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This Church and Its Glowing Sign Help Keep the Faith on the Southwest Corner of 12th & Chicon

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez
Mission Possible Austin's sign on the corner of 12th and Chicon.

A tall, metal marquee dominates the southwest corner of  12th and Chicon streets. Like a voiceless preacher, the scrolling display on the sign serves as a freestanding directory of activities for those in the neighborhood – all offered by its owner, Mission Possible Church. 

Bible study, coffee every few days, food truck availability in the area and even free pregnancy tests just down the street, at the Chicon Pregnancy Resource Center, where Katie Mathews works as an advocate.

“We do a ton of stuff,” Mathews said. “We do free pregnancy tests, free ultrasounds. We provide baby clothes, diapers, wipes, maternity clothes, shoes.”

The center was empty, save for two employees. Mathews tiptoed around boxes jammed with donations – including formula, diapers, shoes. She opened a closet stacked floor to ceiling with baby clothes.

“It is extensive,” she said. “We have a ton of donations, not a lot of space.”

Outside, two Capital Metro buses buzzed the corner – one running south on Chicon, the other east on 12th. The lunch hour was winding down, and Tiberio Cruz had begun to close up his Mexican food truck. Cruz owns one of two food trucks that rent part of this parking lot from the church.

“I have chicken tinga,” Cruz said, touring me around his truck. “It’s marinated with chipotle peppers and ancho peppers – and honey and some other spices.”  

Cruz has lived in Austin for 25 years, but has been serving food at this corner for only four months. He said the promise of being able to serve a diverse community brought him to this corner.

Credit Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

“I think this area reflects what Austin is,” said Cruz. “I know Austin is changing all around, but Austin is, like, a very eclectic town that welcomes people from all walks of life.”

While Cruz served up marinated meats, the Mission Possible marquee kept ticking away. While no church owners were around that afternoon, believers are never too far away – believers like Anthony Bunton.

Bunton stands on the sidewalk outside the church, carrying a light brown suit jacket and a white shirt. He grew up just a few blocks from 12th and Chicon. He's now homeless, and a recovering addict. He sleeps at the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless – commonly known as the ARCH – downtown.

The suit jacket and shirt? He plans to wear it to mass hosted by Mission Possible under the bridge at I-35 and Sixth Street for the homeless who congregate there. But, said Bunton, what he wore to service was of little consequence.

“The Lord says come as you is,” he said. “Look, I’ll come down there in some flip flops, you know, chewing on a jaw breaker, you know, nappy hair, cold still in my eyes, I ain’t brushed my teeth, and I’m telling you, I guarantee you, I’m gonna get blessed the same.”

Bunton continued on to the bus stop at the top of the corner. He said he will take the bus downtown to the library to escape the heat. By the time he leaves, rush hour traffic begins to pack the streets, and the marquee above keeps scrolling on.

Audrey McGlinchy is KUT's housing reporter. She focuses on affordable housing solutions, renters’ rights and the battles over zoning. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @AKMcGlinchy.
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