equipment and turn a forgotten recreation room into a weight room.

We offered karate, tumbling, chair aerobics, balance training, and open gym nights. During the summer, kids were introduce to golf, tennis, badminton and other non-traditional sports. Classes on healthy cooking, nutrition, diabetes management/prevention, and cancer awareness were offered in partnership with the YMCA, University of Texas San Antonio, Methodist Health Systems, Baptist Health Systems, and the San Antonio Metrohealth district.

Further grants from the Baptist Health Foundation and Texas Baptists have allowed us to hold annual health fairs and establish a community garden. For the last three years Baptist Temple has been a site for the city-wide Fit Family Challenge. We were the first church site. A second church was added based on our successful model.

This level of health awareness led to a campus-wide recycling program that keeps a dumpster full of items out of the landfill. Recently we have installed a solar array and are currently developing a plan to replace our current landscaping with water-saving hardscape and succulent plants.

We hope to provide a model for other churches to follow so they can help their congregation and community live the abundant life that Jesus brings. 

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;
I have come that they may have life,
and have it to the full. 
John 10:10

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Lessons I Learned from My Mom

Kay's mom, Inez, with son-in-law, Sammy Richardson
Guest blog by Kay Richardson

My mom was the glue that kept our family together. She loved the Lord and raised her kids by example. When my dad went to be with Jesus, we were not sure how mama would react. They had been married for 66 years. God, church, and family is what their lives revolved around.

The first thing my mom did in her time of mourning was a study on heaven. She wanted to know all she could about Max’s new home and the home she would eventually share with him. The study was intense. Every day she learned more and more. We began to worry that she was a little obsessed with it, so I decided I needed to have a talk with her. The day I went to suggest she take a break from her study of heaven, I walked into her room, she looked up at me and said, “I think I know all I need to know about heaven! I’m ready to get on with life.”

And so she did. She enjoyed visiting with family & friends, going to church, and going to the Young in Heart luncheons. When she lived in the assisted living facility, she would go around and visit other residents… she called it “spreading a little cheer.”

Mama kept a journal of who she visited with and who she was praying for. One of the entries in her journal was, “I find the more I focus on Jesus, the less I focus on myself.” She also kept a journal of the scripture verses she was memorizing or were comforting to her. It was that journal of scripture verses that went with her every time she went to the hospital. She would read them or quote them over and over. She drew strength and courage from God’s Word.

Her last words were, “I love you. I want to go home.” Someone questioned what she meant by that, but I knew exactly what she meant. She was ready to go to the place that had been prepared for her in her new heavenly home!

A lot can be learned from my mom. Even in a difficult time of her life, she chose to live. She chose joy! She was able to do that because she knew God was walking with her every step of the way!

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Jesus heals body and soul

A sudden burst of sunlight interrupted the master's teaching. Everyone looked up to see a man being lowered through a hole in the roof. We learn in Luke's Gospel (5:17-26) that the man is paralyzed. His friends wanted to bring him to Jesus; his only hope.

They'd heard Jesus was in town and teaching in a nearby house. These men knew that if they could get their friend to Jesus, his life would be changed. Upon arrival, they were disappointed to find the house full. It was standing room only. People were peeking in and those who couldn't see were listening outside the walls.

The friends of the paralyzed man would not be deterred from their mission. They climbed up on the roof, carrying their friend, and dug a hole in it so they can place their friend in front of Jesus.

Imagine the shock of the crowd at the audacity of these invaders. All eyes turn back to Jesus when he says, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” (Luke 5:20)

Wait! What?”

It was so quiet you could almost hear the thoughts of the people. The Bible says that the Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Luke 5:21)

What about the healing? It seems odd that Jesus forgave the paralyzed man before healing him but Jesus used this moment to show that he had the authority to forgive sins by healing the man.

Jesus' healing reaches beyond our bodily ailments to the salvation of our eternal souls; even, beyond death. It is holistic healing. A woman, who had a blood flow for 12 years, touched the hem of Jesus' clothes and her bleeding stopped immediately. What Jesus then told her reaches beyond cure to the deeper need of the whole person: “Daughter, be of good cheer; your faith has made you well. Go in peace.” (Luke 8:48)

God is not just interested in saving our souls. Salvation is healing for the whole person: body, mind and spirit. God has promised the forgiveness of sins and the resurrection of the body to life everlasting. The Gospels record 40 healings that were signs pointing ahead to our ultimate healing.

If God is interested in both our physical and spiritual health, then so should the church. As a global body the church has done well in this area. We have established public schools, universities, hospitals, orphanages, rescue missions and all manner of relief and development ministries; all in an effort to minister to body and soul. William Carey, the father of modern missions, established schools and clinics in an effort to reach the people of India with the gospel.

Local churches are the hands and feet of Jesus, ministering to the physical and spiritual needs of our neighbors. This is especially true in an under-resourced, inner-city area. Working with agencies that provide human services can bring new life into a congregation facing declining numbers and finances while saddled with a large building. Sharing the building will help cover utilities and deferred maintenance and bring new people into the building. This type of cooperation provides the type of relationship building that wins souls and heals bodies and emotions.

Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
Isaiah 53:4-5 (NIV)