The red raft bobs up and down then picks up speed down the rushing river in the Rocky Mountains. Everyone onboard readies for the first rapid as the guide gives last-minute instructions.
The raft suddenly dips, drops and then twists getting everyone onboard excited except Tommy, the laid-back guide sitting at the back. The more whitewater they encounter the bigger Tommy’s smile.
By the end of the trip Tommy has everyone on the raft laughing. The trio, Tami Elsey, Barry Sutherland and Katie Dillon, invite the guide to join them for dinner at Mountain Heights Baptist Church, Buenta Vista. Others from their missions team from Kansas invite their guides as well.
The guides smile in acknowledgment. They know Mountain Heights Baptist well — every Monday is “church meal” night when the small congregation opens its doors to the river guides to get a homemade meal and a hot shower. Mountain Heights has been reaching out to the river guides for 25 years.
“This is a big whitewater rafting industry area,” Dan Ehlers explains. He and his wife Nancy have been involved with the ministry for 20 years. “Back when we first started this rafting companies didn’t take good care of their guides — there was no place to shower, guides got paid by tips, no fresh water.”
‘Showing Jesus’ love’
“Mountain View opened the church and prepared a once-a-week hot meal. We took a big water tank out to their campgrounds. We eventually built showers on the church grounds,” Ehler says. “This was our way of showing Jesus’ love. We simply met a need.”
Pastor Joe Chambers, an avid outdoorsman himself, explains rafters have their own way of living and doing things. It’s a way of life that can often ostracize them from the surrounding community of retirees, professionals and tourists. Many pitch a tent or live in their cars. Their goal is to spend as much time on the Arkansas River as possible. Hygiene is not always a top priority.
The guides are not people who normally attend church. With a chuckle Chambers adds, “There’s something about an 85-year-old grandmother serving you a meal and then sitting down to talk that helps these 20-somethings feel comfortable, open up and just talk.”
The church’s key goal, the pastor says, is to plant gospel seeds and to show the unconditional love and kindness of Christ. (BP)
How to pray:
- Pray whitewater guides will come to know Christ through the ministry of Mountain Heights Baptist Church.
- Pray Mountain Heights Baptist Church’s ministry will continue to thrive and have an abundance of resources and volunteers. (TAB)
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