Community, church and children share selfless service
By Alonzo Garza
With the summer heat blaring down on them and the charred remains left by a recent house fire marking their clothes, bodies and faces with charcoal, members of the First Lockhart Baptist Church youth group removed debris from a burnt house on Rio Grande Street last week.
The FLBC youth group spearheaded an all-out community ef
fort to refurbish the uninhabitable burned house, and turn it back into a home.
The house caught on fire two months ago and left a family of six homeless.
The family was living in a motel for about three weeks and running out of money when Mark George learned of their plight. He offered them an apartment on his property outside of Lockhart, and knew he could do more to help.
George, a member of the FLBC, has been doing missionary work for seven years. He felt he had to do something about the family’s situation, and spread the word in church congregation. The youth group made cleaning up the house part of their summer service project.
“The real story here is that we got all these kids volunteering their time in the middle of summer,” George said. “These kids came in here and did a great job and they did it with great joy. It’s almost like the Good Samaritan story. The kids stepped in when no one else would.”
George passed the torch on to the youth group but remained committed to helping the family of six, which includes the parents and four children, ages 11 – 17, who lost everything they owned in the fire.
Once FLBC signed on to help, other churches and some businesses also joined in the effort to restore hope to one Lockhart family in need.
“It has been quite and effort.” George said.
Debra Sanchez and her daughter, Brittany, were present at the clean up effort.
Sanchez lived with her family in the house for three years before it burned. She was happy to see so many bright smiling faces helping in her time of need.
“They are amazing,” Sanchez said as she watched the youth group. “They are working and singing and praising as they work. It is truly a blessing. I thank Jesus every day.”
Sanchez went on to praise all the work that had been going on since Monday, but stopped to make sure she thanked George.
“Mark has been a blessing,” she said. “It started all with him. If he hadn’t started all of this… I don’t know where we’d be. Since Mark started this, we’ve had other churches and businesses from plumbers to sheet rock setter, to real estate agents… they have all come on board.”
Sanchez said she and her family are recovering from the loss, but it has been difficult.
“This happened in May,” She said, pointing to the house. “At first, nothing was happening. Once the church got involved and the kids showed up, all sorts of people have stopped by either to help or just out of compassion and community. I can’t believe the outpouring.”
From Monday-Thursday of last week the FLBC youth group cleaned the fire-damaged property from noon – 4 p.m. The students stopped cleaning at 4 p.m. because they had to be back at the church by 4:30 p.m. to conduct a youth group meeting and discuss the progress of their other summer projects.
The youth group usually works on other projects, such as landscaping, mowing lawns and painting houses for the elderly. They also conduct food drives for the Caldwell County Christian Ministries.
The Minister of Students at the FLBC is Nic Burleson. He praised his group’s efforts and elaborated on their projects, emphasizing that the clean up at the Rio Grande Street house was just the tip of the iceberg.
“This is the third year we’ve done this,” he said. “We call it ‘LTX,’ which stands for Lockhart, Texas, and we take a week out of our summer to serve the community. Currently, we are doing this after lunch because in the mornings we are working with children at apartment complexes. What we do is have kind of a backyard Bible class or Bible study type thing.”
Burleson explained the group was already working on other projects when George spoke to the church about the house. The youth group volunteered to be a part of the restoration of hope to a Lockhart family in need.
“We have other projects going on like landscaping and we’re painting a house for an elderly lady,” he said. “We take our kids to other out of town mission projects. This year we’ve been to the Dallas/Fort Worth area, but we want [the kids] to learn that you don’t have to go somewhere to make a difference. We want them to know they can do the same here in their own community.”
Burleson emphasized the message that service should be a part of every life and that people do not have to wait for a disaster.
“Our main purpose behind this is to show people God’s love,” he said. “Not just tell them about it. We don’t want it to be lip service. We want to show God’s love in practical ways.”
Lockhart High School senior Mark Tate was one of the many enthusiastic volunteers enjoying his summer service project.
“We’ve been here since Monday and we’ve done endless work on this house,” Tate said. “It’s great to see how our efforts will help the family in the long run and how our work reflects God’s love through our work in the community. Most of us have been involved in these projects for three years. For me, it’s an incredible feeling to know the time you spend and efforts you put in can really change lives and make a difference.”
LHS sophomore Victoria Espinoza experienced the service project for the first time, but was equally enthusiastic and moved by the experience.
“This is my first year doing this,” she said. “It has been a great experience helping out. It has been fun too. It’s great to know that we are making a difference. Instead of staying home and watching TV, you get to do something for your community.”
See you serving your community.