Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | April 15, 2021

The Church in the Chihuahuan Desert

In the early 1960s, racing car legend Carroll Shelby and Dallas Witts, an attorney from Dallas, purchased the ghost town of Terlingua. The name of the town is derived from the Spanish words “tres lenguas” meaning “three tongues.” Located in the Big Bend region of Texas, the little town had a population of seven at that time — not including a few goats and wild burros.

Shelby and Witts later hatched a land development scheme and named it Terlingua Ranch Land and Cattle Company. They parceled off the 350,000 acres surrounding the ghost town and marketed its as a relaxing place to get away from it all. Sales did not boom as they expected but eventually Terlingua began to attract a variety of hardy off-gridders.

Today, Terlingua Ranch is home to folks from all over, most of whom came to the area to live off the grid. They were drawn to this wide part of Texas by the solitude, the vast vistas, a night sky overcrowded with stars, and the opportunity to do things their way.

Terlingua Ranch Community Church is the only church on the ranch. The modest southwest styled church building 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 a few horses.

Cheryl and I enjoy worshipping at this little church whenever we venture to our off-grid cabin in Big Bend. We have come to know and love the members who care deeply about the welfare of those in the area. The church houses a food pantry and keeps its doors unlocked 24/7 so that folks in need can have access to food.

The desert is a harsh environment and has taken its toll on the little church building. Although the structure is still solid, it was time to address a few things, including updating the bathroom, addressing the front doors that opened only partially, adding a small meeting room, and adding food pantry storage.

I pitched the idea of helping to my Band of Fathers group, part of our Kingsland’s Men’s Ministry. We have been meeting together since March 2015 and are committed to shared study, shared mission, and shared adventure. So, we worked out the details with our friends at the church, got a work plan together, purchased materials, gathered our tools, and headed to Big Bend to do an intensive two-day remodel.

We arrived at the church late Thursday afternoon last week and immediately started on the demo work. The next morning, we divided up into teams and got to work. Allen Griffin, one of our members and a master builder, gave us direction and guidance.

We remodeled the bathroom. This included moving a hot water on demand system, adding a new light, replacing the toilet and vanity, installing new siding, hanging a new door, and wiring a new light above the adjacent kitchen area.

The small meeting room also got a much-needed facelift. We replaced the old paneling, added a horizontal sliding window to provide visual access to the room, reframed the door, and provided a small room air conditioner.

We also added a new wall across the front of the worship area. The room behind this wall will become the new food pantry and provide storage for seasonal items. This wall gave a fresh look to the front interior of the church.

Allen paid special attention to the front doors. One church member commented that these doors had not opened properly for the past 30 years. This task was challenging because the front of the church has settled and the front wall was completely out of plumb. But, Allen made sure that the doors were good as new.

On Sunday we worshiped with the good people of the church. Dennis, one of our team members, even stepped up to play the organ. Afterward we enjoyed dinner on the grounds at the home of Mark and Michelle. Great food and fellowship!

Although we worked very long days, our time in Terlingua was refreshing. Our men developed a stronger bond as a result of this shared service initiative. And the people of the church were happy with the fresh new look of their modest little building.

We breathed new life into the little church building in the Chihuahuan Desert so that the church can continue to do good work for the kingdom for another generation.


  1. That’s exactly how it happened!

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