This past weekend Rhonda and I were blessed to be in Alto Texas with our wonderful friends, Pastor Ron and Kay Rose. They Pastor the River Church in Alto, Texas with church plants in Wells, Tx and soon to open in Jackonsonville, Tx. God arranged for us to meet in 2003 and it has been a wonderful friendship ever since.
The town of Alto has a population of app. 1200 people. It is small town America on display for sure. As is with many small rural communities, especially those in economically challenged situations, the effects of hopelessness, drugs, divorce and a powerless church has brought great devastation to a generation of young men and women.
Pastor Ron and Kay took this situation as a wake-up call. The Church either becomes the church or the darkness over their town will prevail. The jails cells of their county became their fields of harvest. Those in the deep demonic clutches of addictions were the preferred targets for future leadership positions. They, and at the time, a small core of members with the same passion and vision set in motion a God inspired mission to go after this segment of society that most had written off. What we witnessed yesterday at The River in Alto Texas was stunning for lack of better words!! The sights and sounds of the redeemed was something I had not seen in a town and church this size anywhere in America.
The morning service began with a prayer time and approx 80 plus people were in their seats anxiously waiting to start the service. Then it began, testimonies of healing, of relationships being restored, of minds clear after years of addictions, of the intense love they felt at this church, love they had never had in the world. Tears flowed down our faces as we watched in awe of what God was doing in this small town America church, surrounded by years of religious institutions, disunity and selfish ambitions. We saw and heard the sights and sounds of the redeemed and it was glorious, uplifting and so, so refreshing. The main service was a continuation of the outpouring. Men, yes, many young adult men at the altar singing, dancing and rejoicing in the freedom they now had through Jesus Christ. Then maybe the most amazing part of the day was the Sunday evening prayer service. Yes, America, Sunday evening. The time most churches have jettisoned off their schedule as unimportant, because most of people have said it is unimportant. Not at The River! A circle of 125 chairs were in place and at least 100 people were in their seats anxiously waiting time to start the service.
Then the testimonies began again, then declarations over lost family members, worship, and prayer for one another, encouraging words, shouts of victory. Oh what a beautiful sight to see. What a glorious sound the hear. They know that their Redeemer Lives because He has touched their lives in such a transformative way that no one can deny the fact.
Reading the story of Mary breaking the jar of alabaster and pouring it over the head of Jesus, it was an act of "extreme devotion" as the Passion translation reads. What we witnessed yesterday was acts of extreme devotion as men and women brought their alabaster jars, which was their redeemed lives and poured it out in worship, love for one another and deep, deep gratitude for someone seeing value in them.
Marys act of devotion upset the religious minded but Jesus was moved by this event and even declared her act would be noted all over the world.
Could this act of devotion, in this small, off the radar town in East Texas ignite a movement that could salvage the mission and mandate for the church today? My eyes have seen and my ears have heard the Redeemed say SO!!!