Houston”s Mission Greenspoint dispelling darkness with light

A history of violence associated with this part of town has earned its more infamous shopping center, Greenspoint Mall, the moniker “Gunspoint Mall.”

The Greenspoint area sits on the city’s northeast side, near the edge of Houston proper. Like so many metropolitan regions, it has seen an ebb and flow of prosperity and decline. The majority Hispanic population settled into the void left by residents fleeing the flooding of Tropical Storm Allison in 2001. Many are poor and undereducated, most just barely scraping by. Among them is an unquantifiable illegal immigrant population living in the shadows, said Silvano Paiva, a church planting facilitator in Houston for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

Additionally, gang violence, drug dealing, and prostitution have blighted the neighborhood. Paiva used to live in the area and is disturbed by its decline. He said the neighborhood is made of “good families” forced to live in an environment with an increasingly degenerative influence on the younger generations.

“The darkness is penetrating at a faster pace than Christians can keep up,” he said.

But light shines brightest in the darkness.

In the heart of this troubled community shines Mission Greenspoint, a Christ-centered ministry operating a stone’s throw from “Gunspoint Mall.” The multi-faceted ministry is staffed by a small brigade of faithful volunteers and three paid employees committed to sharing the gospel with those who have little else besides their faith. Throughout its 15-year history, Mission Greenspoint has aspired to be all things to all people and is now on the cusp of expanding its reach into the community.

One of the ministries serving under the auspices of Mission Greenspoint that would directly benefit from the medical expansion is Greenspoint Pregnancy Assistance Center (GPAC). GPAC Director Flora Lopez said offering medical care would be a boon to the pregnancy center. Abortion-minded women and those wanting to keep their babies would receive Christ-centered care throughout their pregnancies.

And last month GPAC got the news it was hoping for: An ultrasound machine is on the way, donated by the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s Psalm 139 Project.

Gospel engagement
The growth of services provided by Mission Greenspoint only emphasizes the persistent needs of the community, but Grady Butler, Mission Greenspoint executive director, is not discouraged by the seemingly endless struggle against poverty. On the contrary, every client represents an opportunity to share the gospel.

Robin Tanner, missions coordinator for Metropolitan Baptist Church—one of numerous Southern Baptist churches that partner with the ministry—appreciates the evangelistic emphasis of the ministry.

“Everyone who walks in the door of Mission Greenspoint is going to get the opportunity to hear the gospel,” Tanner said.

Lopez said she chronicles conversations with each of her clients in a journal.

“We really get engaged,” she said. “It’s about their emotional and spiritual needs.”

Her notes allow Lopez to reconnect with each client upon their return. Many are dumbfounded by her recollection and genuine concern. And hundreds each year make commitments to Jesus Christ.
Butler records each decision made—not to keep a spiritual scorecard but as a reminder to himself, the volunteers and the ministry’s supporters of why they persist in their efforts.

In 2012 Butler noted 492 professions of faith. Day-to-day contact accounts for some of the salvations but most were made during events that drew the community to the center—back-to-school supply drives, Thanksgiving food baskets, a Christmas store, and more.

It was during last year’s back-to-school drive that Butler became aware of the pervasive homelessness of some of their clients. Several hundred children live in area motels or a downtown homeless shelter with their families.

Mission Greenspoint is surrounded by the 65,000-student Aldine Independent School District. Eighty-five percent of the district’s students are classified as economically disadvantaged, earning the district federal Title I funding to supplement the school district’s education needs.

Standing in the gap is Mission Greenspoint, providing not only food and clothing but job training, English-as-a-Second-Language classes, assistance with Social Security paperwork and other government forms for Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps.

Some of the classes are offered as need and interests prescribe. The ongoing need is always for food and clothing. The mission does not give vouchers or housing payments but by reducing the financial burden for some basic needs clients can put their own resources toward those needs.

The life-affirming influence of Mission Greenspoint is supported with $47,000 in annual funding by 12 local churches. The offering pays three staff members (the yeomen’s work is done by volunteers including Butler and his wife Cindy) and finances the supplementation of client material needs.

Metropolitan Baptist Church, Champion Forest Baptist Church, and Spring Baptist Church are among the supporting congregations, supplying labor routinely and during large-scale supply drives held throughout the year.

Lopez said the task of caring for the poor and wayward would be overwhelming for those not grounded in their faith and resting on the assurances that God is in control and working out all things for good. She said it doesn’t hurt that God encourages her by revealing victories against the darkness.

Lopez told of a woman overwhelmed with the burdens that come with a husband who abuses drugs and alcohol. His job was in jeopardy. He needed stability and, most importantly, salvation, she told Lopez. The women prayed for the husband. And Lopez made note of their time together in her journal.

Thirty days later she was able to go back to her journal and conclude the story. The wife contacted Lopez and told her that two days after they prayed together the husband gave his life to Christ, went to church with his wife, and put drugs and alcohol out of his life.

One more light to dispel the darkness.

TEXAN Correspondent
Bonnie Pritchett
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