|Four awards were given at this year’s luncheon. Each award recipient receives a plaque and a certificate, and a $50 donation is made to the National MFSA Office in the name of the honoree(s).The Genesis Award recognizes individuals who have recently begun her or his journey creating a more just community, or who have created a new way to do so, and who have quickly made an outstanding contribution.
This year’s award recognizes a couple who have recently started a restorative justice program in the Eagle Pass region, for teenagers who have gotten caught up in the drug trade that flourishes on the Texas-Mexico border. This year’s award is given to Reverend Becky Baxter Ballou and Mr. Bruce Ballou for their work in helping establish the Border Hope Residential Center, which serves Maverick County, one of the poorest in the nation.
The Congregational Award recognizes a congregation which has made a substantial contribution to creating a more just community. This year, MFSA recognizes two congregations for becoming affiliated with the Reconciling Ministries Network – which only a handful has done in the Southwest Texas Annual Conference. A Reconciling Community is one which makes space at the table for all God’s children by explicitly welcoming lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and striving to transform the church into a full expression of Christ’s inclusive love.
In 2011, Grace UMC, in the Austin District, began its journey down the pathway of righteousness. Through Bible study, congregational conversation, and other forms of dialog and communication, Grace discerned they were being led to publicly show their support for those who have long been marginalized, by becoming affiliated with the Reconciling Ministries Network. The award was presented to Rev. Linda Kessie representing the Grace UMC congregation.
Travis Park UMC, in the San Antonio District, began its journey in the year 2000 to become a Reconciling Community. After setbacks and further discernment, their congregational emphasis shifted from just welcoming all persons, to being advocates for justice and policy change, the Church Council overwhelming approved becoming a Reconciling Community in 2008. This award was presented to Rev. Monte Marshall, representing the Travis Park congregation.
The Lifetime Achievement Award is presented to someone who has demonstrated a lifetime of service to the world through the church. This year’s honoree is Ms Dalila Cruz of Austin Saint John’s UMC. Dalila grew up in the Rio Grande Conference. She has worked for the UMC General Commission on Religion and Race, the General Council on Ministries, MARCHA (Metodistas Asociados Representando la Causa Hispano Americana – the Hispanic Caucus of the UMC), and the National Women’s Division of the UMC. Dalila also served for two quadrennia for the National Council of Churches USA and also for the General Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns for a number of years. After retiring from the Women’s Division in 1996 she returned to San Antonio and became very active with her local home church of La Trinidad, working with the local Metro Alliance. Dalila served most recently in Office of the General Secretary of the 2012 General Conference.