26 November 2007

Mentor Monday

My Thanksgiving holiday was stuffed with people, food, and decking my halls. Oh, how I love the decorations. Yes, I'm a saccarine sucker when it comes to these things.
We got our Christmas tree--Hans is his name. He's donned with blue lights and ornaments. But more on that later this week.
Today, I'd like to introduce you to Maria.
Maria received her masters at Dallas Theological Seminary and works in Dallas at a ministry called Buckner Community Outreach. Born in Mexico, her family moved to Chicago when she was a child. Years later, she ended up at seminary. I'll let her tell you the rest of the story.
Folks, if you're in a rush, please, at least scan down to the question where she tells you about her favorite part of her job.

Maria, tell us a little bit about your ministry.

I oversee a Buckner community outreach program in the Vickery Meadow community of North Dallas. This community which has a 3 mile radius is one of the most dense communities and has struggled with crime and poverty. We have after school programs for children 6-18 and see about 85 children everyday. We support the children's families by offering their parents classes in ESL, computers, parenting, and marriage. I personally see a lot of famiiles in crisis and help them access the help and support they need. The children participate in lots of awesome activities and are able to be exposed to much that they would normally not be able to. We work closely with local churches and help them engage in this community. Currently about 80-100 people from this community are attending Park Cities Baptist Church. This church sends a shuttle every Sunday.

What brought you to Buckner specifically? Was there an "ah-ha" moment or was it a journey? Were they any inadequacies/past experiences/obstacles that you had to overcome to get there?

I started working at Buckner my last year at DTS. I was looking for an internship and at the same time was looking for a church to serve and really plug into. It was very creative how God answered that prayer. My job at Buckner served as my internship and I worked full time. God led me here because of a need for an internship but now I see that this is what God has called me to do. God led me to Park Cities Baptist Church and I am a member there. My two worlds merged together. I have the privilige of worshipping with the children and families I serve in Vickery Meadow. I love seeing my kids in the halls of the church and have seen some of them be baptized.

My biggest obstacles has been in overcoming my insecurities, past hang-ups and prejudices and needing to develop a different way of seeing myself. When I first came to seminary I went to pursue a counseling degree. God led me in a different direction and I never thought I could do what I am doing now. I look at myself and wonder how I got here but at the same time can see how God had been preparing me for my ministry all of my life. It all makes sense to me now. My background is very similar to the children that I serve and I have had to let God minister and heal me so that I can offer the same hope and comfort to these kids. Yet, I can tell them that God helped me to overcome all obstacles and he will do the same for them. With God nothing is hopeless or impossible.

What is your favorite part or what you do?

I love praying. I pray with the children when they are hurting and I see God filling them with his presence and that changes them. I have seen countless number of children with huge burdens on their shoulders and I have seen God lift those burdens. I then see them light and free, the way children should be.

I also pray for needs in the program or for families and God provides abundantly every time.

What do you feel is your biggest battle?

My biggest battle I guess is pride. When things go well and God is at work I want to take the credit and glory instead of Him. Then I think it is me doing all the good and I stop depending on Him. Also, when things go well you receive attention and praise and then my motive in what I do is to receive more of it instead of serving Christ. In order to serve others I have to continually be more like Christ and that means sanctification. This process is often very painful and at timesI don't want to keep going. But the only way for God to continue to use me is to continue to cleanse me. Ouch!

How can readers support this ministry if they feel led?

We have many volunteer needs, especially people who want to tutor and mentor kids. We have lots of awesome volunteers who share their talents with the kids such as playing an instrument, sports, or knitting. By doing this you might help a child discover and develop a talent that they did not know they have. This changes their life. We need people to invest in youth.

Maria, thanks for sharing and for your time. Hearing about your ministry excites me. I have recently taken up the habit of knitting and am working on scarves to donate to a local ministry, but maybe it would be more fun to make the scarves with them. What a great idea!


Willowtree said...

I applaud anyone who invests time in children.

Julie Cramer said...

Maria is a class act ... and anyone who knows her is blessed. If anyone is interested in pitching in, Buckner's Vickery Wellness Center is the place to do it.