Due to a rapidly changing economy and a range of excessive regulations from the federal government, the American coal mining industry is facing serious challenges. For states like West Virginia, the effects are particularly painful, as mining towns and communities struggle under a projected 23% decline in related jobs in recent years, leading vast numbers of residents to leave the state altogether.
Yet for Travis Lowe, pastor of Crossroads Church in Bluefield, West Virginia, the severe economic losses and doom-and-gloom forecasts didn’t spell the end of the story. In some powerful reflections, Lowe draws heavily on Jeremiah 29:7, explaining how God showed him what it meant to be “sent” to his local economic community.
“I realized that I had not been called to just pastor, but I had been called to a place: Bluefield,” he writes. “…We thought through what it meant to be ‘sent’ to our town and how we could seek its welfare. Through this cry, we began to minister in ways we had never imagined.”
After meeting with a range of business owners in the church and local community, Lowe realized that the pain and frustration demanded a response. “I sensed a deep-seeded desperation and a fear,” he says. “The economy in our mining town has been in a thirty year decline. They were scared that their life work was crumbling in front of them. I decided to try to help.”
Although many churches would respond by simply coming alongside their congregants and community in prayer and solidarity, Lowe saw a much bigger role and responsibility. Yes, they were called to mourn alongside those who mourn and point the way to hope, but they were also called to move forward toward in tangible ways toward actual economic transformation. (more…)