Mariposa Family Learning Center

Prayer Blessing for Mariposa FLC!

What a grand “Prayer Blessing” for Mariposa Family Learning Center with some 55 folks present! The gray January 12th sky above SE Austin allowed a bit of sunlight to filter through, lending a spirit of divine blessing from above for this work and mission – over a year-and-a-half in the making.

Upon embarking on this project in the spring of 2019, Austin City Lutherans didn’t have a physical location or a building in which to carry out this mission. What the organization did have was some initial funding and a whole lot of faith. Our faith has been rewarded many times over in these past months – Mariposa FLC is now poised to serve children and their families!

I reminded the crowd that this new work continues upon the path forged by faith-based pioneers in Montopolis: since 1957, the United Methodist women who lead the Montopolis Friendship Community Center and offer a thrift store and a community center (and, previously, childcare); and, Dolores Catholic Church under the leadership of Father Fred Underwood in the 1960s and ’70s building the Montopolis Rec Center and organizing the community to bring bus service, affordable housing units, and social services for seniors and activities for youth. There would be no Mariposa FLC today without the pioneering work of these faith partners who have gone before us in the spirit of Christ-like commitment.

Neither would there be any Mariposa FLC without the buoyant spirit of service shown by numerous Austin City Lutheran volunteers since August 1st, the initial volunteer work day at MFLC. While I stood on the newly built ramp that served as our Sunday afternoon pulpit, I asked for those who volunteered – whether painting, cleaning, equipping, fixing, building, organizing, sorting, replacing, doing electrical or plumbing work – to raise their hands. More than half the crowd did so. Thank you all for your wonderful work!

Mariposa Director Sheila Pharis then addressed the gathered to let them know that she plans to open the center’s doors to children toward the end of the month. She said also that parents are filling out registration forms and that she is conducting interviews for staff hires.


Pastor Tom Grevlos, to close out the brief ceremony, gave the blessing prayer – a christening for the important work to be carried out in the significantly rehabbed building that sits on Austin Parks and Rec property, Civitan Park. Mariposa FLC will help children develop their God-given abilities, thus mitigating the “readiness gap” that typically exists for low-income family children when they start kindergarten.

Mariposa FLC’s goal is to strengthen families in SE Austin, which will make our entire Austin community stronger – whether we live west or east of Austin’s dividing line, I-35. Mariposa is a major part of Austin City Lutherans’ overall effort to create a “living bridge” that trends east. Thanks to all those who have helped make this faith-vision a reality.

Mariposa Family Learning Center

Question: Can Austin City Lutherans do “more, better, together”? Answer: Absolutely, because with God’s guidance and grace, all good things are possible. When it comes to food distribution and early childhood/family development – the two major areas of emphasis for Austin City Lutherans’ (ACL) combined ministry efforts – we’re grateful to report that our organization’s reach is expanding.

Mariposa Family Learning Center (MFLC) is ACL’s newly named and established effort in SE Austin to provide young families with high-quality child care, supplemented by parent education and support. MFLC will use a “2-Generation” approach – working simultaneously with children and their parents – with the goal of increasing each family’s access to economic, social, educational or spiritual resources. Located at the Montopolis Friendship Community Center on Vargas Road in Austin’s Montopolis neighborhood, MFLC should be operational sometime in the fall of 2019.

ACL’s leadership identifies Mariposa FLC as a transformational ministry, having the power to positively alter the trajectory of a child’s and their family’s life.

Individuals and families continue to receive fresh produce, frozen meat, eggs, bread, and canned goods every Monday evening at Bread For All (BFA) Food Pantry at Faith Presbyterian Church on E. Oltorf Street. On the second Monday morning of each month, BFA helps facilitate a similar distribution from a Central Texas Food Bank truck at Parker Lane United Methodist Church in SE Austin. Since 2013, BFA has served low-income workers, seniors on fixed incomes, disabled folks, homeless individuals, and children living in poverty.

ACL’s leadership refers to BFA as charity ministry, having the ability to provide quality food – along with water, the most basic of necessities – for an individual or family, whether in temporary or chronic need.

“Mariposa” is the Spanish word for butterfly.

ACL is committed to doing its part to counter intergenerational poverty – a byproduct of entrenched American inequality – in response to Jesus’s teaching in “The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats:” Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me (Matthew 25:40).

We’re working with United Way-Austin, which serves as the coordinating organization for all 2-Generation efforts throughout the Austin area. Other important partners include Austin Parks and Recreation, Allison Elementary School, and the United Methodist women who have been doing community ministry from the Montopolis Friendship Community Center for more than sixty years.

Austin City Lutherans consists of the leaders and members of ELCA worshipping communities in and around Austin, Texas. Formed in 2011, the ACL moniker “More, Better, Together” was adopted early on to guide the organization’s activities.

Donations can be made to Austin City Lutherans (a 501.c.3 non-profit) for either Bread For All or for Mariposa FLC at Abiding Love Lutheran Church, 7210 Brush Country Road, Austin, Texas 78749.


SE Austin Initiative Update!

Austin City Lutherans’ goal of providing high-quality early childhood development in SE Austin gained a grand measure of momentum the first week of December 2018!

A “Memorandum of Understanding” has been signed by ACL President Brad Highum and the board president of the Montopolis Friendship Community Center (MFCC), Ms. Vernell Moncure. The memorandum is not binding, but it allows ACL to take further steps to determine if a childcare-dedicated building owned by the MFCC would best suit ACL’s early childhood development effort at the same location.

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The longer history of the MFCC foreshadows ACL’s briefer history. Consisting of women of United Methodist churches in the Austin area, MFCC was founded in 1956 with the mission objective of serving, in Christ’s name, those of “greatest need.” The next year – in that era prior to civil rights enactments – they began to work and serve in Montopolis, primarily alongside minority populations. Recently annexed by the City of Austin, Montopolis at that point in time was isolated and neglected. The MFCC has been there ever since – at 403 Vargas Road – offering childcare, a thrift store, and community center activities.

Allison Elementary School, established in 1955 as one of the city’s first effort to provide services in Montopolis, has always been a good neighbor to the MFCC. Austin City Lutherans plans to maintain a side-by-side working relationship with this longtime Austin Independent School District neighbor.

The long-range goal is to open a childcare facility for infants to three year olds at MFCC, run by ACL, in August 2019. There is much work to do to reach this goal in the stated timeframe: meetings with Austin city entities and other partners, consultations with ACL Core Team members, and decisions by the ACL governing board. Additionally, a binding document will need to be agreed upon by ACL and MFCC leaders.

Your prayers are coveted. Perhaps the following prayer from the Evangelical Lutheran Worship, page 304, fits ACL’s current context best:

“O God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Christ our Lord. Amen.” 

Thanks be to God who guides, leads, directs, and redirects. Let’s keep at it!

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Southeast Austin Initiative

At its February 25, 2018 meeting at Abiding Love Lutheran Church, ACL members approved moving forward with a bold initiative: to plan and implement an Early Childhood Development Center in Southeast Austin. Pastor Tim Anderson was approved to be the development director of the initiative. Significant funding for the initiative and the director position has been promised by two leading ACL congregations: Abiding Love and Shepherd of the Hills. Pastor Anderson will make himself available to preach and teach at all ACL congregations, sharing the vision of the initiative and encouraging support for its development in a part of the city that significantly lacks options for families in need of child care.


Click here for the backstory to ACL’s commitment to nutrition and early childhood development.