Bo Wagner is pastor of the Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, NC, a widely traveled evangelist, and the author of several books. His books are available on Amazon and at www.wordofhismouth.com
I have often observed that we who live in the Bible belt are blessed far more than we usually realize. Like the children of Israel in Egypt, we are, as it were, living in Goshen. Hardly anyone has to drive more than a few minutes to find a solid, Bible-preaching church, one full of life and love and praise and vitality. And this influence spreads out into the communities in which we live. It is not surprising at all to walk into a random business and hear Christian music playing over the sound system. It is common to go into a restaurant and see an entire table of people bow their heads together and say the blessing over the food.
When someone passes away, there will almost invariably be a mountain of food from a local church that shows up to feed the bereaved family. There are Christian schools in most every community producing graduates who are both well-educated and prepared to be solid, beneficial citizens. Churches here have a burden for the world and give enormous sums to send missionaries around the world with the gospel.
But until people travel to other parts of the country and world, they will probably never appreciate how good they have it.
My newest book in the Night Heroes adventure series, Desert Heat, just went live, and the Amazon launch is already going well. These books are unique in that I set them in places where I go preach various meetings. And this one is set during the day in Deming, New Mexico, and the nighttime adventure takes place just across the line in Old Mexico.
A couple of years ago, my wife and daughters and I traveled to Deming to be with church planting missionary Steven Sykes. He started the Mount Calvary Baptist Church there in Deming, and it is like a rose thriving in the desert. It very literally is, by the way, in the desert. The parking lot is hard-packed sand. While we were there, we daily walked out behind the church into the desert, hundreds of acres of it, to enjoy sights and smells we could never experience back home.
Deming is one of the poorest towns in one of the poorest counties in America. And yet its beauty is staggeringly breathtaking. But there is a spiritual battle there that takes a strong walk with God to withstand. Many years ago, the notorious killer, Charles Manson, called Deming the Gates of Hell and the Devil’s playground, and said that if he ever got out of prison, he would like to retire there.
Not too far from Deming is Mexico itself. We took a day and drove down into Mexico, and it was just a few miles from the border that I came across the idea for Desert Heat. Though I love history, somehow it had up until the point escaped me that the only invasion of the United States was by one Pancho Villa – who now has his own state park in the very country he invaded. Only in America do you get to invade the place and end up with your own state park!
The invasion took place on March 9, 1916, when Villa and his men raided Columbus, New Mexico. Eight Americans were killed, while 67 Villistas were killed and seven were captured. The most intriguing part of the whole affair, though, was that prior to the raid, Villa had taken a young mother named Maud Hawk Wright captive along with her new baby. She was good with horses and knew the terrain, so he used her baby as leverage over her, having already killed her husband. And then, when the raid went poorly, he went back on his word to immediately release the child.
I set my story of that real event as one in which the Night Heroes, three brave kids, went down into Mexico to rescue that child from Villa and his men and get him back to his mother.
In our time, though, it was just a quick visit to Puerto Palomas that took us down into Mexico. As most tourists do, we stopped in at the famous Pink Store, maybe one of the coolest gift stores in the world. We also had lunch in a legitimate Mexican restaurant, complete with pork rinds instead of tortilla chips, and a mariachi band.
But we also simply just drove around for a good while, seeing what seemed to be a general lack of hope. And I saw yet again how blessed we are in the Bible Belt and how pressing the need is to get the gospel everywhere. The poverty is overwhelming – but not so much for the properties of the drug lords. Those are fairly lavish, and the vehicles in the driveways are top-of-the-line.
The Bible belt in our day often comes under fire by snooty self-proclaimed evangelical thought leaders. But I cannot help but smile at what the effect would almost certainly be if we could pick up a large chunk of it and plant it right there in the driest and dustiest of places. Can you imagine the transforming power of thousands of believers going door to door telling people about the saving power of Christ and living Christlike lives in front of them?
The gospel is not our birthright. It is our responsibility. Christ tasked us to take it to every nation, and every part of every nation, even the dry, dusty places that people fear to go. And while we cannot pick up, say, Chattanooga and place all of its churches and believers in some needy area, individuals can heed the call to go and start churches, reproducing there the blessings that we have here.
Pastor Wagner can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and his books, including the Night Heroes adventure series for kids, is available by clicking the “Store” link above.