People Like Us

July 17th, 2012 at 12:00 pm

The quiet peaceful town of Cuero, like many small towns in South Texas, has been interrupted by the buzz of busy streets. Long lines of loud trucks regularly crowd the streets. The change in the streets reflects one of challenges coming to the communities affected by the shale oil boom. There are many other challenges that are connected with the sudden influx of new people swelling the populations of these towns. RV parks and Man Camps abound, housing the many workers and placing heavy demands on community infrastructures. Yet, another challenge presents itself to those of us who are interested in sharing Christ with people: How do we share Christ with the oil field workers?

God loves the people working in the oil fields. They are part of His field which is white unto harvest. Yet, in terms of a people group, it is not an easy group to reach. If we want to know God’s heart concerning the oil workers it begins by understanding that they are first of all people – people for whom Christ died.

My interest in reaching oil field workers rises out of my childhood. My father was an engineer for a major oil company. I frequently was able to go into the refinery and get to know the people who worked there. Oil people are like people who work in any industry. They are people who have families, and they are people who have needs. One of their needs is to have a spiritual life in Christ.

Evangelizing oil workers is challenging because it is difficult to make connections. They work in a variety of jobs – drilling, welding, fracking, hauling materials, etc. There is often no central location to meet them. They often work 10 to 12-hour days including weekends. When they get off work they have a short time to eat and sleep. This means they have little time for ministry at the RV parks or Man Camps. Ministry at drilling sites also is difficult because access is restricted. Supervisors also do not want distractions from the work because of the safety concerns.

So how do you approach evangelizing the oil workers? I suggest we first love them and then pray for God to open up doors of opportunities. Texas Baptists has created a fine tract for oil workers. Distributing the tracts at places where the workers frequent can be one approach.

At First Baptist Church Cuero, our first step was to put a welcome message on our church sign. It didn’t seem like much, yet it seems to have made a connection with the workers who drive by it every day. One worker was seen photographing the message one day. When asked why, he said, “We don’t usually get a nice response when we come to town. So I’m sending this to my boss.” We have had a number of visitors and even some who have fellowshipped with us during their short stay to the area. I cannot help but think that a welcome has opened some doors.

We also used our sign to offer a free audio Bible to truck drivers. We handed out Bible sticks from Faith Comes by Hearing to drivers who stopped or called in. We received a call one day from a trucker’s wife who asked if we could mail him the audio Bible because he did not have time to stop. We gladly did so. Then she sent back a thank you note with a small donation to help out.

Because it is so difficult to make connections with the oil workers, our church has partnered with other churches in our town to do some outreach activities. We formed an outreach ministry called “Meet Me at the Well.” Some of the key lay leaders of this group run hot shot deliveries to the rig sites, so they already have connections. Our major outreach activity is distributing homemade cookies to the RV parks. The bags of cookies carry a brief tract, and they are well received by the workers who appreciate a home-touch.

Although I carry a burden for the oil workers, I have not been able to focus a lot of energy on this ministry because our church is already heavily involved in other outreach ministries. I do feel that a church would do well to ask God how they can get involved in the work. It might be that churches that exist outside the oil areas could partner with churches in the boom areas to help them with outreach. For example, churches could partner to do food distribution ministry during holidays because oilrigs never shut down and the workers often are isolated from family.

If we pray, God will help us find a way.

By Glenn Robertson, Pastor of First Baptist Church in Cuero, Texas

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2 Responses

  1. Mary says:

    I lived for about 47 years in Odessa, Texas, right in the middle of the oil patch. So I know what it is like to witness to oil field workers.

  2. Cory Davis says:

    I think it is about time the oil and gas industry is a very ruff and tuff industry. It is hard to not get caught up in the ways of it every day. Things such as good home cooked meals and holding bible study’s at different times than what is considered normal church hours would also benefit as a way to reach out to the workers. Materials such as hard hat stickers, oilfield gospel tracks and oilfield bibles are great tools. As an oilfield worker myself and a former duel vocational youth pastor before having to step down because of the oilfield it is a major ministry and if there is any way for the churches who need help to reach out to these people i am available and will to help were i can when im not working in the field.

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