Training young people to change a nation for JesusBookmark this
Cassiano Homes is one of the poorest and largest communities on San Antonio’s west side. Almost 500 apartments span across the 54 acre property. Hanna Hunter, Cassiano Homes Property Manager, says that it’s the oldest public housing in our city. The bigger apartments are often filled with up to twelve children, she explains, and adds that “about 85 percent of these families are single mother households.” The community is a hotbed for drugs, gangs and dysfunctional families — a perfect opportunity for ministries like Ethnos Missions to become a light for a broken community.
In 2007, Pastor Marty Gaines, his wife Imogene, sons Gabe and Joshua Gaines and Joshua's wife, Tiffany, traveled with a team of 20 people to Jamaica on a mission trip where they met a child who was deaf. They prayed for the child and God healed him. The Gaines ended the second week of this special trip seeing over one thousand children give their lives to Christ.
When the Gaines came back to San Antonio, they realized that they had to change. “After Jamaica, the Lord showed us that we could not do church the same,” Tiffany says. “Meaning that we had to get outside the four walls. We had to go to the poor and disadvantaged. We took church to the streets.”Pastor Joshua continues, “This lit a righteous fire in my dad! That was when my dad started questioning, ‘How can we become better at reaching our community for Jesus?’”The family continued to pray; Pastor Marty started looking around San Antonio. “My dad drove down Poplar Street on the west side of San Antonio. There was a house being raided for drugs. My dad looks at me and says, 'I think we are home!' We have been here ever since,” Pastor Joshua says. “By this time, we were calling ourselves 'Ethnos,' which is Greek for Nations.”
Ethnos Missions Center was birthed and anonymously sponsored through a connection from the Jamaican Mission Team. They had 22 paid staff and three community outreaches in the San Juan Courts, Lincoln Courts and Cassiano Homes. “We would wear the yellow shirts that we had from our Jamaican trip and go knock on doors. We would let them know, ‘Kids Club!’ The parents would tell the kids to come outside,” says Pastor Joshua. “We would have games, Bible study and snacks for them in the grass by their apartments. We pretty much did vacation Bible school on steroids. We built relationships with the children.”
“My dad drove down Poplar Street on the west side of San Antonio. There was a house being raided for drugs. My dad looks at me and says, 'I think we are home!' We have been here ever since,”
— Pastor Joshua says.
One young man they worked with, Mark Stuart of San Juan Courts, met Jesus in an amazing way. Mark was known as the “bad boy” in the community. “All we heard were negative reports about Mark from everyone we talked to,” Tiffany says. “As the oldest of three siblings while being raised by their grandmother, he was a little rough around the edges but we poured our love and the love of Christ into him.” Mark started attending Kids Club and became part of the youth group. He graduated from high school and went on to college — something few children coming from the Courts ever accomplish.
The enemy does not like it when we take new ground. Still young and healthy, Pastor Marty suffered a massive stroke in 2015 for no medical reason. Of course, his family and those he served were devastated. He was not even supposed to live. But God had other ideas. Pastor Marty is slowly recovering from this near fatal attack. Imogene had to step up as his caregiver and encourager.
Joshua and his wife Tiffany have immediately stepped in as the new executive directors of Ethnos, and kept the vision alive. There is a profound new hope and passion as they continue the work of the ministry as leaders. Current funding enables them to focus their efforts in the Cassiano Homes. Ethnos provides multiple services for the community: Kids Club, clothes distribution and family Bible studies. They also pass out mattresses and linens donated from various hotels as well as food that comes from Daily Bread Ministries, and other ministries as well. “Some of these families have nothing when they move into their apartments.” Tiffany says. “We have become so immersed in the lives of the families we minister to. This has not changed. We are very relational. We get that from Joshua’s dad, Pastor Marty. Relationship is key in showing the love of Jesus and seeing the transformation in people’s lives. That is what makes us so successful!”
“I have worked in various housing developments throughout San Antonio,” says the property manager, Hannah. “I have never encountered an agency that is committed to a property and is as successful as Ethnos. A lot of agencies come in and help, but after a length of time they leave. Before Ethnos started working with the children at the Cassiano Homes, our own property maintenance crew would spend two hours every morning removing graffiti from buildings and sidewalks. Now, I only have one person spending 30 minutes. Ethnos Missions made a commitment here. They signed a lease with us for their own building in order to continue to serve the community. I am the blessed one to have them here.”
The building Hannah’s referring to has four apartments with four full bedrooms. The ministry’s direct need now is to furnish the building in order to expand the vision for Cassiano Homes. They are actively looking for financial resources to finish out the new building. They also need Bibles, deep freezers, refrigerators, nursery items and office supplies.
“We have become so immersed in the lives of the families we minister to. This has not changed. We are very relational. We get that from Joshua’s dad, Pastor Marty. Relationship is key in showing the love of Jesus and seeing the transformation in people’s lives. That is what makes us so successful!” — Tiffany Gaines, Ethnos Missions Center
They are praying for a new van. Tiffany says, “We have a van, but it has 400,000 miles on it. We use the van to transport the children to the pools and field trips. Most of the children we work with have never been outside the Cassiano Homes. We want them to see that there is life outside their community.”
As they continue the legacy left to them by Pastor Marty and Imogene, they do have one new financial partner. Now living in Corpus Christi is Mark (the former “bad boy”). He sent Ethnos a recent donation with a message: “Keep making world changers and history makers! I’ll keep donating as much as I can because God changed me through what Ethnos does. I want everyone on the west side of San Antonio to know God and feel His love!”
P.O. Box 592348, San Antonio, TX 78259
Be A Light.
Give. Consider helping Ethnos finish out their new building. Join them as a consistent financial partner and be a part of transforming the community. Pray. Consider joining their prayer team for the families of the Cassiano Homes. Volunteer. There are many ways you can help. Go to their website and fill out the form to become a volunteer. Schedule. Have Pastor Joshua and Tiffany speak with your Sunday school class, small group and even bring them in to speak to your church.