Everything started with a question! While waiting in the hotel lobby for a business meeting of the Board of Mission Administration (BMA) during one of our Mission Field Visits, Beth Lauterbach, who is a board member and a certified evangelist in West Texas, asked me, “Lincon, have you heard about Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Hereford?” Since I’m still relatively new to Area A (West Texas) and getting to know people, congregations, and territories, I replied honestly, “No, not at all. I’m not familiar with either the town or congregation.” This sparked a conversation. Beth shared her involvement in the church as an organ player, how the dynamics and membership of the congregation had changed over time, and how the demographic changes would create an excellent opportunity for a Hispanic Ministry. Pastor Joe Andrajack from Prince of Peace Lutheran in Amarillo, who had been assisting the vacancy in Emmanuel for quite some time, was well acquainted with the state of the congregation. After my conversation with Beth, I felt an excellent next step would be to visit Pastor Andrajack, who was enthusiastic about it, too. We coordinated a visit to Hereford.
Hereford has around 15,000 residents and is often called the “Beef Capital of the World.” It sits in the heart of the Texas Panhandle. The town’s rich agricultural heritage can be felt everywhere you go, with vast fields of wheat and maize that stretch as far as the eye can see. The community has experienced a significant demographic shift, with Hispanics making up 80% of its population. Their sense of unity is strong and evident in the warmth of the residents and the numerous cultural events held annually. In the heart of this town stands Emanuel Lutheran Church. Built-in 1949, the brick building can accommodate around 100 worshippers and is conveniently located in front of a lively public park filled with the laughter of children and families. In the past, this church was known in the community for its dedicated work with children.
However, there were some challenges ahead. During my first visit, I sadly observed that attendance had declined to around five people. The church building had suffered a lot of damage from a hailstorm, highlighting the need for repairs. With limited human and financial resources, Pastor Andrajack and I made a leap of faith, believing that God would provide. I remember in one of our conversations, Pr. Andrajack told me, “Lincon, over the past years, many have suggested that we close this church down for good, but We’ve been praying for this place. I genuinely believe that now it’s God’s time! ”
A few months later, a team of Hispanic pastors from Dallas came to help renovate the building adjacent to the church. A member of a sister congregation generously stepped forward and donated the amount needed to replace the church roofing. The youth group from Hope Church in Lubbock organized and led a Vacation Bible School that was well received by the community. Extensive repairs and renovations were carried out with teams from Hope Lubbock and Farwell, which included remodeling the bathrooms and overhauling the plumbing system, replacing the sanctuary ceiling, upgrading entrance flooring, fixing the front doors, and many other improvements. Furthermore, the Hispanic pastors connected deeply with the community and partnered with an apartment complex to do events like a back-to-school backpack drive, realized in August, thanks to the leadership of Pastor Jaime Gonzalez and evangelists Beth Lauterbach and David Baldner. Exciting plans for more community outreach events are already underway for the coming months, including a Fall Festival and a Christmas Event. Yes, prayers are being answered, and it’s just the beginning.
This collaborative effort between Anglo leaders/congregations and the Hispanic ministry in West Texas goes beyond adapting to demographic changes. It’s a powerful testament to the church’s unwavering dedication to God’s mission. As Lutherans and followers of Christ, we are called to embrace and celebrate our community’s diversity while working together toward advancing God’s Kingdom. I echo Pr. Andrejcak’s words, “It’s God’s Time”. Amen.
By Rev. Lincon Guerra
Area A Mission & Ministry Facilitator
BMA Liaison / Hispanic Min. Coordinator