1960 El Paso into Juarez, Mexico
El Paso # 12
Thank God for Daddy and Mama. We arrived at 9:00pm on Thursday night traveling all day from Pueblo with everything we owned in a small trailer. Daddy was a master at packing and Mama helped with our baby son. Wife was pregnant with our second child. The parsonage was right next door to the church and things didn’t look all that bad – at night.
Early the next morning I was up and ready to be the pastor of my very own church. One of the faithful had left a key in an outside box for us to enter the parsonage and keys to the church. Excitedly, I opened the door of the church.
My dad was already up and around. His custom was to get up early, read his Bible and pray. The two of us entered the church. We stopped dead in our tracks. “Daddy, what is this?” Daddy had extensive experience in building churches. In fact, he could do anything and knew how to assess things quickly. He said, “It looks like they used low test concrete.” The building was one of those steel fabricated things with aluminum and steel construction set on a concrete floor. Unfortunately the concrete did not have the correct consistency when poured in place. There were 2 inch cracks all through the floor from front to back, sideways and all around. Furthermore, the concrete had not been sealed so cement dust was everywhere. The seats were pews (long benches) brought over from a church that went out of business. Filthy. Well, at least there were 19,000 cars per day passing along the front of the church on the dirt road. Out back was a field of weeds native to a desert environment. But we had great exposure!
Young, bright eyed and bushy tailed, nothing deterred me. Nineteen faithful people were there the first Sunday morning plus my parents. Nine of the attendees were adults. No problem. We had a piano. I played it, sang the special and preached a sermon entitled “We Have a Message” from First Corinthians 2:1-10. I preached like a bishop as though there were a thousand people there. Oh, and I wore my deep blue, pin-striped suit with white shirt and red tie, tie tack and cuff links. No one there told me it was sinful. Well, at least I didn’t wear lipstick. My salary was about $30.00 per week ($800 per month in today’s dollars) plus we could live in the adobe house for free. Not bad, huh?
The long and short of the first few months was that I mobilized a couple of guys and we cleaned the place. The only person available to act as janitor was numero uno (I thought I would inject a little Spanish). I still played the piano, sang specials, preached and visited everybody in that part of town. We had a water pipe running into the parsonage supplying the kitchen, bathroom and back porch shower. At first the shower had a family of scorpions hanging from the top. I politely asked them to move on down the road. With the help of my broom they complied.
I joined every organization I could find. Soon I was elected to serve as the president of the ministerial organization of the city, vice president of a local service club and became a member of the Sun Bowl group bringing football to the city. Man, I was involved. I became close friends with a nearby pastor of a large Methodist church. That was before the Methodist church started to lose members and before their political liberalism. He mentored me through the maze of my first time ministry. Daddy did too, but they had gone back to Cisco and he was getting old. The more secure Nazarene pastors didn’t want to get involved with mentoring because members might leave their church and go somewhere else, maybe to my church on the dirt road. Continue reading “Sinking Sand/Solid Rock – An Anthology # 12 El Paso”