We had the tremendous opportunity of working alongside wonderful Christian missionaries in central Utah for what was supposed to be a short stint in missions. God changed the course of our lives and after this experience and we wanted nothing else but to give our lives to the mission field. This turn of events led me to seminary in Virginia Beach during which time I married Elizabeth. Liz and I decided to move to Colorado City, AZ in June of 2012 after graduation. We had no job, little money and even less promised support. We found some daring souls to rent their basement to us and we hit the ground running. We really didn’t know how to begin but we saw God open doors of ministry and we walked right through them. After our first year in Colorado City Liz became pregnant with our first child, Lucas. A year and a half later we were blessed with another baby boy, Micah. Together we want to make Colorado City/Hildale home for the rest of our lives.
The twin communities of Hildale and Colorado City make up what was formerly known as Short Creek. In the late 1920s Short Creek became home to a branch of Mormonism that would later become known as the FLDS. These fundamentalist believers were committed to practicing what they understood to be an “everlasting covenant” of plural marriage. The city gates of the celestial kingdom would open to no man unless he was sealed to a harem of women. The church would also teach very strongly that a living prophet was the final word of divine authority in every church member’s life. In order to wed his harem, raise his children and pursue his career a man must seek out the prophet who alone possessed the divine stamp of approval. This gave the prophet tremendous power over the lives of the people and when this power was exploited by the latest prophet, Warren Jeffs, life for the whole community became a living hell. Soon after taking the helm of leadership, Jeffs began ripping families apart, confiscating men’s wives for his own, dismissing unsuspecting members, changing the customs and cleansing the community of perceived threats to his iron rule. But, what man means for evil God means for good. This was the crack in the hardened hearts of the community that God would use to introduce the good news of Jesus Christ.
The big question we were forced to deal with was, “How do you minister to people who want nothing to do with religion?” In one sense, that was easy. Tell them that Jesus desires a loving relationship with them. But, it wasn’t enough to tell them, we had to show them. The first thing we did was begin providing emergency aid to the large number of displaced families. We then began inviting Christian youth groups and short term missionaries to reach out in loving and grace-filled ways to the contacts we were making. It wasn’t long before we were able to establish a Bible study and see a couple of ex-FLDS men come to know Jesus as Lord and Savior. We knew that there were a variety of ways to help but that Jesus was the greatest and most lasting help we could offer. In addition, we wanted to empower community members to help themselves. We stopped offering a free distribution of goods and instead established a thrift store and community center. Through these venues we provide clothing at affordable prices and community building activities such as financial seminars, soap-making classes and GED classes. This was only the tip of the iceberg. We offered numerous park events, sports camps, women’s pampering events and more. We felt God telling us not only to tell them about Jesus but provide the definition for Christianity that they may have never heard or seen. We are excited to continue in this ministry in creative and thought-provoking ways that we pray God will use to open eyes and soften hearts to the greatest blessing this world has ever known, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.