desert ministry

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The sun beats down on lonely, windswept dunes.

The rocky landscape is heavy with the weight of oppressive heat.

Small, gnarled plants cling to the scorched earth, bracing against the whipping wind and unforgiving sun.

So much of the land sits still and silent, as if a paralyzed existence is the only way to survive the harsh elements.

Dry.  Empty.  Lonely.  Desolate.

Common adjectives to describe the desert.

And also common adjectives to describe ministry.

The harshness of the physical environment only seems to augment the challenges of ministry here in the desert.  How many have toiled endlessly under the unforgiving sun, giving themselves fully to the work of cultivating hard-packed, rocky soil?  Few would look at the Gulf region and classify it as the much sought-after good soil.  Yet, through our intentional obedience or through the choreography of God’s great plan, we find ourselves here among the sandy terrain, determined to take up the task of sowing seed.

But it’s hard.

It stretches and pushes and burns us in places and ways we never imagined.  It leaves us dry and thirsty in a land with little water.

By its very definition, a desert is a place where the amount of evaporation is greater than the amount of precipitation.  We know that better than most.  We may not consciously think it, but we feel it deep in our bones.  That subtle, constant, sucking-dry.

Yet despite the difficulties, life is possible in the desert.  We’ve seen the images of plants–brave, sturdy things, dotting the landscape with spots of green.  They have managed to adapt to the desert wilderness.  How do they do it?  What`s their secret?

Roots.

A vast and complex system of roots designed to soak up every single drop of  moisture from above the earth and below.

We need roots too.  The life-giving networks of community and fellowship, times of worship and prayer, soaking in the Word and drinking Living Water.  Unfortunately, our new home in the desert has cut most of us off from the deepest, strongest, most life-sustaining roots that we have–family, mentors, friends, home.

And so we add to our challenges, the task of developing roots.  Pushing into the hard soil around us in search of community.  Chipping at stones in search of a spring.  But this is also back-breaking work.  For a lot of people, coming to the Gulf  is temporary, a few years and then it’s over.  We connect and invest and just when we feel a trickle of water, they are up and gone.  Our hearts bear the scars of frequent uprooting.

Yet here we are:  hanging on, determined, picking up the shovel yet again.  We stand in the wilderness, our cracked and blistered hands lifted to heaven, and we cry, “Lord, keep us from becoming hard and dry.  Bring life back to these dry and weary bones.  Send rain from heaven to cleanse us, wash over us, and make us new…”

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