Terlingua Ranch is situated in the heart of Big Bend. This is rugged terrain by any measure, complete with iconic vistas that take your imagination captive. The Chihuahuan Desert with its distant purple-hued and silhouetted mesas is a beautiful place — but also one that demands respect. The flora and fauna that call this place home survive because they have adapted to the harsh environment.
The same can be said of the people who call Terlingua home. Folks out here know the challenges of living in a hard place. A combination of high levels of resiliency and resourcefulness are an absolute must. Determination and grit are also essential. And, as evidenced by old churches like the historic St. Agnes Church in Terlingua Ghost Town, faith also plays an important role.
On our recent visit to Dos Arbolitos, our off-grid property in the Big Bend Valley, Cheryl and I visited Terlingua Ranch Community Church. The church is located at the foot of a rocky hill on Church Road about a mile from the Terlingua Ranch headquarters. The small parking lot can accommodate a few vehicles and the hitching posts more than a few horses.
When we arrived, Pastor Hat Bailey greeted us warmly and invited us in. Ceiling fans turned slowly overhead, just enough to keep the place comfortable, as we took our seats on the wooden pew. But, just in case we needed a little more air, thy hymnal racks in front of us were stocked with funeral fans with a painting of Jesus as the Good Shepherd.
Pastor Hat (love his name) wore more than one hat. He led the singing, the prayer time, the observance of the Lord’s Supper, and also did the preaching. A tall, thin man with a soothing voice, he led with passion and conviction. His message on prayer was spot on — a really good word that reflected some deep thinking.
Afterward, we stayed around for a brief business meeting before joining Pastor Hat, Michael, and Beechie for lunch at the Bad Rabbit Cafe at the nearby Terlingua Ranch headquarters. We enjoyed hearing the stories of how each of these men ended up in Terlingua. Every one of us at the table have developed the same love for this amazing part of the Lone Star State.
We also learned that the church never locks its doors. That’s largely because the church has a modest little food pantry where locals in need can stop by to get a few cans of grub to help them make it through lean times. All they ask is that folks write down what they took so that the pantry can be restocked. Stuff you can eat right out of the can and that doesn’t really require cooking is best.
What was most obvious to us is how much Pastor Hat and our new friends love the people of Terlingua. While Terlingua Ranch Community Church is not and likely never will be a ”big” church, it is undeniably a church with a big heart. We look forward to visiting and worshiping again with our new friends.