In 1991, I had a lot to learn about this, when I began responding to a call to begin ministering in three remote logging and mining towns, on the Oregon/California border.
These three communities, because of their remote location, and the high
snow covered passes, were even without any electricity. In fact, each
community was close to an hour from the nearest town with electrical power. Plus each of these three communities were
separated from each other, by approximately 16 miles of one-lane cliff-edge
road. Each 16
mile stretch took about 45 minutes to drive.
It was slow going. The
community where I moved my family to, had 54 people at the time. The other two communities had populations of
about 65 – 75 people each. I can
tell you, that as a young pastor, I really struggled with the thought that pastoring in these
three small towns, was not going to be enough of a challenge. Or simply not
very fulfilling. I really had the people
on my heart, but there were so many who were advising us to go to a place where
our time would not be wasted on such a small number of people. They would say, "Go where you can make a difference." But, I knew that God had each of these three towns on His heart. Plus there wasn’t a Christian church gathering
anywhere in the region.
It was during this time that Matthew 18:12, became alive to me. It says, “What man wouldn’t leave the ninety-nine, to
go into the mountains in search of the one that is straying.” At the time we arrived, there was only
a slight handful of people who even wanted us to be there. But we purposed in our hearts to be present
and available, visiting people, assisting people in what ever was happening in
their lives, regardless of their response to us. But in
1994, we still had not seen much change. Between the three communities, we only had about 10 people coming to the church services, and this was in only one of the towns. And 4 of those were my wife and I, and our two kids! I was discouraged, and wondering if we would
ever see fruit from what we were doing.