After a visit to Outcry in the Barrio in April, a return visit has increased the understanding of what this ministry is doing.
By Steve Parkhurst
It is summer time in San Antonio. Mid-July, the 15th to be exact. The temperature approaches 100 degrees. It is a Texas summer day to be sure.
Pastor Roman Herrera, instead of sitting inside enjoying lemonade and air conditioning, is instead working his way through alleyways.
Pastor Roman is not homeless, he’s not looking for a meal, or a place to sleep in these alleys. Instead, he is looking for people. People he can possibly save. He is looking for people passed out or hung-over. He is finding people in such condition. People laying on cement paved alleys, with dirt, leaves and other debris as their only cushion. This just happens to be where they laid down the last time they laid down, or fell down.
Pastor Roman kneels next to these people, who in some cases won’t know he’s even there. One at a time, as he finds them. He might lay a hand on their chest or leg, then he will pray for them. He will offer them a chance to be saved. He offers them a place to go where once they accept that their lives are not being lived according to scripture, they can begin anew. He does not promise a new life. He promises a chance to find forgiveness through acceptance in Christ.
I can ask myself without hesitation, “what have I done this important this year?” and I can quickly, with humility and maybe a little shame, respond “nothing.”
And I don’t write this to shame people. I write this to point out the positive things being done, that arose from a married couple over 40 years ago who opened their home to the very first addict and there began a ministry that has changed the world. Freddie and Ninfa Garcia did this. Their work back in those days is still alive today.
Outcry in the Barrio is the ministry doing this work, leading the way to what looks like a renaissance. Pastor Roman and his wife Alma, they lead the way at the home that houses those in recovery and ministry at Outcry. Their love, caring and devotion is apparent when you talk with them, whether for thirty seconds or ninety minutes.
I was recently afforded the privilege to attend and witness the Outcry in the Barrio International Conference. Pastors gather to share stories about their work and ministries from wherever they traveled, be it Dallas or Peru.
One evening, I enter the performing arts complex where the evening session begins in about an hour. A gentleman approaches me to welcome me, he is a greeter. We shake hands and he asks me about my day. I ask about his day. We start talking. This gentleman is clean cut, wearing a nice shirt which is tucked in. He has tattoos, but I was not judging. I asked him about his relation to Outcry. The next 3 or 4 minutes contain an amazing story of drugs, jail, alcohol, crime, prison, and then, Outcry and Jesus.
I asked questions. He answered them. He’s been clean for nine years now. He has a day job and a family. I noticed at one point, he was constantly smiling, or at least, he was never frowning or looking down. He only spoke of his past because I asked about it, he has his sights set on scripture and the future. He has a personal vision, something that is very important to those who listen to and accept the teachings at Outcry.
His was not the only story. Other stories stretch back further than nine years. Most of these people know the date that things changed for them, and they share it proudly.
Outcry long ago began to reach beyond the limits of San Antonio’s west side. The presence in Texas is strong, but the international reach is certainly being felt as well.
As these leaders gathered for a sort of “iron sharpens iron” week of sharing and fellowship, we heard stories of struggle leading to acceptance; of sin leading to salvation. There are too many stories to write about here, but every story was full of humanity and hope. Each person I spoke with only inspired me to do more.
When I wrote about my Outcry visit this past April, I wrote about the fact that Robert Woodson, the founder of the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise had introduced and escorted Congressman Paul Ryan to Outcry in the Barrio this past January. One day during this week long conference, Congressman Ryan was in Washington D.C. at the American Enterprise Institute presenting his new findings on and solutions for poverty in America. Sitting to Congressman Ryan’s immediate right, was Robert Woodson. Was I being told something here?
Maybe so. This was too coincidental.
On politics for another moment, Congressman Ryan’s proposed solutions deserve consideration. They’re a conversation starter, and not a final plan to be voted upon by Congress anytime soon. The ideas of consolidating redundancies and granting states the power to develop ideas of their own to get people out of programs and into lives of meaning, that is a compelling cause which Jack Kemp would have loved, and then he would have fought for it.
Outcry in the Barrio is a great example of a “program” that throws convention to the wind and gets results their way. Outcry, for over forty years, has tried and tested its way to success. And when they need to, they can adjust what needs adjusting.
As a witness to this ministry, and my time observing Outcry is a mere drop in the bucket compared to their forty-plus years in operation, what they do is awe-inspiring. I’m often at a loss for words when I try to explain what I’ve seen and what I’ve heard. There are some incredible men and women in charge of things there. None of them will take credit either, it’s not about them, just as it’s not about me. It’s about faith in God and a desire to reach their vision of spreading the word to anyone who will listen.
I want to ask you, I won’t say the word “challenge” but I will ask you, to find the Outcry in your area. It may go by another name and do other work. But please get in there and help them. Help does not always mean going in with money or supplies, it can be in the form of ministering with and praying with those in need of saving, helping them find their way to their calling, helping them find their direction.
Pastor Jubal Garcia, the youngest son of Freddie and Ninfa, and the current director of Outcry in the Barrio, has global plans for Outcry. The conference in July was called Planet Shakers for a reason. As this national and international growth occurs, many hands, many minds and many hearts will be needed in various communities to assist these efforts. We can all play a role.
As I stated before, this is the stuff that leads to a renaissance.
Days after Pastor Roman is in back alleys spreading the Word and showing people how they can save themselves, I am in the room when he preaches a sermon to the conference attendees. He avoids the lectern and in fact, at points he gets off the elevated stage to stand in the midst of the people to whom he is preaching. To listen to this man is to find someone that feels something for human beings that is beyond words. He is a true embodiment of the work happening at Outcry and the people there.
I’ll begin to conclude with this. Ninfa Garcia, on the first night of the conference was on stage addressing the audience and she made the statement regarding her late husband, “Freddie was a soul winner.” That line struck me as powerful. It struck me as courageous. It also struck me as true. The course of the week long conference proved this to be true, and then some.
I wrote about my first visit to Outcry in the Barrio back in April. I realize now that I missed a lot on that visit. In other cases, I found out that things I observed once, repeat themselves as they should.
Somewhere, I am as sure as a mere mortal can be, Freddie Garcia is smiling down on his work, on his creation. In founding Outcry in the Barrio, he did what he did as a higher calling, let’s not confuse that. But every day, every life saved and every life turned over to following God’s vision is another feather in the cap for Freddie, the soul winner.