By Mike Haynes
With the big day of gratitude coming up, those who live in the Texas Panhandle have plenty to be thankful for.
That goes double for people of faith.
If someone were looking for events or activities that can draw them nearer to God or for godly people to provide encouragement or for charities to help when they are at the end of their rope, this is the place to be.
There couldn’t be a better time to give thanks for all the gifts God gives to our region. Thanks to the Lord for:
- The weekly and daily church services, prayer and support groups and Bible studies that residents quietly go about in Amarillo and all over the Panhandle.
- Addiction rehabilitation programs such as Celebrate Recovery where people rely on God and friends to pull them out of deep trouble.
- Niche ministries such as the Clarendon College rodeo ministry in which church members from neighboring McLean bring meals once a week to feed young cowboys and cowgirls while others are feeding them spiritually.
- Citywide events such as the upcoming July visit by nationally known Christian author and speaker Beth Moore to the civic center.
- Dedicated Sunday school teachers.
- Increasing awareness of the 2,000-year-old link between Judaism and Christianity promoted by groups such as the locally based Texans for Israel. That organization has co-sponsored speakers focusing both on support for the modern nation of Israel and on the increased understanding of the Bible that Christians can gain by looking at it from a Jewish perspective. Texans for Israel was involved in bringing Holocaust survivor Irving Roth, a strong supporter of Israel, to West Texas A&M University in April and Jewish Christian Rabbi Jason Sobel to the civic center in October. Roth has a heartbreaking story from his youth in eastern Europe, and Sobel’s ministry connects ancient Jewish wisdom with the New Testament.
- The seemingly rising number of area residents who’ve had a chance to visit Israel. My wife, Kathy, and I were blessed to join other Christians in a February Holy Land trip led by Tony Clayton of Amarillo’s Washington Avenue Christian Church. Our church, Hillside Christian, took another group this summer to see where the earthly ministry of Jesus, or Yeshua in Hebrew, took place. Others are making the pilgrimage, too.
- The number of intellectually gifted people in the area who are believers and share their knowledge and faith. Just a couple in my circle are Jerry Klein, the former Amarillo College philosophy and religion professor who now leads a Thursday night Bible study at his church, and Dr. Mike Bellah, the retired AC English professor who delights in teaching his Canyon Sunday school class about C.S. Lewis’ “The Chronicles of Narnia.” Both are members of the local Lewis Underground begun by Kirk Manton of Trinity Fellowship, and I am amazed at the insight all of them bring to discussions of Lewis’ books.
- The boldness of some of our elected officials as they acknowledge their faith and pray in public.
- The authors in the area who have written outstanding books, including Nan Rinella’s “Dreams in the Distance,” the first in a series of Christian novels; the aforementioned Mike Bellah’s book on retirement, “The Best Is Yet To Be”; the aforementioned Kirk Manton’s poetry and photo books; Sam Pakan’s World War II novel with a Christian theme, “Jesse’s Seed”; and preacher/columnist/author Gene Shelburne’s many books, including “The Quest for Unity: An Appeal for Oneness Among All Believers in Christ.”
- Background workers in all the churches, including volunteers such as Judy Lee, whom members of the Methodist Church in McLean are mourning after she died unexpectedly this week. She was an uplifting Sunday morning mom to young ones for years in the church nursery. We should say, “Thank you for your service,” not only to members of the military but to people like Judy.
- The Fellowship of Christian Athletes, which supports and inspires competitors in large and small schools.
- The Sharing Hope ministry, which started small and now has given 150,000 Bibles to women in prison and branching into other areas of support for women.
- The Salvation Army, Faith City Mission and other charities that provide physical and spiritual aid to the homeless and others in need.
- The Hope+Choice pregnancy center, formerly CareNet, which offers alternatives to abortion and follows up with mentoring for women.
- Christian publications such as The Upbeat Reporter, which centers on encouraging news and sponsors Christian events.
- The annual citywide prayer breakfast.
- The Walk to Emmaus, still going strong in the area after three decades. The interdenominational movement and a similar Catholic version, the ACTS Retreat, bring people to the mountaintop for a weekend but also try to keep believers growing through community.
- Four Amarillo churches joining with worship services and eyes toward deeper racial unification efforts as they realize the best hope to end divisiveness is shared commitment to God.
Those blessings are the tip of the Panhandle’s spiritual iceberg. On Thanksgiving Day, you might want to list a few of your own.
We have it good here.