If education is meant to expand one’s horizons and launch a person into his calling, then time at Houston Baptist University did just that for Brandon Baca. He serves as the senior director of operations for Attack Poverty, a Christian community development organization based in Richmond, Texas. Attack Poverty was founded in 2011 and serves communities in the Houston area as well as in Uganda and India.
“One of the most important things for me is that I get to be part of what God is doing. I’m just a Texas kid who God invited into His Kingdom work,” Baca said. “I’m really grateful for that. I just wanted to give my life away. HBU was the starting place for me.”
Growing up in Fort Bend County, Baca had basic ideas of what he thought his future would look like. “I was on a trajectory of going to junior college and just getting a job, but going to HBU opened my eyes,” he said. “I learned that God has a plan for you. He wants you to be involved in something bigger than yourself. You can give your life away.”
In the ‘90s, Baca was a member of the youth group of First Baptist Church of Rosenberg. Although he had heard of HBU, he assumed it would not be an option. “One day I was at church and still trying to figure out what I was going to do for school,” he said. “My pastor came up to me and said, ‘If you could go to HBU, would you go?’ He said, ‘Well, someone in our church wants to help you go.’”
That benefactor was the late Honorable Judge Clyde Brown Kennelly, a founding trustee of HBU. “Judge Kennelly wanted to invest in young people, and saw an opportunity to care about one of the kids in his church. I couldn’t have gone without that,” Baca said. “It was a new start for me.”
Baca entered HBU in 1995 and majored in Christianity and Communications. The entire University student population was smaller than his public high school. “I was able to get involved right away in campus life,” Baca said.
He helped serve on a student recruitment team, joined a fraternity, participated in the HBU REC team, was a member of a ministry leadership team, served as a resident assistant, and more during his years at HBU. “It was a great opportunity for me to honor the gift that Judge Kennelly gave me to go to school.” Baca said.
Baca made the most of each opportunity at HBU, and relished the chance to learn from people he admired. “The professors were open, not only just in teaching classes, but to really mentoring you,” Baca said. “There were times where I would be able to sit down over lunch and ask questions about faith and future and life. That was meaningful, and I needed that at that time. You don’t always get that at larger schools.”
In his communications classes, Baca gained additional confidence to speak with and work with people. Through his Christianity courses, he grew in a deeper understanding of his faith.
“My time in college was a huge growth opportunity for me,” Baca said. “I was really challenged. It was a season when I realized that this isn’t my parents’ faith or my church’s faith; it is mine.”
During his years at HBU, Baca met his wife, fellow student Sarah Beth (Wiles). The two wed in August of 2000, turning the Hinton Center into a wedding reception space, complete with a jazz band on the balcony. “HBU was so meaningful to us, and it was an awesome celebration,” he said.
The two each worked for HBU for a time – Brandon for the Spiritual Life department, and Sarah Beth in the Office of Career and Calling. Brandon went on to serve as a youth pastor before serving in Christian community development work.
He and Sarah Beth now have three children. Working at Attack Poverty is a family affair for the Bacas. Sarah Beth is a volunteer coordinator, and their children participate in projects as well.
“Our model for Attack Poverty is that we offer a hand up and not a hand out,” Baca said. “We’re awakening potential and provoking transformation. The vision is to empower people to attack poverty in their own lives and communities. We do that through partnerships with schools, churches, families and individuals.”
Across the three continents in which they minister, Attack Poverty staff members and volunteers share the same vision. “We see people come to Jesus through this work; we see lives transformed and families restored,” Baca said. “We say that there are three ways that people can participate: give, volunteer and pray for us.”
Baca has maintained the lifelong relationships he formed at HBU, and has given back to his alma mater by co-chairing the HBU Alumni Board of Directors for a time. He and his wife remain strong proponents of the school.
“We love HBU,” Baca said. “We want our kids to go there. HBU is a place that calls people to action, and to live lives that are fueled by the Gospel for the Kingdom of God.”
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Learn more about Attack Poverty.