Driving away from the bright lights and big city of Las Vegas yesterday morning and through the desert, 45 minutes to the small town of Indian Springs, felt a lot like coming home after being gone for far too long. Some things were exactly as I remembered them: The casino where we’d have late night meals after church services, the gas station where we’d spend way too much money on soda, chips, and Chester Fried Chicken, the high school, and the park.
And then there was the church.
This tiny little military building stands as a literal oasis in this dessert town. It is a place where people have found hope, restoration, and acceptance for decades. It is in this place that I, and at least a hundred other young adults over the years, began to get our “feet wet” in ministry. Several nights every year were spent in this tiny church ministering to the children, youth, and adults of this tiny town. Our days were spent doing school assemblies in the high school gym, and outreaches in the park. We would roll into town with our team and vans and trailers filled with props and costumes and sound equipment and for the rest of the week we would be used to impact the town for God and then pack up and roll out until the following year.
Now I was returning after five years away.
Yes. Many things were just as I had left them. But many things had definitely changed. Over all, the people had changed. The children were taller, the youth were now married and having families, and the adults… many of their faces were now inscribed with the beautiful lines that told of their many joys and sorrows.
My first encounter with Echoes of Faith in Indian Springs, NV was in the summer of 2000. I was at the Christ for the Nations Institute youth camp, Youth for the Nations, along with two other team mates, recruiting for the discipleship program I helped lead. I was ministering in an afternoon session when I noticed the face of a young man sitting in the front row. There was something about the smile on his face and the joy in his eyes that kept drawing me back to him. I know now that it was God shining through him that kept bringing me to stop and speak right in front of him; almost directly to him.
Through that young man I met Pastor Kimmie Guerino, a woman who would challenge me for the rest of my life to be who God created me to be, to serve exactly where God has placed me, and to love people fiercely without the guarantee of a transformed life. The message of love recorded in I Corinthians chapter 13 is etched in her DNA, pumps through her veins, and saturates the lives of every person she spends time with.
Pastor Kimmie grew up in Indian Springs, and in a sense has never left. Through the years she has poured herself out on the people of the town. She has given of her time, money, and energy so that the people she loves would know the love of Jesus. And many times she has waited, like the father in Luke chapter 15. He waited for the return of his son and when he saw him still a ways off, he ran to meet him. I have seen Pastor Kimmie welcome the wayward sons and daughters of Indian Springs with honor and dignity and freedom from all judgment.
She has prayed for, cried with, and personally trained the youth of her town. And when many pastors would have tried with all of their might to keep these young people in order to build up their churches, Pastor Kimmie, using her own personal resources, sent them off to the very ends of the earth in order to build God’s church.
Today I want to honor Pastor Kimmie and I want to honor Echoes of Faith in Indian Springs, NV. I also want to honor Jesus’ Bride, His Body, the Church; which is comprised of many tiny churches. These are churches of which without them the Body could not function.
I Corinthians 12: 12 tells us that the body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body.
We will probably never see Pastor Kimmie televised live preaching to a sports stadium filled with hundreds of thousands of people. But, we also may never see Joel Osteen, Bishop TD Jakes, or Francis Chan knocking on the doors of the homes in Indian Springs delivering Christmas gifts to their families or bringing the elderly to a community meal. These highly influential men of God cannot boast of the same hundreds of young people Pastor Kimmie has personally discipled since they were babies and sent out for the sake of the Kingdom. They also cannot boast of the many who have married and are raising families. They bought homes just outside of town. Yet, they make the 45 minute drive every week, often twice or three times a week out of hope that they might impact the town the same way Pastor Kimmie has impacted them.
For many years I found myself listening to the ever popular spiel about church growth. And I have walked away from those sessions with a very judgmental eye. There was a time, I am ashamed to admit, when I would walk into a church and take the liberty to point out every reason they were not “growing.”
I wonder if the same finger pointing was going on in the Church in Corinth. Maybe the “mega churches” were instructing the smaller churches to be more like them in order to “grow.” Maybe, just maybe this is why Paul taught them that “the body is made up of many parts.”
I wonder if the little churches looked at the mega churches and thought, “we might be better off to dissolve ourselves and join them.” Maybe their feelings of inferiority caused Paul to teach that if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body.
I am beginning to learn, as I step into every type of church imaginable across this nation that if the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the Body, every one of them, just as He wanted them to be.
He placed Pastor Matthew Barnnett in the inner city of Los Angeles to reach the addicts and prostitutes and gang members. He placed Pastor Bill Johnson in Redding, CA to be an agent for His miracles to flow through. And He placed Pastor Kimmie Guerino in Indian Springs, NV to reach the people who might be missed as others drive through the desert giving little or no attention to its inhabitants.
If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one Body. (I Corinthians 12:14-20)
This weekend I walked into Echoes of Faith in Indian Springs, NV, looked around at the less than 50 people sitting in the seats and realized that all of these years I was honored to be speaking in one of our nation’s only, true mega churches.
*Note: Every year Pastor Kimmie , through Echoes of Faith Church, provides Christmas gifts to the families living in Indian Springs, and takes about 20 to 30 the Youth For the Nations camp in Dallas, TX at the cost of $400.00 per individual. She also provides a monthly meal for the elderly of the community. If you would like to give to Echoes of Faith to help with the costs of these projects please contact me and I will get you in contact with pastor Kimmie.