Extra newsletter headerAugust 2018

Garcia protecting America's tough borders

For most people, a typical workday is just that… typical. They know for the most part what they can expect when they roll into their office.

Mark Garcia is not that fortunate. When he dons the uniform of U.S. Customs and Border Protection each day, he truly never knows what he will encounter. Mark Garcia with confiscated drugWith nearly 20,000 agents across the nation, the group more commonly known as Border Patrol is one of the largest law enforcement agencies in the country. Stationed along the border in Eagle Pass, Texas, Mark has spent 17 years with the agency.

"It's not been 'Groundhog Day' for me ever," says Mark, alluding to the comedy movie with Bill Murray where each day's activities repeat themselves verbatim. "In the summer we have to carry water and stay hydrated as well as be able to help someone on a ranch who is dehydrated.

"During the winter, you have people trying to cross (the river) and the water is freezing. In rainy season, the river is impassable; these towns are not equipped to handle rain, and they become flood zones. We have to go from patrolling to helping people out of their houses due to flooding. We are more of a rescue unit that anything else."

The typical citizen is not familiar with what folks like Mark do every day as border agents. While the public scrutiny of late has been on illegal immigration and related issues, that is only one facet of what these officers deal with on a regular basis.

"People really don't understand what we do down here. Every time I get online, it seems like people have definite opinions about open borders, but they don't live here. They don't have to worry about one of their relatives getting kidnapped or your kids going to school with the cartel," he says. "I have loved living down here. People here are affable, loving, friendly and helpful. But then you have a criminal element that bleeds over, and that's who you are trying to avoid. There is nothing taboo for the cartel; they are heinous in the things they do."

Change of scenery

Mark earned a degree in psychology and religious education at Wayland in 1994, spending two years on the WBU Track and Field team in the throwing events. His goal was to become a substance abuse counselor, and his first job was in a minimum security prison. It wasn't a fit. He moved to Roswell, N.M., and worked for Job Corps, but since he had no master's degree, he could only do case management work and not the counseling he had hoped to do. After a few years, needing a change, Mark followed the suggestion of a relative and looked into the border patrol.

Mark Garcia in uniform"What got me interested was the motto: Honor first. Above all things, whatever goes right or wrong, you need to have honor in what you believe in," he said. He applied, took a written exam and endured a grilling session with three seasoned agents. "The more I got into it, I learned you have to be able to switch hats quickly and deal with anything. For me, it really became a question of how do I become 'that guy' who can handle every situation, always seems to know the answer."

The entire process took over a year with security clearance checks, and Mark started in February 2001. He went though training academy in Charleson, S.C. - which he likened to military boot camp but with lots of training about law - and graduated with a class of 39. His first position was in Eagle Pass and he's stayed there.

"My first few years were quite eye-opening as to immigration and border happenings. When you have a bunch of guys who are alpha males working together, everything is a contest. It's like junior high for 10 hours a day," Mark laughs.

Now, with many years under his belt, Mark has logged stints in California, Washington, Arizona and Minnesota for BP work. It's not uncommon for agents to be temporarily moved to handle a border inundation. He mentioned the work in Arizona as particularly grueling, with nonstop action along the border. When President George W. Bush announced war in 2003, Mark was sent to Watertown, N.Y., for a time to help man checkpoints there that had had infiltration of those with fake IDs.

And since he's been at this so long, Mark has earned recognition as a trainer of future agents, specifically in the area of driving. He commonly gets asked to travel to other areas for training, often at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Artesia, N.M., which puts him much closer to visit family in the Panhandle-Plains areas.

"We teach emergency driving, 4x4 training with terrain, and a non-emergency course. Skid is a huge course we do; it can be a lot of fun but when you get on the field you realize how important that skid class can be," Mark said, noting that the driving course helps prepare new agents for encounters that often involve driving in very different circumstances.

Demanding but rewarding

The work can be difficult - dealing with physically demanding tasks in all sorts of weather can take its toll on the body for sure. A few years ago, Mark was awarded a congressional badge of bravery for his rescue efforts with a large group who were attempting to cross the flooded river but had gotten swept under.

"We had seen 15-20 people go under and not come up. We pulled 80-plus people out of the water that day," he recalls. "I tied the tow strap around me and tried to get to a little girl stuck on the port of entry pillar. I said to my coworkers that day, 'I was put here to get her across; she's not going to make it.'"

Mark also said the agency has been great to allow him the time to not only watch his children grow up but to help coach their sports leagues and be involved. He works long hours but has flexibility to focus on family as well.

"It's been a lot of fun. Scary at times. I'm exactly where I need to be," he says. "It's part of being something bigger than myself. I love that I'm able to say that I'm part of the security here. It's always been a great honor for me, to be truthful. I have loved every second of being able to serve."

Devotional: Time to clean the trashcan

The other night I turned to a PBS channel that had a program on Alzheimer's Disease. The speaker was talking about all the junk that goes into our minds each day just from living in the world. Then he talked about the value of sleep, that it takes 8-10 hours of sleep each night to empty our "trash cans." If we are only getting 4-6 hours a night, our trash cans never getFull trashcan fully emptied and begin to build up and overflow. Years of junk piling up eventually causes mind overload, often resulting in Alzheimer's.

My "young" tennis buddies tease me and say that I go to bed right after "Wheel of Fortune." Not true, but I do get at least 8 hours of sleep each night. I thought of all the junk mail and e-mails that we all get, all with "pitches" to make our lives better. Then it dawned on me that all this information is in God's Word.

  • If you walk in obedience to Me and keep My decrees, I will give you long life. (1 Kings 3:14)
  • Our only debt should be to love one another (Rom. 13:8).
  • Stress will be eliminated as we allow the peace of God to guard our hearts and minds. (Phil 4:7)
  • All our "mountains" can be cast out as we SPEAK to them and believe and don't doubt. (Mark 11:23)
  • Attendance to God's Word is health/medicine to all our flesh. (Prov. 4:20-22)
  • Love is patient; love is kind. (1 Cor. 13:4)
  • Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Ps. 119:105)

Let's determine to empty our "trash cans" every night and live long, satisfying lives with sound minds!

Linda "Le Le" Jackson Longsdorf was the 10th member of her family to attend Wayland. She lives in Fayetteville, Ga., with her husband John. She also played on Wayland's first women's tennis team during her time at WBU in the mid-1960s.

From the History Files

At the end of this month, Wayland will celebrate its 110th birthday! The official charter for Wayland Literary and Technical Institute was granted by the state of Texas on August 31, 1908, the culmination of a dream for founder Dr. James Henry Wayland and his wife Sarah.

Desiring Christian education in the still-sparsely populated Portraits and Wayland diplomasTexas Plains, in 1906 Dr. and Mrs. Wayland had donated $10,000 of their own money and 25 acres of land about a mile west of downtown Plainview, then still one year away from official incorporation as a city. Both the city of Plainview and the Staked Plains Baptist Association agreed to pitch in another $40,000 in funding to make the school a reality.

Over the years to come, the pioneer doctor and his family would sacrifice many more dollars and work tirelessly to see Wayland grow and thrive. He maintained his medical practice until 1921 but continued to operate a cattle ranch and the downtown Wayland Hotel. He died in 1948 at age 84; Sarah died in 1955.

Not long after the charter was granted, the board hired Dr. Isaac E. Gates as the first president. Within two years of her founding, Wayland would change names to become Wayland Baptist College and would open to students. Eventually the academy portion that served primary and secondary students would be phased out for the traditional junior college program. The first dormitory, Matador Hall, was completed in 1910 just as the first session of classes was about to begin. Dr. Wayland's son John and Gates' daughter Pauline were in the inaugural freshman class.

Meet your Alumni Board

When Bradley Sell earned his Wayland degree in 2011 in religious education and youth ministry, he likely never dreamed he'd still be in Plainview seven years later. Even more ironic is that he'd be in a role that is very much a ministry, just not in the typical church setting.

Sell and his wife Allison, also a 2011 graduate, own and operate Bradley and Allison SellThe Broadway Brew, a cozy coffee shop in the heart of downtown Plainview. In that position, the Sells see many Wayland students, faculty and staff on a regular basis as the spot has become quite a gathering point for late-night studies, morning caffeine breaks or just fellowship time. And Wayland is not the only customer base; "the Brew" attracts a wide range of community visitors. Bradley's love is investing in the growth and development of his team and getting to know, love and serve those customers.

His time at Wayland was meaningful and deep, and he enjoys serving on the Alumni Board in order to "work with other alums for the good of our current student body and the long-term improvement of our culture at WBU." He is currently the vice president.

"As a student, I loved being able to develop deep, close relationships with friends and professors in a safe, fun environment and consistently being challenged and stretched in good ways by people who cared about me and taught me to think for myself rather than just believe everything I was taught or told," says Bradley.

Bradley encourages alumni to stay engaged with their alma mater after they leave.

"Consider all the ways you either needed help or were helped during your WBU experience and join in an effort to replicate the help you received or to create the help you wish you would have received," he says.

Games played during Artify conferenceAlum brings statewide group, vision to alma mater

David McClung has long had a heart for young people. But in his current role, he serves not only as their advocate but also as their encouragement to advocate for themselves.

McClung earned his degree in sociology at Wayland in 2011, then completed a dual Master of Social Work and Master of Divinity at Baylor University. He is currently in the dissertation stages of a Ph.D. in sociology at Baylor while teaching adjunctly for Wayland. He is engaged to marry Lauren Engelbrecht on March 2, 2019.

A resident of Austin, David is a youth engagement specialist at the University of Texas at Austin, working with the Texas System of Care. He started the group ACCEPT in 2014 in collaboration with fellow WBU alumnus Michael Cox, who works in the mental health field.

Voices heard

ACCEPT stands for Allies Cultivating Change by Empowering Positive Transformation, and the goal is to encourage young people to use their voices positively. The group has members all over the state and David is hoping to create a chapter network to foster continued growth and expansion.

"The common theme is a slant toward behavioral and mental health and recovery. Some chapters focus on mental health, some on behavioral health or foster youth and residential treatment," said David, noting the group's great diversity. "Members speak nine different languages and have many different experiences in their backgrounds. We come together to listen to each other and try to understand what everyone is going through so we can advocate for those changes and elevate other voices."

Recently, David brought students from the Hill Country andDavid McClung and fiance Lauren beyond to his alma mater by holding the 2nd Annual Artify Conference on the Wayland campus with help from WBU faculty members. The free two-day event provided clinics on using the arts as avenues for self-expression, community change and wellness. The conference was funded by state and federal funding in partnership with Central Plains Center in Plainview, where ACCEPT leader Jessica Pena works with youth.

"A lot of times the youth voice is overlooked. We want to bring awareness to that importance and push the youth forward since they are our future," says Jessica. "Adults often have that mentality of 'what do YOU know about life' and that keeps them from admitting that youth may have insights and lived experience that we can learn from."

Arts in action

The conference included keynotes by Joseph "JoeCat" Reyna, a deejay, musician and peer recovery leader from Corpus Christi, and Anthony Alvarado, with the national organization Rise Together. Workshops were led in large part by Wayland faculty, including a theatre workshop with Dr. Marti Runnels, professor of theatre and dean of the School of Fine Arts; a music workshop with Dr. Steven Weber, professor of choral education; and a poetry/spoken word workshop with Dr. Maria O'Connell, associate professor of English. Pena led a fourth workshop on art, co-led by Dr. Claude Lusk, vice president of enrollment management, who spoke on college readiness. Small-group discussions about pertinent topics were also included.

As someone who works regularly with youth in the mental health, David is passionate about seeing that young people are properly represented in their care.

"Often our systems have good intentions but don't necessarily have good outcomes. Our system has youth that are dying in facilities, being locked up for extensive amounts of time, and we continue to see abuse and exploitation are becoming the norm," he says. "We find in the research that when youth are involved in the research about things that impact them that they see an increase in grades, are more actively involved in their communities, are less likely to partake in risky behaviors and the like.

"What I love about ACCEPT is that it promotes a place of belonging. Often times we experience the same things but feel isolated, and we don't always want to talk about those experiences. Having others who can talk about that is really good. If it only builds a sense of connection, it has accomplished a lot."

That was the case for Braxton Piewitt, an ACCEPT member from Austin, who met David at last year's conference in his hometown.

"I was really excited because it was something I was looking for. I was having a good time but there were not any kids I could relate to, so ACCEPT really touched me," said Braxton. "Not only are there other youth going through similar situations as me but we're using that to really make a difference."

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