Neighbors Beyond Your Neighborhood

Second in a series – by Marcus Goodyear

It takes Mario Sosa twenty-five minutes to drive from his home near Fiesta Texas to southwest San Antonio where he is a youth pastor at Life Church SA. The drive brings him from La Cantera to Southpark Mall, from Brandeis High School Broncos to the South San Bobcats.

Often, we let our neighborhood tell us who our neighbors are, but Mario looks at the entire city of San Antonio and sees neighbors everywhere—next door and across town. Which is pretty darn biblical of him.

When an expert in the law asked, “Who is my neighbor,” Jesus responded with this story: a Samaritan stops to help an injured Jew on the road between Jerusalem and Jericho. Samaria is hardly the same neighborhood as Jerusalem. Even today, it would take nearly three hours just to drive from Jerusalem to Samaria. So the parable challenges listeners that neighboring well is more expansive than serving people who live nearby, who share beliefs, or who look the same.

If we’re not careful, we treat the people outside of our local neighborhood as something other than neighbors—we see them as “those people” on the south side or the north side or the west side or the east side.

“For me to be that good neighbor, I have to continue to be open and wash the feet of others,” Sosa says. “Those who live out in [South San Antonio], I tell them, ‘Hey, me and my wife are here any time you want to talk or you need some extra guidance.’ We always try to make a connection—it doesn’t matter whether they are here on this part of town or over there on another part of town.”

The H. E. Butt Foundation reaches people all over Texas and all throughout a city like San Antonio, so it’s no surprise that different neighborhoods relate differently to the Foundation. Families from some areas in San Antonio are much more likely to send their kids to LLYC or spend the weekend at a Laity Lodge retreat or subscribe to Echoes. Other areas, like South San Antonio, Dignowity Hill, or the historic West Side know us primarily through our free Foundation Camp program—if they know us at all.

“For me to be that good neighbor, I have to continue to be open and wash the feet of others.”

Mario Sosa

Mario Sosa lives on the north side and works on the south side. He has organized and led the Power of One camp at the H. E. Butt Foundation Camp for members and guests of the south side’s Life Church SA since 2008. Now in its eleventh year, the summer camp uses a Bible-based study to teach youth leadership skills and decision making in today’s world.

The neighborhood where he lives doesn’t look exactly like the neighborhood where he works. Northside schools have higher scores; south side high schools have higher dropout rates—a full 600% higher.

Mario doesn’t let statistics or geography get in the way of service. Some of his favorite neighbors live 23 miles from his neighborhood, and if they face greater challenges and if they have fewer resources, then all the more reason for him to do what he can to help them transform their community.

Serving Neighbors All Over Texas

Since 1954, the Foundation Camp program has worked to serve families who could not otherwise afford such an opportunity. This often means campers come from neighborhoods that have higher dropout rates and unemployment rates. Fewer people in these neighborhoods are US citizens. Fewer people have health care. More families live in poverty.

The challenge is for us to recognize that we are all neighbors—everyone in San Antonio, everyone in Texas, everyone in our country and beyond. No matter how different our neighborhoods look, no matter how different our appearance or beliefs, we all need to experience transformation and wholeness. We all deserve to thrive.

Even more important, we are all responsible to serve our neighbors—all of our neighbors—so they too can experience transformation and wholeness. So they too can thrive.

1. August 1, 2018-July 21, 2019

Comparing Mario’s home and church ZIP codes

78249 (Mario’s Home) 78211 (Mario’s Church) United States Averages
96% are high school graduates 59% are high school graduates 88% are high school graduates
44% have bachelor’s or higher 5% have bachelor’s or higher 32% have bachelor’s or higher
$63K median household income $36K median household income $58K median household income
8% of families below poverty level 19% of families below poverty level 9.5% of families below poverty level

Source: U.S. 2017 Census estimates

“No matter how different our neighborhoods look, no matter how different our appearance or beliefs, we all need to experience transformation and wholeness. We all deserve to thrive.”

More from this issue

The Rewilding of Laity Lodge

To really see Laity Lodge’s landscape, you’re going to need a few different perspectives.

Happier & Healthier Students

Outdoor experiences can provide children a proven antidote to today’s “epidemic of loneliness.”

Can Churches Help with Mental Health?

A study of churches looks at what happens when people tell their pastors about mental health challenges.

“It was the joy
of generosity”

Echo Valley 2020 Campaign offers fitting, lasting memorial honoring Bob Ayres.