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human relations day
Human Relations Day Podcast with Rev. Becky Baxter-Ballou


Episode Highlights

00:20 // Rich welcomes Rev. Becky Baxter-Ballou and her husband to the show.

00:30 // Becky introduces herself and her husband.

01:07 // Becky talks about her ministry.

02:45 // Becky talks about her first interaction with Human Relations Day.

04:00 // Becky talks about how the Human Relations Day grant supports the things they don’t have the funds for.

04:30 // Bruce introduces himself and talks about the services offered by his juvenile probation department.

07:15 // Becky talks about the impact the church is having on the kids.

08:26 // Becky talks about the importance of the Human Relations Day grant to her program.

09:20 // Becky shares a story as an example of how the church interacts with the kids.

11:00 // Bruce adds that with the help of the church these kids get the opportunity to establish relationships with healthy, well-adjusted, spiritual people.

13:07 // Becky offers contact details.


Episode Transcript

Rich – Alright well welcome to the Human Relations Day podcast. Super excited to have you listening in as we count down to this special Sunday in our calendar that’s just coming up in a few weeks. So excited to have some guests on the line with us today. We’re getting a two for one which is fantastic. Becky Baxter-Ballou and her husband. Becky why don’t you start by telling us about your ministry, tell us what you guys are up to.

Becky – Well I am Reverend Becky Baxter-Ballou and actually I’m an Elder from the Oklahoma Annual Conference but my husband Bruce Ballou and I moved here, it’s been almost four years now. We live on the border, we love it here but it’s a very different environment than the one we came from that’s for sure. A lot in need here. A lot of low income people here. A lot of hope here. So it’s a wonderful place to be.

Rich – Why don’t you tell us about your ministry, what are you actually doing there on the border?

Becky – Okay. I pastor a church that’s actually very, very diverse. We have lots of very small children, we have Hispanic parents that are there, elderly people and very diverse racially, very diverse actually in beliefs. I also manage a food pantry here and we feed about five thousand families a month.

Rich – Wow.

Becky – I am the Executive Director of Mission: Border Hope 501C3. In June of 2013 we had a flood here that destroyed about 300 homes, 700 families were displaced and (unclear 00:01:56) didn’t fund the recovery at all. So our ministry has, at this point we have repaired about 150 homes and we’ve had amazing support from UMCOR and from all of our local churches. So that’s been wonderful but the major thing that we love and that we do is working with at risk juveniles, at risk kids. It’s just an amazing ministry really.

Rich – Very cool.

Becky – So kids that get in trouble with the law, kids who have trouble learning to read and write, a lot of people with a lot of need.

Rich – Why don’t we start talking a little bit about Human Relations Day? There could be some people listening in today that don’t know about it. Do you remember your first interaction with this special day in our calendar?

Becky – Yes, the first time actually I was in the Oklahoma Annual Conference, I interned for the Reverend Doctor Stan Basler at CJAM. CJAM is just a wonderful restorative justice mission for adults and kids and then I was his Associate Director for a few years. I wrote those grants there. They funded that Exodus House, just I think forever. An amazing way of helping really vulnerable people make their way back into the world.

We got our first Human Relations Day grant here three years ago, when we first came. We were a startup, really didn’t have any idea exactly where this might take us, we just knew that we needed a lot of help. Human Relations Day has been wonderful to support our program.

Rich – Now can you give us a sense of the services you provide to your clients or how it is that you reach out to at risk kids particularly?

Becky – Yeah I’m going to let my husband talk about that a little bit.

Rich – Absolutely.

Becky – But let me just say our Human Relations Day grant really has provided a lot of the things that we just don’t have the funds for. Like they take care of food for our program and ministry things that we have for our kids. They help a lot with our mission teams that come. We’ve used that money really for a lot of our basic general operating expenses that we just don’t have any other way to get funding for. It’s been a tremendous help.

Rich – Very cool.

Bruce – My name is Bruce Ballou, I’m the Chief Administrative Officer for Maverick, Dimmit and Zavala counties along the border of Texas and Mexico. Our juvenile probation department is a little different. We’re not a corrections, penalative kind of department, we’re a rehabilitative, mental health driven department that we’re charged with rehabilitating youthful offenders.

So we really do a lot of mental health services. We do substance abuse services, both group and individual. We do outpatient substance abuse services and inpatient substance abuse services for the youth that we serve.

We also do some trauma therapy. A lot of the youth that we come in contact with have been traumatized sometime in their life and unless we deal with those issues, children’s behavior is not going to get any better. So we’ve really targeted those mental health issues and problems. We do a lot of tutoring and education. We do vocational training. We do daily living skills training and social skills training.

Another component that we’re doing is we’re using our youthful offenders to teach at risk youth about some of the pitfalls in life. So we’re using them as mentors. Once they’re trained and once they’ve stopped making significant progress then we will use our kids, our 15 or 16 year old kids, to mentor some of the younger kids. Of course all of this is in a controlled setting.

Becky – Very controlled.

Rich – Exactly.

Bruce – But what we’ve done recently is we have teamed up with several child serving agencies in the community and with the local housing authority to target some of the 8, 9 and 10 year old kids that are at risk for becoming juvenile offenders themselves.

Rich – Interesting.

Becky – When we first moved here, the first year we have over 50 kids that were arrested for hauling drugs back and forth across the border and working drug cartels. The big problem is all of our low income kids come from generations of poverty, low income and the answer to that of course is drug cartels now.

Well in three years’ time, when we’ve gone from having more than 50 the first year to having one last year, so this has been a really amazing transformative process, particularly because the churches are involved in the interaction now with kids. So it makes it a really wonderful, wonderful thing.

Rich – Absolutely. Well this is the great part about Human Relations Day, it’s an opportunity to partner with folks like yourselves who are doing incredible work. What would you say to a church, believe it or not there are churches out there who don’t participate in this special day, what would you say to a church that’s like, “I’m not sure, we’re just going to pass on this one, I’m sure there’s another special day coming. We’re not going to participate in this one,” what would you say to them?

Becky – Well your dollars count. Your dollars change the world. Imagine the difference in a community that has no children that are arrested and sent to the penitentiary that become involved with drug cartels. Even for the 50 that were arrested there were more, I’m sure that were involved. But imagine a world where drug cartels are not able to take our small vulnerable kids. This is just God’s work in the world.

Rich – Absolutely.

Becky – We’re thrilled to be able to say how really important this Human Relations Day grant is to our program.

Rich – Very cool. You mentioned there that the church is involved, kind of intimately involved in helping, what does that look like? What’s taking place on that part of this equation?

Becky – We have several churches here that do work out in the colonias areas. They help rebuild homes and they bring clothes, food, all that sort of stuff, they’re in mission here. Well our children interact with them every time they come, okay?

I guess the best way to tell you about that is a story. The Houston United Methodist Church is a prime example of this. They come four times a year to be with us and when they come they send the dinner, activities, prayer. Last time they came they read a story book to the kids but we had a three hour festival with about 50 kids I think that was at our public housing. Some were kids that were already graduated from the program that were there to work with the other younger kids, and then probably 25 of those kids were from 8 to 10 years old, high, high at risk kids. But they got to work with these really amazing, loving people, and that’s just a wonderful thing.

This last weekend the Coker United Methodist Church was here. We set up the festival at The First United Methodist Church here in town and they worked with all of Bruce’s kids and the public housing kids, painted faces, did stories, did plays, did skits. It’s a wonderful way of teaching about Jesus really.

Bruce – A real good way of putting it is our kids get to establish relationships with healthy, well-adjusted, spiritual people. Of course we can’t take juvenile justice kids to church or send them to church camp as a part of their terms and conditions of supervision. So when our mission groups come down, our kids get to establish relationships with them and when those kids ask, “Why are mission groups in the community? How much do they get paid?”

Becky – They always ask, “How much do they make for doing this?”

Bruch – The response or the look on the kid’s face when you tell them, “Look this is God’s work, and these people don’t get paid anything,” it truly is a ah-ha moment for those kids. They get to understand the restorative justice piece in the process that we are delivering and there’s quite a bit of buy-in from those kids, because what they see is, if these kids can do this then we as well can do it.

We’ve taken kids and they’ve developed their own community service projects. They identify the problems in the community and they identify solutions in the community.

So the help that we receive really fosters and folds over and over and over again with the notion that I can be part of the solutions instead of part of the problem.

Rich – Very cool.

Bruce – To me, that’s a huge, huge ministry. Like my daddy says, “You get a lot of mileage out of that one.”

Rich – Nice.

Bruce – So we’re very, very grateful for the help and support that we get.

Rich – Nice. Well I know your guys are busy, you’ve got a lot going on, that’s a lot of ministry happening. I don’t want to let you go but if there’s a way that people want to learn more about your ministry, about the church, about what’s happening there, is there a way they can get in contact with you?

Becky – Yes we actually have a Mission: Border Hope Facebook page.

Rich – Okay nice.

Becky – Right and we’re

Rich – Very cool. Well thanks so much, I really appreciate you being on the show today and thanks so much for doing the great work that you’re doing there.

Becky – Well thank you Rich for having us and thank you so much to The General Board of Church and Society. My goodness we love and appreciate them so much.

Rich – Nice, thank you so much.

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