TMF Blog

Invest in People Not Footballs

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December 10, 2018

by Mary Balagia, V.P. of Board of Directors, Wesley Community Center, Houston

Invest in People Not Footballs

This week’s guest blogger is Mary Balagia, a registered nurse who in later career heard a call to ministry, attended Perkins School of Theology, received her Masters in Divinity and became ordained in the United Methodist church. She served as associate pastor at Lovers Lane UMC in Dallas and Chapelwood UMC in Houston. Mary retired from full time ministry but has found a new career as an author of a children’s book, Patch the Hill Country Bunny, which has just been published. 

Four years ago, Mary heard another call, this time to serve on the board of directors for Wesley Community Center in Houston. Mary enthuses about Wesley’s ministry to all people: from its infants to its youth, young adult with families to its elders. TMF Grants Ministry supports Wesley’s Financial Opportunity Center, helping adults further their education and employment opportunities through financial literacy, coaching, education, and other services. Through Mary’s eyes, we see why investing in people can pay priceless dividends.

Invest in People Not Footballs by Mary Balagia

The first time that I attended a luncheon to support Wesley Community Center, I bought a football autographed by the then Texans quarterback because I thought my son would enjoy it, and it might be a good investment. That investment lasted only as long as the quarterback’s short career in Houston, but my investment in Wesley has endured. A short time after the luncheon I received a call from Greg Krause, the Wesley board nominating committee chairman, asking me to serve on the Wesley board. It did not take me long to decide to join, and since that day I have seen returns on my investment many times over. 

Years ago, I read a quote by Bishop Desmond Tutu. He was describing the African worldview of Ubuntu and wrote: “Ubuntu speaks of the very essence of being human. It means you are generous, you are hospitable, you are friendly, caring and compassionate. You share what you have. It is to say ‘My humanity is inextricably bound up, in yours.’ We belong in a bundle of life. We say a person is a person through other persons.”

The mission and ministry of the Wesley Community is to live into the qualities of Ubuntu. The mission to provide quality services and programs that make possible the highest potential of every individual whose lives we touch. The ministry is to carry out our mission with a spirit of hospitality, friendliness, care and compassion. When I enter an Early Childhood Education classroom I see and hear the delight of children who are eager to show me their work and share their successes. They are unencumbered and full of every sense of possibility in front of them. Their futures are as bright as the stars they see at night.

In our Financial Opportunity Center, I see the faces of men and women intensely focused on the education and training that will help them succeed in life. They do the hard work to provide for their families and also to create opportunities for their future. Our board celebrates the achievement of each client and sheds tears of joy with each story of a life that has been changed. Our lives are inextricably bound up in theirs.

Recently I visited the elders in the community at their Wesley “Senior” Prom. Each dressed in their finest evening attire, I marveled at the way these older adults enjoyed each other’s fellowship, friendship and true companionship. They care deeply about each other and Wesley cares about them. The prom culminated with the crowning of two of their own as King and Queen. This was a day to honor others and celebrate their shared community. To dance with the Wesley senior citizens is to realize the true meaning of young at heart! 

Wesley also creates opportunity for its volunteers and supporters to not only be a blessing, but to be blessed by the people served there. That’s what drew me to serving at Wesley, and it is what keeps me there. Through ubuntu,we see people and their humanity. We create opportunity to develop their potential and to live abundantly. That is a good investment.

Among my heart’s desires is that we all be called to reach out and enter into the lives of men, women and children served by the Wesley Community Center in the Near Northside Community of Houston, and other places like Wesley. How might your humanity intersect with the lives of any one person such as those we serve in the Wesley community? We can never lose when we invest in others.

About the TMF Spirit of Christmas Series:  In 2018 TMF awarded grants to more than two dozen organizations in 2018 to further their courageous, spirit-filled ministries. Our Spirit of Christmas series highlights the accomplishments of six ministries that inspire us to deepen our worship, increase our giving, love our neighbors and serve our communities all year long. Read our weekly blog posts and join our conversations on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

To learn how TMF supports courageous and purposeful ministries across Texas and New Mexico, please contact TMF Director of Grants Ministry Jacki Lammert or read more here.


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