One of Our Own Elected to UMC Foundation Board
In mid December, the United Methodist Church Foundation Board unanimously elected Beatrice Gonzales Garza of Houston to serve as chair. Read about her leadership path and vision for this role.
Longtime Ashford UMC Houston member Beatrice Garza’s leadership style is that of “pray and go.” Bea has a long string of impressive leadership awards (including an Education Impact and Trailblazer Award and Latina Leader Award) that have been blessings along her spiritual journey with God. “Prior to my recent invitation to chair the United Methodist Foundation,” she says, “I had been praying for 18 months about where God wanted me to be engaged in service and ministry. So when I got the call that a friend had nominated me, I had an overwhelming sense that this was the answer to my prayers. Initially, I did not think this role was a good fit, but during the interview process, my heart changed. I can’t deny when I feel God speaking to me, because over and over I am moved to tears at those times.” Adds Bea, “I felt the Spirit again at the first board meeting, confirming this is where God wants me to serve. When we pray for God to show us where He wants our service, we must be prepared for His answer, knowing full well that His response will stretch us.”
From childhood, Beatrice was training as a leader. “I was born into a Protestant home which is a unique situation as a Latina,” she says. “This was not the norm in the late 1940s.” She was taught always to put God first, a value that was reinforced at her private high school where the faculty was intently focused on developing Christian leaders.
After moving to Houston in the late 1970s, she and her husband Victor began attending the closest United Methodist church to her home, Ashford UMC. Over the years she held numerous positions in the church’s leadership gamut from teaching Sunday school, leading retreats and mission trips and chairing finance endeavors. Bea has served on multiple boards, including America’s Charities, The Women’s Home, Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Literacy Advance, American Leadership Forum and Boy’s Town, USA.
“Many times, I have been reminded by my pastors that I am serving in the mission field when I am focused on my vocation,” she shares. With an MBA from the University of Houston, she is currently directing her passion for others as the President and CEO of AAMA, the Association for the Advancement of Mexican Americans. In this role she thrives on inspiring and empowering Latinos to achieve their potential via education and participation in the community.
“My greatest accomplishment, other than raising two wonderful daughters, is to see young lives being changed every day from a pathway of destruction and prison to one of education, accomplishment and success,” adds Bea. “I have been with AAMA in this capacity for six years thus far, and I still get goose bumps to hear the stories of how our students’ lives have been impacted.”
“As a former teacher, I’m a life-long learner,” she shares, “always trying to instill in others the importance of moving forward and reaching for their dreams. I tell young people to stay curious, to be courageous and to surround themselves with people that encourage them.” That is why one of her long-time favorite books has been Balcony People, a book about realizing who is in your personal balcony, rooting for you. I’m currently reading the book, Attitude is Everything, and it is reinforcing my desire to lead staff and clients to successful journeys.”
The United Methodist Church Foundation board retreat to be held in March will clarify her role and that of the organization, but the board is thrilled to have her passion and love for leadership. Foundation President Byrd Bonner says, “Bea’s deep and abiding faith, executive experience and careful discernment skills make her a strong leader for the Foundation for a time such as this. I am thankful to God and grateful to Bea for the visionary spirit that she brings to our table.”
According to Byrd, in early 2000, the UMC Foundation began its ministry with no endowments in place and no established donors. Today, 15 years later, the Foundation has built endowments for 22 diverse ministries of the Church that include church administration, Christian education, racial/ethnic caucus ministries, social, gender and racial justice, scouting ministries, and conflict transformation. At the December meeting, the board of directors approved two new endowment efforts to benefit camping and retreat ministries of the General Board of Discipleship and a sustainable agriculture fund of the United Methodist Committee on Relief.