A SLICE OF LIFE IN THE CLC
SNAPSHOTS OF CONGREGATIONS FROM AROUND THE CHURCH OF THE LUTHERAN CONFESSION
“Now Jacob went out from Beersheba and went toward Haran. So he came to a certain place and stayed there all night, because the sun had set. And he took one of the stones of that place and put it at his head, and he lay down in that place to sleep.”
The event is familiar. Jacob, fleeing from Esau, spent the night and saw in a dream the ladder reaching to heaven. There the Lord standing above gave to Jacob the same promise that had been given to Abraham and Isaac. Upon waking, Jacob declared, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it. . . . How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God [‘Beth-El’], and this is the gate of heaven!” (Genesis 28:16-17)
Fifty-three years ago, a parochial school teacher, resting his head upon the rock of Scripture, severed ties with the synod he had known. At the request of a few families, he served them as pastor. He was led to the CLC, and took some courses at Immanuel Seminary. He returned to Houston and was officially installed as pastor. Max Goeschel, with a few others, heard the promise of the Lord, “I am with you and will keep you wherever you go.” (Genesis 28:15) The congregation took the name Bethel, “House of God,” and so it has been through all the years which have followed.
They worshiped in a private home and an elementary school for the first four years. There were only a few who gathered there, but they valued the Word above all else. Having moved into to a renovated garage, the Lord was with them—as evidenced by the need to expand not long after. Due to an encroaching highway project, that property was sold, and the Lord went with them to a new location in Spring, Texas. Here he granted them a large “House of God” and a school.
Through the years, the outward numbers have dwindled for many reasons. Once more, Bethel appears to have returned to where it began fifty-three years ago. A stone, a house where a few faithful individuals rest their heads with joy. For through all the years, from one pastor to another, “The Rock” was with them, ever keeping His promise, “I will be with you wherever you go.” For it is not the building, whether simple or magnificent, nor the size of the congregation which makes Bethel the “House of God.” It is, as it always has been, the Word of the Lord, the ladder which reaches to heaven and reveals standing above all, the Lord, the Lamb of God, Jesus Who was crucified and Who lives forever. Though in the eyes of the world it may seem a small thing, still the promise of the Lord stands true today as it did when this congregation began, as it did in Jacob’s day, “Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go.”
This, too, can be seen not only in that He has kept this congregation going, but also has provided the temporal means to do so. The original property was sold and that money was used to buy and build the church/parsonage which was dedicated in 1976. That new property, due to finances, was sold by decision of the congregation, and the proceeds used to relocate and begin again. The Lord blessed His people with an abundance to do so. In March of 2017 the congregation relocated to Humble, Texas, about seventeen miles east of Spring, purchasing a house on two lots. Above the garage is an “Elisha” apartment. A room, with a table, a chair, and a lampstand (II Kings 4:10) where the pastor resides. Who but the Lord would have thought that the land and buildings, purchased and raised in each place this congregation has called home, would one day be the means by which the congregation could now continue. How gracious and wise the Lord is, Whose thoughts and ways are not our thoughts or ways. Who but the Lord knows whether, in another fifty-three years, those who are members here may look back upon what this congregation has done in simple faith, and see that the Lord’s promise, “I will be with you wherever you go,” remains unchanged.
The property that was purchased consists of two lots on the corner of Fourth Street and D Avenue in Humble, Texas. The house was built in 1948 and is used for church purposes: the living room as the chapel, one room for the pastor’s office, and another for storage. The area in which it is located is a nice quiet neighborhood. The long-range plans of the city are to improve the area. It seemed wise to the congregation to get in on the “ground floor” so that as the homes are remodeled or torn down and new ones built, we are already here. The congregation also needed to find an area with no deed restrictions. The versatility of the home and property also attracted the congregation to this site.
Bethel Evangelical Lutheran Church, of Humble, Texas goes forward resting its head upon the Rock, and as Jacob said, years later when he was returning to Canaan and wrestling with the Lord, “I will not let You go unless You bless me!” (Genesis 32:26) Bethel now goes forward with confident faith in the promises of her Lord and Savior.
Roland Gurgel is pastor of Bethel Lutheran Church in Humble, Texas.