Local Missionaries Impact Eastside Community.
A mission field can be found across oceans or be as close as your own backyard. Urban missionaries like the team at H.I.S. BridgeBuilders-San Antonio have worked in San Antonio’s Eastpoint neighborhood for the past 11 years. Led by Executive Director Mel Fechner and his parents, Ruben and Sandra, they serve the area surrounding the former Wheatley Courts Housing Project, now redeveloped and called East Meadows. Many of the 400 + new units are now occupied, greatly increasing the ministry’s impact.
“We want to proclaim the gospel in word and deed,” Fechner said. “Our vision: the movement of God uniting Christians across cities to transform urban communities through education, health, employment and spiritual development to the Glory of God.”
H.I.S. BridgeBuilders–SA grew from the parent organization formed in Dallas by Mike Fechner, Mel’s brother. When Mike succumbed to his 5-year battle with cancer, the San Antonio branch was ready to stand on its own. The non-profit received its own 501c3 designation and became autonomous January 1, 2017, Fechner said.
The team consists of many volunteers, like Fechner’s parents, as well as part-time employees. Fechner likes to hire residents because he believes working together provides great opportunities to disciple – keeping Jesus at the center, he added.
Among his cadre: Norma Duran, Cherie Mixon, Maria Pena, Shane Carter, Donald Walton and Manuel Mendez. Each shares their time and skills: leading Bible studies; translating; teaching ESL, job readiness, or woodworking; tutoring; mentoring; or providing after-school care. Fechner said they are looking for a volunteer to lead a sports program on their new basketball court.
“If somebody wants to serve, we’ll design a way to use their gifts and talents,” he added. “I believe a role of local ministries is to provide opportunities to serve. It’s not just seeing a neighborhood transformed – it’s how God changes us - bringing two things that were separated together for the glory of God.”
In the summer, H.I.S. BridgeBuilders-SA focuses on their children’s reading program, Fechner said, ”Since reading is a critical life skill, crucial to educational success and necessary to make disciples who read and study the Bible.” So far, 60 children have read 1800 books this year funded by the San Antonio Area Foundation and the Texas Capital Bank.
Since H.I.S. BridgeBuilders-SA began ministering to this community, they have served 56,062 residents with more than 42,000+ volunteer hours, bringing $250,000+ annual value to neighborhood and keeping 40 children off the streets and engaged in wholesome activities 10 or more hours a week, according to Fechner.
The ministry works with businesses, more than a dozen churches and private individuals to enlist financial support and volunteers, as well as coordinates with agencies such as SAHA, the United Way, SAPD and City Council to utilize all available aid.
Backpacks and school supplies will be distributed at this year’s August 5th block party, an event held every month to gather the community. Block parties include lunch, live Christian music, a testimony or short sermon and special events appropriate to the season. Ophthalmologist Alan Baribeau provides vision screening for the residents of the neighborhood several times a year. Everything is free to the residents. Block parties are held at 710/714 Arthur, which houses adult ministries and shares space with Calvary Chapel East under Pastor Anton Ferrell. SA Heals, another faith-based urban ministry, offices next door, offering opportunity to collaborate on ways to best assist community members.
The children’s activity center, christened Mike’s House in honor of Fechner’s brother, is located at 339 Gabriel, just across the street from Wheatley Middle School and close to Washington Elementary School. Many children seek tutoring and after-school activities there.
“We are running at capacity and looking for more space,” Fechner said, and stressed the need for additional volunteers, especially retirees.
The ministry will host a fundraising Mike Fechner Memorial Golf Tournament Oct. 19, at Silverhorn Golf Club. The cost is $200, which includes golf, dinner, and entrance to all events. A team of four costs $650. Sponsors and golfers are registering now. Sign-up deadline is Oct. 9. Louis Barrios, of La Hacienda de Los Barrios, will provide a chicken fajita buffet dinner.
For information or to get involved, Call, text or email Mel at firstname.lastname@example.org, 210-870-4676, or Ruben at 210-831-0883. Sandra runs the email list, newsletter and website with the technical advice of John Tafolla of Rio Design: FechnerRuben@sbcglobal.net and Hisbridgebuilders-sa.org.