On our way back from a family vacation, my daughters and I went west to visit several of our Panhandle congregations. On our way, we stopped in Liberal, KS, to visit a special young lady’s house. She had a wild story about a tornado, Munchkins, and of a great Wizard.
Finishing up there, we headed south to Spearman, TX, to visit the folks at Faith Lutheran. This small community was founded by folks from Gruver who moved to Spearman in the 1960s. They constructed their church building with their own labor and continue to impact their community.
Served by Mr. Cecil Biggers (SAWL), this is a joint Lutheran and Presbyterian congregation. Although very small (the congregation only has 10 folks a week in worship), they impact their community in many ways, most notably by their food pantry. Partnering with other congregations in Spearman, they feed over 90 families a month.
That evening, we had dinner with the leadership of Faith and then headed the 30 miles northwest to spend the night at the parsonage of Oslo, Gruver. There we were welcomed by Pastor Arlen Lloyd, and on Sunday I preached and presided at worship. This historic community, founded 110 years ago by sons and daughters of European immigrants to the Midwest moving to Texas, has persisted despite drought, dust, and the challenges of rural economics in 20th century America.
My daughters were a little uncertain at first about attending a different church, but within 5 minutes they realized that one of the girls in Sunday School with them had been a cabinmate of my elder daughter last summer. The Briarwood connection made, they had a wonderful time, and Oslo will be sending 9 youth to camp this summer!!!
I was also pleasantly surprised to see them engaging in campus ministry at Panhandle (Oklahoma) State University. Without funding or “official” blessing, Oslo members have welcomed, encouraged, and shared their faith with students from across the country who find themselves in this remote college community. Heard of the dreams of a young man from Miami, graduating from OPSU, now looking to serve his country and attend medical school. Wonderful how these congregations reach beyond their doors and history to the people in their context.
Sunday afternoon, we drove to Amarillo in time to get a quick swim at the hotel pool before meeting the new pastors as Beautiful Savior, Amarillo. We are grateful that Steve and Wendi saw the light to leave the Islands of Hawaii and come to the mission field of the Texas Panhandle. We are also grateful for the openness of the Beautiful Savior community to call a spouse team for this ministry.
Monday morning, we headed west to Clovis, NM, to participate in a day of their Briarwood Day Camp (that will be another blog post). After some time there, we headed back east towards home. On the way, we stopped by two other Panhandle congregations, Immanuel, Posey, and Grace, Slaton.
Fun fact about these congregations: While both have Slaton addresses, the Immanuel community strongly stands by their Posey location. They are located next to the Posey cotton gin right off State Hwy 84, approximately 11 miles southeast of Lubbock. Although the town of Posey is unincorporated and never grew to more than 125 residents in its history, the people there retain that identity and commitment to their heritage. https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hlp42
Large or small, all these communities are a part of who we are as NT-NL and are part of being In Mission Together. We are grateful for them, recognize these are the communities they call home, and desire to continue to connect with them and ensure they know how much a part of our life together they are.
It was a great trip, but like all journeys, eventually it must end. So we headed east, the five hours back to Fort Worth, breezing by with my daughters in control of the radio. Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, and many other singers popular with the pre-teen set accompanied us home. And it was good to be home, because whether your home is in the Panhandle or Fort Worth, as Dorothy said…THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME!!!