The “10/20 Window” in West Texas
SARAGOSA, TEX. – I have always dreamed of being a missionary. I recall being enthralled by stories in church that spoke of missionaries who were called to distant lands to spread the Gospel. In my mind, missionaries were modern-day heroes of faith. Although I am now a physician, I was blessed with the opportunity to go on a mission trip to Oriental Mindoro, Philippines, when I was in my 20s. This trip ignited my spiritual life as I learned firsthand how the Lord was able to orchestrate specific answers to faith challenges that arise in the mission field. I credit this experience as being formative in my perception of the human condition and my role in the world as Christ’s disciple.
Since then, I have been blessed by other short-term mission experiences abroad. Although all my experiences have challenged me in great ways, none have ever involved taking the Gospel to countries “closed” to Christianity. I marvel at the courage of those dedicated to evangelizing the “10/40 Window”—the “resistant belt” of countries with the highest population of unreached people groups in the world. In these places, the decision to evangelize or worship can truly be one of life and death.
After 10 years of medical education and residency, I clearly knew God called me back home to work in my career field and for the local church in rural west Texas. Despite the influx of people to the area for oil field industry jobs in recent years, the Church presence in this region of the Texico Conference has continued to dwindle. Saragosa is home to the only Adventist church in a 100-mile radius I call the “10/20 Window”. This name refers to the interstate highways 10 and 20 that course the west Texas region. Saragosa Seventh-day Adventist Church’s existence is surprising as it has one of the lowest populations in comparison to larger cities like Alpine and Pecos where Adventist churches closed 10 to 15 years ago. With this context there has been a growing burden in my heart for building up the kingdom through mission and church planting in the 10/20 Window instead of abroad as I had always dreamed of.
While the membership at the Saragosa church is small, it has started to grow. We recently celebrated the baptism of two new members who joined our congregation from the Philippines and the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Members have committed themselves to attending weekly prayer meetings and have started to see God answer in mighty ways. Being made aware of the limitations of a small tithing base in garnering help for evangelism, the members started praying for a Bible worker. To our delight a new visitor shared he was a former Bible worker that recently moved to the area with his family. Two nurses now attending the church have also moved to the area for work. It has become a routine occurrence to have new visitors every Sabbath, many of which are travelers passing through the 10/20 Window looking for a church to attend. Our weekly potluck has become the most crucial component of our outreach as we get to fellowship more with visitors and build connections.
Like Elijah, we can often lose perspective when we’re weary and focusing on our own efforts. We need to be reminded of the God we serve! At a moment when I was tempted to believe that my efforts would be better served in some far-off land, the Lord started bringing new members and laborers from places near and far. He started filling our pews with more visitors and breathing new life into our church. God taught me that the rural towns and cities of the 10/20 Window are just as worthy a mission field as the 10/40!
I pray that we would all have a passion for the great commission in whatever circumstance we have been placed.
By James Tarin