Holding Institute Featured on Texas Public Radio

It started out as a school for Mexican-American children who weren't allowed in Texas public schools. Now, it's a shelter for migrants from Central America.

A Honduran woman sat with her young son outside the Holding Institute, a community center in Laredo that cares for migrants, as the sun began to set. It was a special moment of serenity in a place that also offers migrants some stability and safety.

The institute was founded in 1860 as a school for Mexican-American children who weren’t allowed in Texas public schools. It takes up an entire block in downtown Laredo and is filled with families just like hers.

The mother and her son were in a section where kids can play basketball or enjoy the playground and swing set.

“My dream has always been to find the best life for my son because I didn’t want anything bad to happen to him,” she said.

The woman didn’t want her name used in fear that speaking out would hurt her claim for asylum. She said after she crossed the Rio Grande with her son they turned themselves over to Border Patrol agents and were sent to a processing center, then transferred to another facility.

After being fully processed, she and her son were sent to a local church in Laredo, but the church was full, so they ended up at the Holding Institute instead.


Vitalizing Cohort with a Successful Experiment

Devine FUMC hosted a community-wide Easter Egg Hunt on Saturday the day before Easter.  We had about 400 in the community show up including about 200 children who hunted for about 7,500 candy-filled eggs.  We gave away about 50 sets of Resurrection Eggs to families to help them share the meaning of Easter. We had a plastic egg recycling station that doubled as a photo backdrop.  We had a “sharing table” where kids with too many could share with kids with too few eggs.  We asked some youth to be “helpers” and gave each a lanyard with a nametag and a bag of candy.  We gave away prizes at each of the five egg hunts, and an additional prize at a sixth egg hunt for children who arrived late.  

The postal carrier for the area told one of our members, “In all my years delivering the mail in Devine, I have never seen anything like this--many people and children gathered at one place.”  

Many in the community responded to our invitations, attending Easter Sunday where we worshiped 208 in three services, a 39% increase over the previous year.  Some community families came by our office the following week to drop off plastic eggs, wanting to support us in making the Egg Hunt an annual community event.  It will be!  We praise God for the incredible blessing we all shared.  It will be!  We praise God for the incredible blessing we all shared.

Your fellow servant in Christ,
Pastor Harold Dailey

Hill Country District Finishes Another Lenten Used Clothing Drive

"Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days," says the book of Ecclesiastes. It has to be true if it’s in the Bible, right?

Well, the bread Rio Texas churches have been casting on the waters came home last week.

Johnson City UMC, in partnership with Hill Country District churches, collected used clothing and turned it over to the Seventh-day Adventists’ Community Service Disaster Response center in Keene, Texas.

The Disaster Used Clothing Drive, conducted every Lent, spread to churches all around Central Texas.

The Adventists make the rounds of participating churches by picking up the bags and boxes and taking the clothes to their warehouse where they are sorted, sanitized, packed and stored until a disaster requires used clothing. They loaded their trucks and waited for the morning when the survivors come out of the shelters.

A clean change of clothes is almost as welcome as a hot shower. Collecting in advance of the disaster is important because the need for used clothing usually lasts only 24-48 hours. These clothes are ready when the spring tornados and floods hit, or the summer wildfires and storms, or the fall hurricanes.

"This winter was difficult because we were collecting used clothes for the asylum-seekers on the border at the same time we were collecting for the Adventists,” explained Pastor Lee Romero of the First United Methodist Church: Johnson City.

“We were afraid we would short-change one need or the other, but the people of Johnson City stepped up and filled both needs.”

When Customs and Border Protection released approximately 100 refugees a day in Eagle Pass, the Methodists announced a call for more clothing. The Adventists quickly agreed the situation was a disaster and filled up a truck.

The Rev Becky Baxter Ballou thanked Marshall Gonzales, Director of Community Services, who was driving the truck, for all the clothes he was giving her.

“Don’t thank me too much,” Gonzales replied. “Most of these clothes are what we picked up from you Methodists last spring. We’ve just been storing it for a year.”

Then he and his empty truck set off to make this year’s rounds of churches, winding up his route in Johnson City, where the First Baptist, First Christian, and First Methodist Churches finished filling him back up again, and the truck rolled off to Keene to start the cycle all over again.

“There is no way any one denomination could have done this alone,” said Romero. It takes all of us partnering together to follow Jesus’ instruction to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and care for the stranger. Doing what Christ tells us is basic to being a Christian. We each take our guidance from the same book."

Written by George Barnette

College students visit Perkins and Adam Hamilton

Texas State students ministry leaders recently explored graduate school options at the Perkins School of Theology at SMU in Dallas. While at Perkins, students joined a talk by Adam Hamilton on the "Future of a Diverse/Divided Church." This seminary trip was part of a grant awarded to the United Campus Ministry at Texas State from the Young Clergy Initiative of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of The United Methodist Church.

Written by Rev. Todd Salmi

Del Rio Churches Process and Gather Donations for Refugees

First United Methodist Church: Del Rio and Principe de Paz UMC have joined forces along with 13 other local churches to reach out and assist those in need.

Shipments of nonperishable food and health essential kits have arrived from UMCOR and will be distributed very soon to refugees that will be released and who will be traveling on buses from our area.

The churches have received two shipments thus far of this humanitarian aid. They are expecting a larger third shipment which will be to be delivered to Principe De Paz United Methodist Church on Monday, April 15.

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Hill Country District Asks for Donations of Clothes: Lenten Disaster Relief Clothing Drive


Hill Country District’s annual Lenten collection officially began Ash Wednesday, March 6. We invite & encourage your church to catch up. We collect wearable used clothes until our partners, the Seventh-day Adventists, send their trucks to collect our collections. This year, the trucks should come the week of April 8-12 to have your space cleared out before the run-up to Easter. The exact schedule will depend on which churches participate and how much each collects. Yes, they can accept hats, belts, and shoes. No, they cannot take swimsuits or used underwear. 

Once they have the clothes we collect, the Adventists take it to their warehouse at Alvarado where it is sorted, sanitized, packaged, and stored until there is a disaster requiring used clothing, then they load their semi and have it parked outside the shelter door in the morning when survivors wake up. The Adventists are nationally known for this disaster ministry, and they tell us the Hill Country District’s collection gives them the most and highest quality clothing of any they have all year. 

Why not just wait for a disaster to collect? Because by then it’s too late. The post-disaster need for used clothing lasts only 24-48 hours. After that, survivors usually can acquire new. There are exceptions, of course, and the Adventists are prepared for that. There also is a difference between survivors who NEED free clothing and those who merely WANT it. NEEDS are short-lived in this case; WANTS are always there. By the time a local church can decide to launch a clothing collection, and run the campaign, then deliver the bags to the disaster area, the NEED is over, and the bags of mixed dirty clothes are just more trash for the landfill. That way doesn’t work. Ours does. 

More information will be forthcoming. The more churches we have participating, the more good we can do. 

Any church in the Rio Texas Conference is welcome to participate. This is the contact information or you can contact Pam at the Hill Country District Office, 830-896-6400, dispro512@gmail.com

Written by Pam Elliott


Ministry Builds Ramps for Disabled Rio Grande Valley Residents

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McAllen—28 volunteers came out to serve disabled people in need on Feb. 22-23. Both youth and adults served.  They were joined by students from UTRGV Campus Ministries as well.  Three ramps were built and two others were repaired and painted.  

FUMC McAllen’s CORNERSTONE MINISTRY is a ministry that has evolved over the past 26 years into one that serves primarily physically disabled individuals and their families with wheelchair ramps and other assistance.   

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In the past few years, they have partnered with the Texas Ramp Project (TRP) in this ministry who provides us the majority of the funds for the supplies for the ramps.

It is such a blessing to come together in service with our neighbors!  To GOD be the GLORY!

"So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.  In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God."

-Ephesians 2:19-22

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Written by Susan Hellums

Meet Me in St. Louis by Rev. Teresa Welborn

In recent days, I find myself reflecting on past experiences and wondering about the future. I know I’m not alone in my thinking back and looking ahead. Here I join the many different people from many different places who are sharing their thoughts and hopes. I will meet some of you face to face in St. Louis. Others of you can meet me right here in this blog where I will share a few of my reflections over the next few weeks.

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Oak Hill UMC Gives Away 300+ Stuffed Animals during Christmas Party


More than 300 teddy bears, kittens, puppies, rabbits, lambs, and two angry birds–were given to Oak Hill-area children at an annual Christmas party hosted by the Travis County Community Center on Saturday, Dec. 8.

Members of Oak Hill UMC led a group of more than 40 volunteers that included social workers, Travis County law enforcement officers, and, of course, Santa.

A total of 115 families with 340 children participated in the event and were given gifts. Gifts also included:

  • pajamas for almost 100 children

  • 20 gift cards for teenagers

  • more than 200 coats for children of all ages

  • 200+ bananas and cutie oranges donated by our friends at Central Market

  • 240 breakfast tacos

  • gallons of orange juice and coffee

  • almost 20 dozen sugar cookies

Together, Oak Hill UMC and the local agencies shared a morning of radical hospitality with our brothers and sisters in the community.

Written by Don Kerr

Coker UMC Host Christmas Gift Giveaway

“What is so heart-warming about this is that it isn’t ‘us' donating to ‘them’ we are all in this together. Some former food pantry clients donate items and some current food pantry clients volunteer on the day of,” Jenn Clauser, director of Communications said. "Congregation and committee members donate & volunteer too, knowing that if God ever called them into hard times there’s loving help right here."

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UMW Hosts Climate Justice = Just Energy 4 All

United Methodist Women and Moms Clean Air Force hosted the Climate Justice = Just Energy 4 All conference at Coker UMC: San Antonio on December 1 to raise awareness and discuss how climate change is impacting the nation and the city.

Activists and Methodists shared ideas and discussed solutions to the ever-changing climate crisis, especially in the wake of the Fourth National Climate Assessment.

UMW Executive for Economic and Environmental Justice Elizabeth Chun Hye Lee wanted to bring the annual meeting to San Antonio because of the health impacts of fossil fuels on communities in Texas, as well as promote the Just Energy 4 All campaign.

“In the United States, we are only four percent of the world’s population, but we emit 25% of greenhouse gas emissions,” said Lee. “There are about 100 companies responsible for 70% of greenhouse gas emissions since 1880. There is environmental pollution. Unfortunately, it’s on the bodies, backs, and livelihoods of communities of color: African American, Native American, Hispanic/Latino, and poor communities. When we are caring for God’s creation, the Earth, we also need to seek justice.”

UMW is planning on installing solar panels at The Holding Institute in Laredo to help offset rising costs for central air conditioning.

DeeDee Belmares, a Texas Field Consultant for Moms Clean Air Force, works closely with UMW and offers tours of fracking sites. The emphasis on justice is also important for their activism.

“Just in Bexar County alone, there are 33,000 cases of asthma,” said Belmares. “The EPA put Bexar County in nonattainment. Local children are breathing air that is not good for their little lungs, and it’s also not good for our senior citizens.”

Eloisa Portillo-Morales, the City of San Antonio’s Sustainability Planning Manager for the Office of Sustainability, highlighted the city’s efforts to adapt to climate change.

“We currently have seven days a year of over 100 degree temperatures in San Antonio. By 2040, we expect to have 30 days a year of over 100 degree temperatures. What does that do to our community?” said Portillo-Morales. “We’re doing this while still seeing a population growth of possibly over a million people by 2040. It impacts everybody, but it doesn’t impact everybody the same way.”

Last June, the San Antonio City Council passed resolutions to support the Paris Climate Accord and to become a compassionate city. The Climate Action and Adaptation Plan is being developed with 90+ stakeholders.

UMW is encouraging local chapters to deliver letters to Ford dealerships and urge the company to keep clean car standards, even as the EPA has rolled back those requirements. They are also urging oil and gas companies to reduce emissions. During the event, participants signed letters to Chevron, one of the largest natural gas producers in the world, and their new CEO Mike Wirth to follow through on No. 4 of “Guiding Principles on Reducing Methane Emissions” which Chevron signed onto earlier this year:

Advocate sound policy and regulations on methane emissions: support policies that incentivize early action, drive performance improvements, facilitate proper enforcement, and support flexibility and innovation.

Belmares invited Public Citizen activist Briauna Barrera to present her story about working with public officials and the community.  

“It’s scary, but I also think its immensely hopeful,” said Barrera. “A huge part of my work is building relationships with people so that they know we are not struggling alone. I’m invested in your well-being as much as my own. Once that trust is established, maybe we can redirect that fear toward more focused action with a target or goal in mind.”