by Laurie Oswald Robinson
Even though San Antonio (Texas) Mennonite Church is a small congregation, its recent decision to purchase the Mary and Martha House (La Casa de Maria y Marta) is helping the church dream big with God.
On Oct. 1, the 35-member congregation decided to buy the house – a block from the meetinghouse near downtown San Antonio — from Mennonite Mission Network for $180,000. The purchase will help the church to further develop some of the ministries that have operated for three decades at the residence that has served as a center for retreat, reflection and service.
The house, with a few offices and 10 bedrooms, originally served as the former Mennonite Voluntary Service (MVS) residence. When the MVS unit desired to be more present in the neighborhood in which the volunteers were serving, MVS left La Casa for the west side of San Antonio, and other ministries filled the space. Those include ministries of DOOR San Antonio (Discovering Opportunities for Outreach and Reflection), and other local, regional, and national service programs.
“We are a really small church [70 active participants] to take on a building like this, and it was no small feat to discern what we should do,” Pastor Rachel Epp Miller said. “It took a lot of discernment and prayer, along with some fundraising and a leap of faith.”
That leap included the decision by the congregation that it needed to raise $30,000 for a contingency fund for initial and future repairs for the aging structure before it could say yes to Mission Network. This fund would be in addition to an approximate 10 percent increase in annual budget to take on the costs of the La Casa purchase.
“We had a month and a half to raise funds, and the Saturday going into the Sunday of Sept. 29, we had only raised 60 percent of our goal,” she said. “But by Sunday morning, a few more pledges came in that got us to 94 percent of our goal. That assured us that we had community support to move ahead.”
The courage to move ahead with God is positioning the congregation to invite fellow Mennonites throughout Western District Conference and Mennonite Church USA to move forward with God, as well. La Casa will continue to house participants in Mission Network’s SOOP program, which brings adults from across North America for volunteering at local non-profits. It will also continue to facilitate DOOR’s Discover program where groups of mostly young people come for a week of service and learning. Still available, too, will be its guest house ministry, retreat and meeting space for various groups as well as temporary living space for church families in transition.
“Just as Mary sat at Jesus’ feet to learn and reflect, and Martha was geared toward serving, we want this house to engage people with these values as they come looking for the face of God in our city,” Epp Miller said.
For testimonies from La Casa, and for ways to partner with San Antonio Mennonite Church in these ministries, please visit their website: lacasa.sanantoniomennonite.org.