By Doris Tarbutton
Current Elijah Ministries has had a unique path to follow for the last 12 years. We often hear people say, “I’ve never heard of anything like that!” Well, we hadn’t either. When Allen retired in 2002 we already had the vision of, in some way, ministering to pastors, their wives and other full time ministers. We had no plan, but God did. Through the years we have tried our best to follow the leadership of the Holy Spirit in which pastors we invite to Copper Mountain, and when. God has been the One to set the agenda, the pastors who are to come and when. Allen and I go with His plan. Every year we are incredulous at the timing of these visits. The schedule is set, plane tickets bought, months in advance of the visit to Copper. Time after time, it is just the right time in the pastor’s ministry to need a fresh encounter with the Holy Spirit. We could never plan that well! Only God knows what His shepherds need and when.
When we began, actually in 2001, we had no agenda except to bring pastors and their wives (never any children) for a time to enjoy the mountains, ski, snowshoe, or just be still. Any time the Lord is present there is going to be prayer—we made that an item. Gradually, the Lord gave us the 3 P’s: Prayer, Play, Pamper. We learned to listen to their stories, pray with and for them, and pamper them with excellent restaurant meals and activities. We have been amazed at how the Lord has used this very small ministry in His kingdom’s work. It is still all about God and His kingdom, not about us.
We became comfortable with the ministry and began to hear from the Lord that He had a different direction for us. Our experience told us it will be the best for the ministry and for us. For years we had invited pastors to come in the summer, but no one wanted to. However, this year we have couples coming in July and all of September! What is God doing? A new direction for us and CEM? We are waiting to see and hear what this means. Are we to still do the winter ski season? Every year we seek the Lord as to whether or not we will “do it one more time”. We will wait.
As we prepared to come to Copper on Monday, July 1st, Allen sensed the Lord saying we were to take a different route from Albany, Texas to Copper Mountain, Colorado. We have made that trip well over 50 times and basically used the same routes. Using Google and the old-fashioned map book, Allen put together an itinerary. It would be a new route the majority of the 800 miles. Not having a clue as to why we were taking different roads, we set out. As we traveled, I began to sense the Lord giving us object lessons about the journey.
To take a new direction, the first step is to act in obedience to the leadership of the Holy Spirit, to let Him show us the route. Until we did that, we wouldn’t hear anything! I am so very glad we embraced the new plan. Leaving Albany on Highway 180 West, we drove for miles without seeing another vehicle. The thought came to me—the road less traveled. Okay, that is true for most of West Texas. Then I began to hear the Lord speaking about a new direction, a new way to do what CEM has been doing. There are not others doing the same ministry, we will not have help. Our help will be the Lord. He has always been faithful in equipping us with just what we need to do His will, and I am confident He will continue to meet those needs. The road can be lonely at times, but He will always be with us!
Stress has been a part of these long trips from Texas to Colorado. Traffic, 18 wheelers on a 2 lane road, small towns with their speed traps, road construction, erratic drivers (probably texting)—all these elements and more contribute to a heightened sense of caution and stress. Every trip we arrive really tired! To ease the stress we do a 10 hour day and a 3 hour day. The 10 hours is to Pueblo, Colorado; the 3 hours is up the mountains to Copper. What we experienced on this new route, with very little traffic of any kind, was a relaxed enjoyment of the journey. Is this what we are to learn? On this new way of doing ministry, it will be pleasant and no stress? That sounds very good to me!
We made more stops on this trip than usual—McDonalds, Subway, Shell gas stations—maybe this is another object lesson. Why are we in such a hurry? With proper planning we can stop and enjoy a time of rest. We see this in the pastors, they need a time to stop and evaluate where they are and where they are going. We need that too. Perhaps those stops to review where we have been and our destination ahead will cause us to make fewer mistakes along the way.
Not all of the roads were secondary, some were Interstate highways, like I-27 Lubbock to Amarillo, and I-25 from Raton, New Mexico to Pueblo. We have used the I-25 route many times. I sensed the object lesson here is that some of the journey will be familiar, some new. The Lord is not having us cast out everything we have been doing, but will continue to use some of the wisdom and experience we have gained through the years at Copper doing CEM.
From Pueblo, we took a route west, Highway 50 to Canon City (where the Royal Gorge is), another stress-free journey. From there we turned north onto Colorado State Highway 9, going to Breckenridge. From a 4 lane divided highway to a 2 lane with no shoulders, winding through the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, our journey became different very quickly. (I was glad Allen was driving!) We were alone on this road, others must take a different route! We saw a part of central Colorado we had not seen before. An object lesson? Not only will our ministry take a new direction, but we will see opportunities we have not had before. How exciting is that!
Another object lesson became very clear: this road required focus. With no shoulders, lots of tight curves and drop-offs, Allen had to keep his eyes on the road. I got to look around and marvel at how God has created this beautiful, rugged landscape. Certainly we need to focus, but at the same time be open to looking for the unique workings of God all around us.
As we approached Breckenridge, we went over Hoosier Pass. I would not attempt it in the winter, it’s challenging enough in the summer! Multiple hair pin curves with substantial drop-offs, if you miss the curve, made it a challenging section to drive. Again, I was happy Allen was driving. The object lesson here is that there will be sections of our new journey direction that will be challenging, but the Holy Spirit will get us through the challenges safely. The journey will not be completely stress free, but the destination makes the trip worthwhile.
One more insight from this road trip, planned and guided by our Lord Jesus. Normally, we travel I-70 West from Denver, but this trip we didn’t get to I-70 until we were just 6 miles from Copper. There is a major road construction project at Idaho Springs, where they are widening a tunnel. It can be a traffic nightmare through that area. By following the Lord’s road map, we totally avoided that problem. The thought that came to me is: if we follow the Lord on the path He chooses for us, we will avoid some big obstacles and delays. He knows better than us where we need to be and how to get there! Our entire journey is a test of our trusting Him in every area of our lives—He will show us the way!
We are in the process of building a house in The Woodlands, where we lived for over 30 years, and truly believe the Lord will implement this new direction of Current Elijah Ministries there. There is no more exciting road ahead than the one the God of the universe puts us on, equips us, and goes before us to make His will known and accomplished through us. This is such an important juncture for us that I wanted to share it with you. Travel with the Lord, and life is exciting and worth the challenges, the joys and the sorrows. This is our plan, to wait on Him, hear what He wants and follow Him. He always makes a way for us. He will for you too.