oil pump jack (1)

Ministering to the World that’s come to Texas

July 17th, 2012 at 11:59 am

In Mark 16:15, the Lord said, “Go into all the world and preach the good news of all creation.” With the huge oil and gas reserves found in the Eagle Ford Shale area of South Texas, it appears the world is coming to our doorstep.

About two years ago, the population of Cotulla was around 4,000. Today, local leaders are estimating that number to now be over 8,000. And this is just one community. All over the southern part of Texas, communities are experiencing a large influx of oilfield workers. And most of these communities, if not all of them, are not prepared for this rapid growth. It is like a “tsunami” of people have hit: from California to the Carolinas and all points in between, as well as from countries as far away as Russia and China. The world is indeed coming to South Texas.

The challenge at this beginning stage of the oilfield work is knowing how to reach those who have come into our “world.” Many workers are here temporarily, helping set the foundation for the processing of the oil and gas being drilled. Their contract or stay is completed within weeks or a few months, and then they move on.

Another challenge is the shortage of housing. Most of the oilfield workers have nowhere to stay but in RV trailers. There simply are not enough houses, apartments or even hotels to stay in. As soon as a hotel is built and opened, it is completely booked. More hotels are being built. Recently on a one-day survey of RV parks in the Cotulla city proper, it was discovered there were over 16 RV parks with more than 10 trailers per park. Some of those parks had more than 100 units. This survey did not count the numerous small parks of less than 10 units scattered around the community. More than 650 RV units were counted, with space for many more to come. With this shortage of housing, many oilfield workers simply are unable to bring along their entire family.

The opportunity to minister to these people is great. On any given Sunday, we will have oilfield workers come to worship with us. Some come several Sundays in a row, others when they can; their work schedules simply will not permit them to come on a regular basis. To follow up with these visitors is very difficult. When filling out their visitor cards, most simply give their address back home (Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, etc).

Another ministry we have undertaken is providing a free barbecue dinner for oilfield workers. This was done through the cooperation of the churches in the community. The dinners were well received. Our church also has basketball hoops where workers can come play basketball and a clothes closet where work clothes can be found for free. At the end of July, with the cooperation of another upstate church, we will be reaching out to over 750 RV units by providing a “goodie-bag” filled with an Oil Patch Bible, homemade chocolate chip cookies, a pen and pad, a gospel tract and information about our church.

But much more can be done. In Acts 16:9, Paul heard the call “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” Many church leaders and believers in the Eagle Ford Shale area of South Texas also could give a similar call: “Come over and help us.”

Individuals or couples willing to move here to minister full time to the oilfield workers would be a big start in reaching out to the many who have moved down to work. Ministry can be carried out to RV parks, to gate keepers, to energy companies, to welders, to pipe layers, and the list continues.

We all believe that God knows of the need, so we must trust Him and respond to His leading those He chooses to come and serve Him. The opportunity to plant the gospel seed is here. The harvest will in time also come. Will you come and help us?

By Loren Fast, Pastor of First Baptist Church in Cotulla, Texas.

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