“The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. And he said to them, ‘Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest for a while.’ For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away to a desolate place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.” Mark 6:30 – 34
West Texas is a place in our minds that conjures various images, many from tales of the west derived from myth and legend, yet myth and legend come from seeds of truth that grow into lore. So, the land of red dirt, tumbleweeds, and dust storms is a desolate place in our minds. Of course, there is also the tale of the self-made man, the cowboy, the farmer/rancher, the man whose hands are made hard from working the land and those things that come from it. In fact, we find that West Texas is truly a desolate place, with little rainfall compared to Central and Coastal Texas, on average about half or a third of those locations. Yet we see Jesus do some of his best work in desolate places. In Mark 6, Christ goes on to feed thousands from almost nothing, and we learn of Christ’s reliance on the Word of God when He goes to wilderness to be tempted (Luke 4).
At Hope Lutheran Church and School (Lubbock, Texas), we learn that God’s Word can indeed thrive in a desolate place. Led by Pastors Eric Hiner and Dan Borkenhagen, we serve under the theme of “Grow in Faith, Unite as Family, and Serve as a Follower of Jesus Christ.” Working as the Body of Christ in a land of sparse population, arid climate, and vast expanses of land, we seek ministries like those in churches that serve in urban and suburban areas that allow us to be used as the Spirit’s vessels to bring the Word to those who don’t know Christ. As in all geographic areas, it can be a challenge, yet we celebrate those ministries God has richly blessed. This brief article will focus on three of our ministries that involve both youth and adults.
Several years ago, several people in our church discovered an urban ministry in inner-city Lubbock called “Lubbock Impact.” As a city of over 250,000 people (within the city and over 300,000 in Lubbock County), there are homeless people and people of need like in any city. A local church had completely shifted its ministry by serving the homeless and those who suffer economically by providing meals and addressing various medical needs (medicine and dentistry). Upon learning of this ministry opportunity, Hope Lutheran became one of eight church partners who serve this ministry through serving meals one night each month. Our 25 volunteers on average serve over 100 people as they gather to eat and have their needs, including spiritual needs, met. Youth and adult alike serve as part of this ministry monthly.
In service to a broader region which includes much of West Texas, Hope is part of a group of Lutheran churches who annually hold a camp for well over 130 youth each summer in Ceta Glen Canyon on the southern rim of the larger Palo Duro Canyon. This youth camp is supported by ministry activity annually when each church gathers to raise funds to promote the camp and gather necessary funds to reduce the costs of conducting the annual camp. These youth are provided learning activities that develop leadership skills, service skills, and activities that enhance and promote the development of faith. At Hope Lutheran, these youth return to the church and become part of several other ministries that are conducted each summer such as Vacation Bible School (well over 20 youth participated in VBS as teachers or servants this past summer), youth events, and the youth gatherings at the state and national level. From camp and church-based activities, our youth are integral in the theme “grow, unite, and serve” in the unlikeliest, most desolate of places, including the rugged beauty the canyon called Ceta Canyon.
A recent service event began a few years ago when our then-new pastor, Eric Hiner, was in communication with a sister congregation, Grace Lutheran in Norfolk, Nebraska. From that connection, a new ministry was born. Now, the two churches meet in Gallup, New Mexico and provide VBS at two sites in the Navajo Reservation near Gallup, and the youth from our churches, along with adult sponsors, are actively involved in conducting VBS which serves approximately 60 Native American children each summer. As a servant-leader event, learning occurs on both sides of the equation as those who go to instruct and lead learn as much as those who are the students in the VBS.
These ministries at Hope aren’t highlighted to point to Hope, but rather to point us to the hope that comes from the Holy Spirit when we allow Him to serve in our own unique ways. Hope Lutheran Church and School in Lubbock is no different than other congregations throughout the state and nation in that we all share a theme of leadership, service and growth reflecting the Great Commission from Jesus Christ. Yet, like our sister congregations in the LCMS, our unique location provides us with ministry opportunities that allow us to develop our own footprint in service to the gospel. Because of that, we have found ways to allow the Spirit to ignite the flames of sharing that gospel with those in our midst and outside our own congregation. Regardless of age, we unite, serve and grow as disciples of Christ, in a desolate place like West Texas.
By David Baldner
Texas District Board of Directors