This weekend Robyn, Madison, and I complete two years serving alongside the great people of the First Baptist Church of El Paso. This historic church family has kept the light of the gospel shining brightly in the heart of the largest border city for one hundred and thirty years. It has been one of the highest honors in my life to be the pastor of this church.
I can still vividly remember receiving God’s call to come to El Paso. Early on a spring morning in Canyon, Texas I found myself reading from the words of Moses in the book of Deuteronomy. As I read the following words burned into my soul. As Moses commissioned Joshua to claim the Promise Land that had eluded the people of God for a generation he said:
“Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the Lord swore to their forefathers to give them…….Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:7-8 NIV
The words “be strong and courageous…do not be afraid…do not be discouraged” kept echoing in my heart and soul. This calling to go and lead the people of First Baptist Church into its next great adventure captured my imagination and stirred my soul.
I had a sense deep in my spirit that God had invited me to be part of something much bigger than myself. He had invited me to join Him in His work of bringing hope and help to the people of Paso Del Norte (“Pass of the North”). I believe God has every intention of showing up in great power in this “Borderplex” being torn apart by senseless violence in Juarez and its spillover effects into neighboring El Paso.
Now I look back over two years of this adventure and I am so thankful God entrusted this calling to me. These two years have been some of the most exhilarating and challenging of my life. To be frank, I still don’t know what I am doing, but with God’s grace and power at work all around me, few people around me realize I am stumbling along in the darkness by faith or at least they don’t tell me!
As I reflect back today I thank God for the team of leaders He surrounded me with upon my arrival. Bob Nickell, Jim Cleaveland, Dan McGlasson, Martha Jackson, Kara Jones, Ricky Gum, and Juan Ortiz have been an incredible blessing to me. Gayle Sawyer, Ardis King, Lynda Morgan, Leslie Bustillos, Maria de Luna, and Lynn Heller have made me look good by their work behind the scenes.
The deacons have been nothing but supportive and empowering to me in my following of God’s vision for our church. The volunteers in all the many ministries have been outstanding. Our recent success has been nothing more than a total team effort. I am deeply humbled to serve with some of finest servants of the Lord in the world.
One of the most significant milestones in the last two years has been the calling of Edgardo Martinez and Erick Jimenez to be on our team as Hispanic evangelism interns. This creative ministry inspired by the generous gift of Ruth Deerman has changed the face of the congregation.