By Chelle Delaney: QCS Staff
Mary Ann Garrett of Tucumcari serves on the North American Mission Board (NAMB), headquartered in Atlanta. It is an outreach of the Southern Baptist Convention. She also serves as consultant to Southern Baptists’ outreach ministries in eastern New Mexico and the Baptist Convention of Mexico.
There are nine churches, with more than 3,000 members, in Quay County that are members of the Southern Baptist Convention. In Tucumcari they are the First Baptist, Trinity Baptist, Immanuel Baptist and First Spanish Baptist. There is also a First Baptist in Conchas, Santa Rosa, House, San Jon and Logan.
Statewide, there are 98,000 members in the Southern Baptist churches.
Q: How long have you been involved in ministry for the Southern Baptist Convention?
A: My husband, Grover, and I have been serving in ministry for 50 years now. We both felt called into mission when were nine and 10 years old. We have done nothing but that for our entire adult life.
Grover is from Tucumcari and we moved here nine years ago serving with the North American Mission Board. He retired in January. (Grover Garrett is a 1954 Rattler graduate. He was director of the nine Baptist churches in the Tucumcari area.) We met at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix. It was a Southern Baptist College, then; it is now a private Christian college. We served as far east as Ohio, and have served in Idaho, Colorado, Arizona, California and then Germany.
Q: What is your job as a consultant with the Baptist churches in the area?
A: I visit with all the churches and help them when they request it. I help them launch new programs and ministries and consult with them on existing programs. As part of my job, I’m required to make a monthly report to Atlanta. I receive a stipend for my job.
Q: How many churches do you work with?
A: I work with about 20 churches and in all types of outreach ministries such as the Ministry of HOPE here in Tucumcari. HOPE stands for Helping Others Prosper Eternally, and many of the ministries incorporate that in their name and mission. For example, the child care center, which serves 26 pre-schoolers at the First Baptist Church in Santa Rosa, is called Tomorrow’s Hope.
Q: What other types of ministries are there?
A: We have a jail and prison ministry, pregnancy crisis center and others.
Q: What ministries are there in Tucumcari?
A: We have the Ministry of HOPE, a jail ministry and a Baptist Student Ministry at Mesalands Community College. The Ministry of HOPE collects food, clothes and furnishings for the poor and we also collect donations so that we can provide those in need with gas vouchers or bus tickets or a place to stay for the night. We are so grateful because most of the churches in Tucumcari contribute to the ministry and people also give us more clothing than we can need.
Since the city raised the price for its collections to the landfill, we’ve also had items appear in the dark of the night on our front porch and the road construction hasn’t stopped them. We appreciate the community’s donations but when they leave items that we have to have to take to the landfill, it costs money to remove them. We had to take two pick-up loads to the landfill because people left items in the dark of the night.
We have found a mission in Dallas that we send our overload of clothes to and they send their extras overseas. Even the clothes and other fabrics that aren’t suitable to wear are used overseas to make rugs or quilts. Everything is recycled.
The Ministry of HOPE is only open two days a week, but it’s a 24-7 operation. Louise Mitchell and Gail Morris are the co-administrators. We have to take in the clothes, sort them and organize them so that they are available for those in need.
We also get calls from the police at all hours to help with people who are stranded or who need help. Recently, there was a woman and her children who the state police found on the side of the interstate. She and her husband had a fight while they were traveling. He told her to get out of the car and left her there on the side of the road.
Someone in need will always get food and clothing and either a bus ticket or gas voucher or a place to stay.
We have a monthly budget, based on our contributions, and sometimes we can’t help everyone because that monthly budget has been expended.
Q: How do you know who to help?
A: We rely on the police to screen those who ask for assistance. For us to give someone a voucher for gas or a bus ticket, they have to have a picture ID and be cleared by the police. We don’t want to end up aiding or abetting someone who is trying to flee from police.
Q: Are there any new ministries planned for Tucumcari?
A: We are praying about starting a pregnancy crisis center. It would be for any youth or adult who is pregnant and needs help. It’s been on the community’s heart or a long time. We are just in the prayer stages now and a committee has been formed to see if it’s feasible. It could take a year or less to get one established if we decided to go forward.
We also would like to have a truckers ministry when the big new truck stop opens. We have one over in Santa Rosa.
Q: What is the trucker’s ministry?
A: It’s called the Trucker’s Chapel. It’s at the Travel Centers of America at Exit 277 on I-40 in Santa Rosa.
We oversee it, make sure it’s operating and we were responsible for setting up the chapel. The chapel is a trailer with a steeple. It’s open seven days a week and has a prayer bench and Bibles. Pastor Van Epsy is often there to pray with the drivers.
Q: Do your outreach programs go beyond Quay County?
A: We’ve had people go to Mexico, to the Navajo reservations, South Africa, the Philippines and other countries. We’ve also had people go to help in the Southeast after the hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
The Terrys, Shirley and Mark and their sons, Brian and Michael, and Ken and Betty Terry from Tucumcari, have gone on several disaster relief ministries.
Our people who serve in disaster relief have helped with the mud-outs in New Mexico. When we had the floods in Hatch and Alamogordo, they helped clean out churches, homes and businesses after the floods. We also have a food wagon that’s been used to cook meals for literally thousands. We also have a shower trailer, that workers and victims can use take a bath. And we have a communications motorhome that has a ham radio operations and satellite dishes. It was donated by someone in Louisiana a month before Hurricane Katrina, and we drove it back over there to help victims.
Q: Since you’ve been in ministry, what changes have you seen?
A: People are realizing that ministry is outside the doors of the church. I see a greater awareness of the need outside the church door and more people becoming involved in outreach ministries. It’s exciting, too, because it doesn’t matter how large your church is, or how old you are, people can get involved.