AUSTIN—Pat Mustoe ministers to clients at the Baptist Community Center Mission with the same passion that brought her to Austin more than 50 years ago.
When Mustoe went to college, she had no greater desire than to be a big-time basketball coach. She began shooting for something a little different when someone knocked on the door of her Virginia dorm room to invite her to the Baptist Student Union.
Life-changing missions experience
She instantly became immersed in the organization, and she was introduced to Texas when she was assigned to Austin as a BSU summer missionary.
“I just loved the kids,” she recalled. One of her other assignments that summer was at nearby Baptist Temple Church, where she encountered many of the same children.
While she loved the children, the leadership at the community center was in turmoil, and she recalls telling her partner as they walked away the last time, “Alice, you couldn’t pay me to work here.”
But the experience in Austin changed her life.
“It was a wonderful summer. Everything we touched seemed to work well,” she said, noting she still remembers the lessons she learned.
“You had to totally depend on God. You learned as you went, but God won’t ask you to do anything he won’t give you the skills to do. When you have to rely on God to do the things he has called you to do, it is very rewarding. So, the summer was tremendous.”
God opens doors for service
At a student event at Glorieta Baptist Conference Center shortly thereafter, she told God even if his plans for her did not involve coaching basketball, she would be surrender to his will for her life. She also began to grow homesick for her summer home—Austin.
The job offers she received when she approached graduation just didn’t seem right. Then she received a letter from Austin, asking if she would consider becoming the director of the Austin Community Center Mission.
“That was the answer I had been praying for,” she said. “I had been praying for God’s will and that he would show me what he wanted my to do. I knew it was it.”
She interviewed during her spring break and even though she wouldn’t graduate until August, the leaders of the community mission center waited for her. She became director of the ministry Sept. 1, 1966.
When she arrived, the center needed repair, and it had been broken into repeatedly.
‘I wanted to make a difference’
Even so, the certainty of God’s calling to help those who need a bit of help resonated with a young woman whose own childhood had not been easy.
“I wanted to make a difference in the lives of some kids,” she said. “A lot of Baptist people were there for me in my life and led me in the right direction. I felt like this was a place where I could make a difference.
“It’s been a exciting journey, and God has always been in it. Some months get a little tough, but the next month is good, usually.”
More than 1,000 families a year receive food
The ministry is funded primarily through the donations of Austin-area churches and two trust funds from the wills of Baptist women. Baptists around the state also contribute to its ministries through their gifts to the Texas Baptist Hunger Offering.
People visit the community mission center for a variety of reasons. Some just drop by to pick up donated bread and pastries. Others need a little more help and go through an interview process to receive groceries monthly.
The food ministry is the center’s largest ministry and touches not only people throughout Austin, but also the surrounding communities such as Kyle, Bastrop, Buda, Round Rock and Georgetown.
“I don’t just give people beans and rice. I try to give them a good food order,” Mustoe said. “We give them cereal, meat, vegetables, fruit, flour and sugar so they can really make a meal.”
More than 1,000 families receive help from the ministry each year.
The center also assists people in paying for their rent, utilities and medications or in securing birth certificates.
“We don’t have a huge budget to work with, but we do help,” Mustoe said.
Teaching life skills, sharing the gospel
Part of the ministry involves teaching clients ways to stretch available resources.
For example, if the electric bill is high, they are counseled to find a reasonable setting for the thermostat and reminded of the need to change air-conditioning filters. The center also helps people develop a system of rationing out their food vouchers so they do not run out of groceries early in the month.
While most of the people who come to the center profess to be Christians, the staff is diligent in sharing Christ with everyone the ministry helps.
“We have Bibles to share, we have tracts to share, and we pray with people,” Mustoe said.
The ministry also has adult sewing, cooking and other educational classes, as well as a preschool ministry.
“A lot of people who live around here cannot afford the high prices of other daycare facilities, so this is a great blessing to them,” Mustoe said. “At the same time, we get to tell children Bible stories and teach them how to pray.”
For older children, the center has an after-school ministry and daily events during the summer.
The mission also sponsors seasonal events, such as Vacation Bible School and a Thanksgiving dinner that serves more than 800 people annually.
Even after half a century, Mustoe still has a passion for the ministry.
“I love these people, and I love to see the changes that result in their lives,” she said. “When you see people become Christians, join a church and change—really change—that’s encouraging to me. Seeing them provide a stable home for their children—it doesn’t happen every day, but it happens enough to keep me going.
“I love to see people change and walking with God.”
This is part of an ongoing series about how Christians respond to hunger and poverty. Substantive coverage of significant issues facing Texas Baptists is made possible in part by a grant from the Prichard Family Foundation.