Reaching people on the margins


By Jorge Zayasbazan, pastor of Baptist Temple in San Antonio

San Antonio Clubhouse is the newest member of the Baptist Temple Campus family of churches and service organizations that meet the spiritual and physical needs of our community. SA Clubhouse is a self-help program where adults with mental health conditions can volunteer, learn, and grow. The Baptist Temple site is a satellite of the main campus and will be open on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Founded in 2003, the SA Clubhouse serves as a model of success for people living with mental illness by promoting life skills, job skills, employment, wellness, recreation, connections to resources and healthy meals. Executive Director Mark Stoeltje reports, “Ninety-one percent of clubhouse members reported a reduced need for psychiatric intervention and 84 percent reported fewer run-ins with law enforcement.”

Baptist Temple's efforts at serving people with special needs began in 2009 when a Texas Baptists representative called Pastor Jorge Zayasbazan and asked if they would host a Deaf congregation. Zayasbazan enthusiastically answered, “Yes! It's an answer to our prayers.”

The result of that call has been Family Deaf Church worshiping in American Sign Language on the Baptist Temple Campus for 10 years. They not only serve the Deaf and hard-of-hearing community but, also, their hearing family members. Family Deaf Church is the only Baptist church in San Antonio that is centered around deaf culture.

John Richey, pastor of Family Deaf Church said, “The Deaf are a distinct culture with its own challenges. They have common needs that are best understood in their own context. That requires more than an interpreted service.”

Baptist Temple continues to find ways to provide services to people on the margins. They are now in the process of developing an inclusive playground so children with disabilities can play with their friends of typical abilities. Play is an important part of every child's development. It helps develop social, physical and problem-solving skills. However, children with disabilities often lack places to play. This is especially true in the Southside of San Antonio; an area declared to be a very low opportunity area for children (according to DiversityDataKids.org).

Inclusive playgrounds allow children of different ability levels to play together. They can inspire mutual understanding, friendships, and a real sense of community. Children who learn to play with children of all ability levels will be better prepared for a diverse work environment. This will be the first inclusive playground on the Southside open to the community.

Baptist Temple has already raised 80% of its funding goal through a combination of donations, fund-raisers and grants from the Baptist Health Foundation and the Charity Ball Association. They seek to raise another $24,000 this fall. Visit mybtsa.org for more information.  

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