It was July, 2012, and my husband, John, and I were celebrating our fiftieth wedding anniversary by reclaiming our roots. In the first 14 years of our marriage as a teacher and a school administrator we had lived and worked in seven of Colorado’s tiny towns. We had struggled along with the other residents to find spiritual support. In the town of Dillon we found personal relationships with Christ in a Village Missions Church, a church whose pastors were determined to fill the spiritual gap existing In their town.
Now we were revisiting some of our previous residences and reacquainting ourselves with other towns that we knew as high school sports competitors of the schools in which we had taught. We had spent the night at a campground in Alamosa, then headed south to San Luis, Colorado’s oldest town. The town’s history was impressive. A bastion of the Catholic Church, the town had a lovely shrine set on a hillside above Main Street. A quick check of an online reference revealed that San Luis was 92% Catholic with only 1% declaring no church affiliation. The nearby towns in Conejos County had different demographics with 42% Catholic, nearly 30% “other” (the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) and 26% claiming no church preference The towns (Antonito, La Jara, Manassa, and Sanford) had little in the way of a bonafide gospel witness though.
Shrine of the Stations of the Cross in San Luis, Colorado
We “prayer walked” a few blocks of the main streets in San Luis and Antonito, then stopped and made a few purchases in several of the stores. A clerk in one of the stores in San Luis told us proudly that one of his ancestors had come from Mexico to help build irrigation ditches so that agriculture could be established in this area.
A cloud burst brought a sudden end to our activities, but we were prompted to pray for a burst of the reign of God’s Holy Spirit in these tiny places. We could sense the love of our Father for each of the residents. May our Father renew our passion to pray that a gospel witness will come to the southern tip of the San Luis Valley.
The Lord said to Abram…”Arise, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you.” Genesis 13:14,17
The Dillon Community Church as it looks today.
Tonight I am thinking back through the many Thanksgiving Holidays of my life. One stands out. It was 1970, and my husband and I were living in Frisco, Colorado. John was the school counselor for Summit County Schools, and I was a young mother busy taking care of my two-year-old son and baby daughter.
There were limited social opportunities for a young couple in a mountain community in that day. The first snow fell in mid September covering my two-year-old’s outdoor toys. We didn’t see those toys again until the snow melted in mid May! The almost-daily snowfall slid off our metal roof and piled up along side our house until by April we could no longer see out our windows because the mound of snow outside reached all the way to our roof line! Our four-wheel drive vehicle was essential to getting my husband to work. That left me with no way to get beyond the confines of our little log house.
We discovered the little community church in Dillon, a neighboring town, and decided to go there. The church, we discovered was pastored by two lovely ladies in their mid-forties. They were called “missionaries” of an organization called Village Missions. This organization trained and sent out “missionaries” to tiny towns throughout the United States that had no Bible-believing church. These ladies did everything from paying the church utility bills, to preaching on Sunday, and playing an active part in the community. One of their most important duties was to lead Bible studies in homes throughout the area. It was in these studies that they came in close contact with members of the communities, began to pray for them, and eventually led them to the Lord.
I had been raised in a mainline Protestant Church. Church attendance was considered important, but a personal relationship with Jesus Christ was not emphasized. After a few months of attending the Dillon Community Church on Sunday morning, and walking a block through the snow (kids in tow) to a neighborhood Bible study during the week, I came to realize the emptiness of my “religious” life. One very special Sunday, I left the comfort and safety of my pew and walked to the altar to acknowledge my desire and need to give my life to Christ. John made the same decision several months later.
That decision changed everything for me. The scriptures that had seemed uninteresting and difficult to understand now became alive! They were written to me! I no longer felt alone in my little log house while John was gone during the day. Jesus was there with me! He was fulfilling my needs. The Bible study ladies, and the worshippers at the church became precious friends. This little church and its faithful pastors and congregation made all the difference for me.
I am grateful today for the way that God had planned and directed our steps. If we had lived in a larger community, we would have attended our denominational church and might have missed the salvation message. If I had not been so desperately in need of social opportunities, I might never have accepted the invitation to attend a neighborhood Bible study. God had helped to create a need in my life so that He alone could fill it. I am thankful to Him and to those whom He used to bring the light of salvation to me.
Jeremiah stared into the inky blackness of the cistern in front of him. They were going to throw him in there??!! He wondered if he would be killed by the impact, or by drowning or would his demise come more slowly and painfully by starvation and thirst. He felt many hands take hold of him from behind. He was lifted up and over. There was a swoosh as he fell through the darkness. Then, with a thud, he landed. Nothing was broken. That was good news! Something had cushioned his fall. He put his hand down to touch the bottom: no water, just mud!
Quickly he came to the realization that he was not alone! A creature ran over the top his shoe. Another made a rustling sound as it scurried about in the darkness. Rats!! He stomped a few times to scare them off. Was he to be eaten alive? Something dropped on his shoulder! He shook it off. A snake! Was it poisonous?
A few hours had passed when he heard a familiar voice shouting from the top of the cistern. He looked up, his eyes trying to adjust to the intense light at the opening. It was Baruch, his scribe. “Hey, Jeremiah!! How’s it going?? I brought some tablets if you want to dictate to me.”
Jeremiah was more than glad to hear a familiar voice. Yes! He would describe his feelings and thoughts about his predicament. These are words of Jeremiah :
I am the man who has seen affliction by the rod of the Lord’s wrath.
2 He has driven me away and made me walk in darkness rather than light;
6 He has made me dwell in darkness like those long dead.
7 He has walled me in so I cannot escape; he has weighed me down with chains.
8 Even when I call out or cry for help, he shuts out my prayer.
9 He has barred my way with blocks of stone; he has made my paths crooked.
Then Jeremiah changed his tune. He began to think about his God rather than his circumstances. He dictated one of the most-quoted and best-loved passages in all of scripture:
Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:
22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”
25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him;
26 it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. all quotes from Lamentations 3 NIV
Jeremiah did not have to wait long. Within days, some old clothes came fluttering down through the hole to him. He was instructed to place them under his arms to protect them from rope burn. He was about to be drawn out of the cistern. His faith had been rewarded!! [This story is based on Jeremiah 38 and Lamentations 3.]