RTN preacher gets reacquainted with rural ministry
Aaron Ledford grew up in a rural area, but he had since grown accustomed to living in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex. So when he journeyed to Mayhill, N.M., to preach as part of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s annual Revive This Nation effort, March 10-13, he had to become reacquainted with what ministry looks like in a rural area.
Ledford, a Master of Divinity student at Southwestern Seminary, jokes that the entirety of Mayhill could fit in the hallway of the Memorial Building. “There’s a cafe, there’s a convenience store, there’s a post office and a place to get your hair cut, and the church,” he explains, referencing Mayhill Baptist Church, where he preached throughout the week.
“It’s a very small area, about 60 people in the whole town. And we had 60 each evening that we met together, and a little over 100 on Sunday morning. So people drive from far away.”
During the week, Ledford preached through the book of Ephesians, covering the blessings of believers in chapter 1 to the armor of God in chapter 6. On the first three nights, people responded by joining the church.
“Which is wonderful,” Ledford says. “And I had nothing to do with it. I was just there to watch what God was doing. These were folks that the church has been ministering to over the months.”
In addition, two people came forward to profess faith in Christ—a young woman on Sunday morning and a young boy, Josh, on Monday evening. Josh was subsequently baptized on the Sunday after the revival concluded.
“Josh came down with his dad on Monday night,” Ledford says. “Tuesday night, Josh’s dad came down with, like, seven of his other children. He had 10 children total. And he greeted me—his name was Mitch—and Mitch said, ‘We thought it would be kind of weird if we dropped Josh off for a church business meeting and left him by himself. So we thought we would all join.’”
“They were moving from one of the nearest towns about an hour away from their church there,” Ledford says. “So it was neat to meet that family, and they joined the church also.”
In addition to preaching each evening, Ledford engaged in outreach during the day with the church’s pastor, Southwestern Seminary graduate Matt Henslee. “I asked the pastor what it was like to reach out, because where we are, we go door to door all the time—there are thousands of doors to go to,” Ledford says. “There aren’t that many doors in Mayhill, N.M. And they are far off the road and they’re behind gates.”
“So he and I went and visited a lot of the local businesses where church members work and got to do visitation that way,” Ledford explains. “So a little bit different, but you do what you need to do.”
On the final night of the revival, a snowstorm rolled in and the power went out across town, which forced them to cancel the final service. The Mayhill Café, however, had a generator, and so in what Henslee called an example of “taking lemons and turning them into lemonade,” he and Ledford went to the café and recorded a video on Henslee’s MacBook in which Ledford preached his final sermon. They then uploaded the video to YouTube (which can be found here). Though this certainly differed from the original plan, God still provided Ledford the opportunity to preach one final time.
“It was a great blessing to be there, finding out what it is like to minister in a rural area,” Ledford says. “… It was a blessing to go, and certainly a blessing to see what God is doing in a small place in New Mexico.”