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Living to Make Jesus Visible

We’re excited about our vision of living to make Jesus visible, and we pray that the people and ministries of this congregation will equip you to explore your own faith and put it into action.

Our vision of living to make Jesus visible isn’t really new. These marching orders were actually given to us by Jesus Christ himself in Matthew 28:16-20. Many Bibles call this “The Great Commission” or “The Commissioning of the Disciples.” The late theologian, philosopher, and writer Dallas Willard renders Jesus’ words to the disciples this way in his book, The Great Omission:

 (Jesus said) “I have been given say over all things in heaven and in earth. As you go, therefore, make disciples of all kinds of people, submerge them in Trinitarian Presence, and show them how to do everything I have commanded. And now look: I am with you every minute until the job is done.”

The key is the phrase “as you go.” The implication of that phrase is that it doesn’t matter where you are or where you go—but instead “as you go” you are being a disciple and making disciples. As a follower of Jesus, you are called to alert all people to the universal reign of God through Jesus Christ.

So as you go to the store—you do so living to make Jesus visible. As you go to work—you do so living to make Jesus visible. As you go to school—you do so living to make Jesus visible. As you go into your home to be a mother or a father—you do so living to make Jesus visible. As you go to church—you do so living to make Jesus visible. As you go to the golf course—you do so living to make Jesus visible.”

We pray that as you spend time getting to know us and how we live out our vision, you will come to discover the joy of making Jesus visible with us.

Stories of Making Jesus Visible

Member Joins Family of Authors

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First Pres Member Susan Kerr Joins Family of Published Authors

Through the years, being surrounded by a family of published writers had become commonplace for Terrell Hills photographer Susan Moorman Kerr. But now with the recent release of her book Intersections of Grace, Susan adds to the varied library produced by her family of prolific writers. From the historical novels penned by her husband John Kerr, legal thrillers written by John’s brother Baine, cookbooks written by her two sisters-in-laws, her father-in-law’s wartime memoir, two acclaimed books by her distinguished grandfather and a freelance writer daughter whose work has appeared in the New York Times, the Kerr/Moorman families have produced writers in many genres. 

Intersections of Grace came into fruition through a series of devotional talks Susan delivered to her home Bible Study group through First Presbyterian Church. After much encouragement from the women in the group, she turned these talks into a collection of written essays and prayers. Her writings are inspired by experiences in her daily life to include God’s word as a student of the Bible, nature, pets and travel. Susan also tied in her work as an accomplished photographer by including 15 of her photographs in the book.

“During my life, I have experienced many manifestations of God’s Grace,” notes Susan. “Above all, I hope my writings help others recognize that if we are attentive, we may see these intersections at every step of our life journey and that we are therefore, never truly alone.”

The book’s foreword is written by Rev. Louis Zbinden, the former senior pastor of First Pres, a role in which he served for 30 years. In 2002, First Presbyterian Church established The Louis H. and Katherine S. Zbinden Chair of Pastoral Ministry and Leadership at the Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Louis became the first to hold the chair the following year.

Louis was also directly responsible for the San Antonio Metropolitan Ministries (SAMM) and the Christian Assistance Ministry (CAM), for two outreach ministries that serve the homeless.

“I am so grateful for the words of Pastor Zbinden as he has had a tremendous impact on my journey in faith over the years,” notes Susan. “It is so fitting and I am so humbled to have his foreword as an introduction to my work.”

For more information visit www.meterialmedia.net or www.susankerr.net.

Susan is eager to share her intersections of faith with audiences throughout San Antonio. If interested in setting up a book signing at your local bookstore or with your church bible study class or book club, please contact Elizabeth Cauthorn at Elizabeth@MaterialMedia.net or 210-508-5553.

Christian Assistance Ministries

“First Presbyterian became OUR FPC when it decided to take a leadership role to help people in need by developing and implementing an incredible church community partnership in the form of Christian Assistance Ministry by answering the call to serve the poor, the broken, the sick and the desperate when many times it seems easier to look away. One of the first things this established and continues to bear witness to is the “Body of Christ” serving people with a demonstration of pure grace. Today 71 member churches stand hand in hand with FPC to share the love of Christ by providing immediate assistance an encouragement to people in crisis.  Just like Christ’s message that anyone can come to him; that no one must prove they are worthy, CAM opens its doors to feed, clothe, provide financial assistance and share the Love of Christ to 50,000 people annually.  FPC helped to create a vision and has supported this ministry for 36 years in the form of financial help, donations of gently used items, volunteers, opening its church doors for CAM meetings/trainings, financial contributions and making the mission visible to the community.

So often, individuals and families walk into CAM feeling rejected by the community, life, their own family and even the church.  Their spirits are darkened and CAM is able to offer a light and a path for hope.  A mother returned to CAM a day after being served just recently.  Staff and volunteers wondered what kind of emergency or need had come up or if there was a complaint.  The mother began weeping as she shared that she wanted us to know that she had been up all night thinking about the love and kindness given to her.  Her husband asked her what was wrong or why she was so emotional and she shared that it wasn’t just that CAM had met their need for food, clothing, school supplies…. But that she had never been treated so kindly.  This had meant more to her spirit that any of the other items given to her.  Another volunteer shared that she asked a client if we could pray for with her about something.  The client began sharing prayer requests for her children, her mother, a neighbor and finally the volunteer said, “But, what about you?”  The client began weeping as she looked into the eyes of the volunteer.  She hadn’t felt worthy to ask for prayers for herself.  It was a transforming experience for both the client and the volunteer as they prayed together for her.  It is in these moments that we see the mission of Jesus and OUR FPC helping to make it possible for those we serve and those who get to do the serving.”

Christian Dental Clinic

This summer, San Antonio Christian Dental Clinic received a call from a woman at a corporate dental chain who asked if we could see a patient who needed twelve extractions. The worker told us Monica’s insurance only covered three and that the corporate supervisors would not provide any care without compensation.

Normally, a patient with dental insurance would not qualify for services at our clinic, yet Monica was in such pain that she was unable to eat. The resulting malnutrition prevented her from reaching the healthy weight level she needed in order to proceed with treatment for multiple sclerosis. An executive decision was made and Monica was treated immediately.

Our staff juggled to squeeze in an appointment. Our dentist came in on an “off” day just to see Monica. Our First Pres volunteers processed paperwork even as Monica was in triage. The clinic was able to successfully provide Monica the extractions and dentures she needed.

Shortly afterward, Monica sent us a lovely thank you note, joined our prayer circle picture, and blessed us all. She then made a personal donation that we are certain was excessive for her situation. Monica told us the gift was the result of a calling from Christ.

As I write this story, Monica is sitting in the patient recovery area where everyone is greeting her by name. One of our docs stopped by to give her a hug. Another dental assistant offered coffee. Our Executive Director chatted for a bit and found that she is gaining weight, getting MS treatment, and grinning from ear to ear as she noted that her daughter is now receiving dental care.

One life: one world—all begun with seeds of love planted by members of First Presbyterian Church.

The San Antonio Christian Dental Clinic (SACDC), a Christian ministry founded in 1986 under the auspices of First Presbyterian Church, puts faith into action by providing free dental care for impoverished and homeless Bexar County adults who lack access to oral healthcare. The work of the clinic is truly God’s work, relieving pain and restoring health for many adults who do not qualify for government programs and might otherwise go without care.

Our FPC church has been the backbone of SACDC since the clinic’s birth under the leadership of Vicky Le Pere, Orvis Meador, and Louis Zbinden. Since then, our FPC ladies (and a few men) have led the clinic from two chairs and a single staff member to 12 chairs, 4 private operatories and a full-fledged team of over 16 personnel and contractors and over 250 volunteers.

SACDC is unique to Bexar County in that all services are provided at no cost to the patient. Prosthetics are provided at minimal cost, yet are sometimes free for patients meeting qualifications associated with donor-restricted support. While similar Bexar County agencies offer dental programs with sliding scale fees, the clinic relies uniquely on private sup-port and boasts no taxpayer impact since it accepts no government funding.

Our FPC has helped us to offer a full range of dental services, and to offer clinic volunteers an outlet for personal service. As Haven for Hope partners, we are helping to foster personal responsibility while playing a key role in helping homeless adults toward independence and self-sufficiency; sometimes through recovery; and especially to employability.

In 2012, 2941 unduplicated patients were treated over the course of 8,969 patient visits. One or more procedures were performed per visit for a total of 55,077 procedures with a retail value of $2,880,848. The clinic hosts a tuition-free Registered Dental Assistant (RDA) training program to prepare disadvantaged young adults for employment.

With revenues based uniquely on private support and largely dependent on foundations and in-kind professional services, the SACDC funding model succeeded for many years. Although the move to Haven for Hope and the partnership with UTHSC Dental School have provided exciting opportunities for growth, 2012 presented a dip in the financial support that drives our mission.

Who responded to our first outcry during this challenge? Our FPC! With an immediate response from FPC direct patient care continued undiminished. As such, we are able to move forward to 2013, SACDC’s goals include providing onsite dental care disadvantaged Bexar County adults.

Thank you FPC: the genesis of our family of faith and service at

San Antonio Christian Dental Clinic!

YoungLives

As the Director of YoungLives San Antonio, I consider it pure joy and an absolute honor to write this letter expressing how FPC has been Jesus with the skin on to the ministry of YoungLives since 2005.

Our mission is about laughter, friendship and eternal life.   It’s about letting teen moms be teenagers and providing someone to walk alongside them to help figure out who they are and who they will become. It’s about modeling Jesus Christ’s love to young women who may not have experienced real love before. Many people will look at a teen mom and focus on where she isn’t going and how hopeless her situation seems.  When Jesus looks at her, He focuses on whom He’s made her to be, how much He loves her and hurts when she does.  YoungLives is about participating in that process-­‐-­‐-­‐modeling Jesus’ love because He first loved us.

As we have walked alongside many girls from Healy Murphy Center, FPC has been with us every step of the way. FPC has provided the building for us to hold our Clubs and Campaigners.  You have supported us financially and provided material needs for our supply closet; Circle groups have provided many meals and loving volunteers have come from the body of FPC. Especially the past two years we have literally felt the compassionate love of Jesus reaching out physically from the staff and members of FPC.  You have reached out in countless ways.   Yet as time goes on, you continue to seek out ways to be Jesus to these young moms and their children.

We have expanded our ministry into Seton Home where we have club once a month on campus.  Club is simply one little piece of our ministry. It is always our desire to move girls towards an intimate relationship with their savior Jesus Christ. One way we do this is through a devotional time we call “Campaigners’. Campaigners is for those girls who have decided to accept the Love of Jesus and want to walk closer to Him.  Our greatest challenge with the Seton Home ministry has been finding a time to have Campaigners, as the girl’s days are completely full with classes, chores and responsibilities of being a mom.

My heart skipped a beat when I received a phone call from Claire a few months ago asking me if we would be interested in exploring a way to take our ministry to a Sunday morning experience.  This was an answer to my constant prayer. The girls at Seton Home are coming to church anyway on Sunday mornings what a wonderful opportunity to provide our Campaigners bible study to them!  A very, very important piece that was missing, God has now provided through your generous love.   As I began to ponder and pray over God’s plan, he began to rise up people from the body of FPC who were willing to step up and take on this ministry as mentors and teachers. This class is scheduled to begin on August 18th and will be held every 1st and 3rd Sunday.  Our prayer is that girls from Healy Murphy will begin to attend this class as well. Who knows where God will take this? I wait with great expectation!  Although I am a proud member of Community Bible Church in Bulverde I am equally proud to call FPC, “My FPC”! More importantly I am proud to call it YoungLives FPC!

The Lord gave me a word this morning I believe was meant to share with you.

“And he did it, rescued us from certain death. And he’ll do it again, rescuing us as many times as we need rescuing. You and your prayers are part of the rescue operation—I don’t want you in the dark about that either. I can see your faces even now lifted in the praise for God’s deliverance of us a rescue in which your prayers played such a crucial part.  2 Corinthians 1:10-­‐11 (The Message)

It comforts me to know that before we ever get involved, the Lord is carrying out agreat rescue operation.  Teen moms and their children really are being delivered to a life with Jesus forever.

Without striving or trying to rescue them ourselves the great privilege is that we get to be a part of God’s amazing rescue operation for His kids. In YoungLives we get to see God at work “live” in real time.

Thank you FPC for linking arms with us as the hands and feet of His great rescue operation!

Blessings,

Chris Shipman, YoungLives San Antonio

Mission Road

First Presbyterian Church is a vital part of the Mission Road Family which is made up of children and adults with special needs, their families, their dedicated staff, the MRM governing boards, and its donors. FPC is Mission Road’s FPC because its congregants make Jesus visible to every member of the MRM family through their gifts of time, talents and treasure. Directly or indirectly the church provides a Christ-like atmosphere of love, care and forgiveness that says to our clients that they are worthy of love; excellent care; beautiful, safe surroundings; delicious, nutritious food; nice clothes and fun with friends. FPC ensures that the Mission Road clients are respected, included in the life of the community and helped to reach their God -given potential.

Mission Road staff member Eddie made Jesus visible to Jeremiah

Jeremiah is a 15 year-old African American child who came to live at Mission Road. Profoundly intellectually and developmentally disabled (IDD), he had never been taught basic life skills by his alcoholic, sadistic mother. In place of love, he was beaten and burned. In place of care, he was left in bed to wallow in his excrement. He was not regularly fed, and at age 13, weighed just 56 pounds. He arrived in a wheelchair – unable to walk or speak. Unkempt and slumped over, he could not hold himself upright in his wheelchair. He had few clothes, matted and unruly hair, and did not want anyone to touch him. As one might expect, he trusted no one.

Once in our care here at Mission Road, Jeremiah’s life slowly began to turn around. His remarkable caregiver, Eddie – a strong, gentle African American man – made Jeremiah his priority. When Jeremiah could not sit still for a barber, Eddie took time after work hours to painstakingly cut his hair. He carefully dressed him in new clothes. He even bought some things for him with his own money. Eddie was making Jesus visible. He loved and respected Jeremiah and gave of himself to him.

At school, Jeremiah was taught to use a stander – a devise that supports him in a standing position. He saw himself for the first time in a mirror – standing. He was fascinated. Who was that tall, handsome, clean-cut young man? New hope began to come alive in Jeremiah. His caregivers were making Jesus visible, opening his eyes to who he is in Christ.

Now Jeremiah is making great strides. His atrophied muscles are gaining strength and he is learning new skills. Jeremiah is healing; body, mind and spirit. He is learning to take responsibility for his actions and make good choices about his behavior. Jeremiah is gaining independence and self respect. He is seeing Jesus in the Mission Road family a part of which is First Presbyterian Church.

At Mission Road, Jeremiah has been given hope, a new family and friends. He is loved. One of his most touching changes is that he now lets others caress him and put their faces next to his. Before, he would throw up his hands to protect himself, but now he trusts. Jeremiah responds to the visible Jesus with trust and love. Jesus has come into his heart. Jeremiah is now beginning to make Jesus visible to others.

House of Neighborly Service

My FPC – House of Neighborly Service

HNS’ vision is: BRINGING HOPE, DIGNITY, AND SELF-ESTEEM TO THE WESTSIDE, FAMILY BY FAMILY, and the First Presbyterian Church of San Antonio plays a major role in allowing HNS to pursue that vision.  Indeed, the relationship between HNS and FPC is rich, vibrant, and strong, and it’s been that way for a long, long time.  HNS is not so much about preaching the Word or proselytizing, but we are everything about being the Face of Christ to people in need. To that end, HNS has outreaches to the hungry, the elderly, and to the young children and their families on the Westside, and FPC is with us at just about every step along the way.   Listed below are some examples of FPC being the Face of Christ:

HNS has been a welcoming site for mission events sponsored by FPC, even the last minute variety.  For example, years ago a mission outreach project for middle school youth fell through at the last minute, and Alyssa Payne called HNS to see if we could help  in a pinch.  We quickly cobbled together a project where Coby Cagle led his youth group in constructing donated toys and riding vehicles for children in our Kid’s Place Child Development & Treatment Center, toys that we simply didn’t have time to build ourselves.  The downstream effect of this is significant: these toys are used by children who have little possessions themselves, who live in an environment replete with risks throughout all stages of life.  They come from a neighborhood that is #1 in all the wrong categories of risk:  unwed teenage pregnancy, family abuse and neglect, domestic violence, low household income, and the list goes on.  Yet, HNS is a place of hope to them, and this was a moment where FPC kids were helping Westside kids, well, just be kids.  In the end, it was a win-win partnership, a shared caring to help others in need.

Speaking of Kids’ Place, FPC’s Local Missions Committee has been a very strong and faithful supporter of HNS’ outreach to these children and their families via an annual grant to Kid’s Place, which is a part of our more comprehensive Early Intervention Program.  HNS is making a difference in people’s lives who really need it, and FPC’s support is a big reason for that success.

HNS also benefited by being the site of an Eagle Scout project for FPC teen Bart Zachry.  Last year, Bart along with his parents John and Laura Zachry met with HNS Director Cotton Clark to map out a project to re-landscape our front lawn.  HNS has an 83 yr-old building, so this project was a much needed facelift.  Almost a year later, this project continues to be a welcoming site and a vivid testament to the wonderful relationship HNS has with “First Pres.”  What’s more, we are in the beginning stages of exploring another Eagle Scout project with Bart’s younger brother, Joe Zachry.

Nancy Puckett has been another FPC hero for HNS by spearheading a funding campaign to replace damaged picnic tables with sturdy, industrial grade tables in our basketball court area.  In all, her project funded the purchase of 13 new picnic tables that are used constantly for all kinds of events at HNS, from community outreach to food distribution and to youth programs, too.

HNS has had a number of FPC folks as members of our Board of Directors, from Rosemary Engstrom to Bobby Bird, Craig Cannon, and Mitch Huffman.  Mitch was even president of our Board for a year. (And as we speak, we are currently looking for the next HNS board member from FPC!)  In addition, Rosemary likes to help on Tuesday mornings with our Breadline distribution (which allows her to practice her Spanish, too!), but she hasn’t stopped there.  She also brought a work group including Mary and Craig Bell along with Janice Wilson to help stuff and distribute bags of school supplies for our Back-To-School event in the fall where we gave over 120 bags of much needed supplies.  (Plus, they are returning again this year to help with this year’s BTS event, where we hope to distribute even more bags!)

Likewise, Bob Esquenazi has been a strong advocate for HNS at our annual House With A Heart Gala where he buys whole tables for friends to attend and keeps the auction bidding lively, to boot!  Also, Ann Fryburger has participated for many years in the HNS Women’s Auxiliary, a support group that has helped among other things to fund college scholarships for neighborhood teens, almost all of whom are first-generation college students.  This is a brave step for these young folks, and Ann along with her Auxiliary colleagues are a major part of that big step forward in their lives.

Finally, perhaps the most endearing and most spiritual relationship we have is a program called Sus Hijas, which is Spanish for “His Daughters,” meaning God’s Daughters.  This mission outreach was started by a group of talented women from FPC – Becca Price, Lee & Ann Pressly, Betty Carpenter, and Ann Nelson (along with Jamie Pressly from Covenant Presbyterian Church as well) – who noticed that some sewing machines at HNS were seeing little use.  They have been faithfully coming to HNS every Tuesday morning in the fall and spring since then to be the Face of Christ and to lead neighborhood women in becoming artisans in their own right.  They have been faithful servants throughout all these years, but don’t take our word for it.  Listen to what one of the participants said in San Antonio Express News article that focused exclusively on Sus Hijas last fall (excerpted from Vincent T Davis’ article, Stitches In Time Bring Peace of Mind, November 26, 2012):

“… Cristina Rodarte, one of seven sewing teachers, tutors students in the art of stitching, praising them (the neighborhood participants) and offering encouragement when their confidence lags. She understands the power of knowing that someone cares because someone once extended help to her in the very same room.

In 1999, Rodarte was depressed and upset because her mother had recently died. A friend referred her to the House of Neighborly Service, a nonprofit that serves West Side residents in need. In one room, she found six old sewing machines kept running each week by the deft touch of a repairman.

She couldn’t sew, but volunteers (FPC’s Becca, Lee, Betty, and Ann) guided her through piecing together a pillowcase and gave her homework to hone her skills. And during each session, they assured her that she had much to live for.

‘They made me understand that we still have a mission here to be happy,’ says Rodarte, 52. ‘It’s a blessing that God put me in this spot so I can meet them. Look now where I am at, teaching my friends.’ … “

This testimony sums-up the power of the FPC/HNS mission relationship… a relationship born of a shared love of Jesus Christ.  We at HNS eagerly look to the future with FPC as our beloved partner.

Morningside Ministries

This is Morningside Ministries’ FPC:  A 50-Year Partnership Serving Older Adults in Care!

FPC has a storied history in San Antonio and very important role in its development.  The hallmark of that history, however, has been the generosity, compassion and commitment of its members to serve others.  For 171 years, this concern for others has gone unbroken.  Indeed, the people of FPC have been an outstanding example of how Christian charity in San Antonio has made a very significant difference in the lives of countless people in need.  We can confidently say that the faith and love demonstrated by FPC has not diminished in our time.  In fact, it continues to grow ever larger today, making Jesus visible to thousands of people in our community every single day.

Partnership in Mission

In June 1966, the FPC Session and Diaconate met at Morningside Ministries to hear Elder Robert Witt explain the potential of Christian service at Morningside.  The following year, FPC’s longtime and much loved pastor, Dr. George Mauze, approached the members of the church about becoming a full partner with Morningside Ministries to provide much-needed care to the growing number of older adults in the community. By April 1967, a new ecumenical partnership was formalized that included FPC, the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas and the Southwest Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church.

FPC selected six of its members to serve on the Morningside board and by 1970, John R. Shaw of FPC had become Morningside’s first Presbyterian board president.  Also of note, The Rev. Louis Zbinden, retired FPC pastor, served for 32 years as a very active and committed member of the board of directors at Morningside Ministries.  After almost 50 years, this partnership continues to be one of the most important factors in the continuing success of Morningside’s ministry to older adults in care.  Today, Morningside Ministries has three campuses providing an entire continuum of care for the elderly, including retirement living in both apartment and cottage settings; a wide array of recreational, spiritual and social services; assisted living options for those who can no longer manage all the cares of maintaining a home; rehabilitation services following surgery or a hospital stay; skilled nursing services for those needing longer-term care; and hospice services for those at the end of life.

Commitment to Worship, Grow and Serve One Another

For nearly 55 years, the older adults residing at Morningside Ministries have been the beneficiaries of the generosity of the people of FPC.  This includes contributions from FPC and its members to Morningside’s many capital campaigns that resulted in the construction of nursing care facilities with nearly 450 rooms that have served tens of thousands of people over the years.  Fundraising for these facilities was started with large gifts made in 1967 and 1970 from the estate of Crystal and David Powell—long-time FPC members—and the San Antonio Presbyterian Foundation administered by FPC.

Countless other contributions from FPC and its congregants over the years have helped to provide care to older adults who at their end of their lives have exhausted their financial resources.  Truly, the continuing concern shown by the people of FPC today helps to ensure that the elderly in our community can receive high-quality care in an atmosphere of compassion and spirituality at a time when they need it most.

Because 90% of care received by older adults is provided at home, this ministry to caregivers is critical to ensuring that the elderly receive effective care at home and—just as important—that their caregivers receive the emotional and spiritual support they need to complete their often very difficult work.

Working Together in God’s Mission of Love to the Word

Morningside Ministries was very proud to nominate FPC to receive the 2013 Outstanding Service Organization Award from the San Antonio Association of Fundraising Professionals.   FPC was selected the winner, hands down!  On behalf of the residents, staff and members of the board of directors at Morningside Ministries, we thank the members of FPC for their concern and compassion for those in need, and for your support and prayers over these many years.

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