Church Established at Homeless Camp

Source: Living Lutheran

Last spring, after stepping back from pastoral ministry, Lutheran minister Paul Gebo decided to spend some time in the Rockies.

After two years of pandemic based pastoral ministry, tired and exhausted, Gebo hoped to be able to better discern God’s voice for what was next in this new season of ministry. Moving to Durango, Colorado, what he thought would be a time of respite soon turned into a ministry in an unexpected way.

Sensing a call to continue ministry, he connected with the Purple Cliffs community, a group of individuals experiencing homelessness living in tents and shanties on the side of a mountain at the edge of town.

Connecting with Tim, the unofficial “mayor” of Purple Cliffs and one the leaders of the community, Gebo offered his services as a volunteer chaplain. Elated by the suggestion, Tim offered Gebo space in the library tent to use as a chapel to conduct services and meet with people.

Appreciative of the support the community received from the municipal authorities who supplied material needs such as hot meals, nonperishable food, potable water, tents, tarps and propane tanks for cooking and heating, trash receptacles, and even portable toilets, spiritual care remained lacking.

With Gebo in his new volunteer chaplain role, Tim hoped it would help some families find hope.

Accepted with open arms by the residents of the Purple Cliffs community, the process of building a church took time. Gebo said, “I’ve had as many as a dozen folks show up for Sunday worship, but there have also been days when no one came. Still, I open the chapel each Sunday, ready for whoever might feel inspired to stop by.”

In addition to offering a weekly Sunday worship service, Gebo spends most of his time simply being present and available to listen. “From day to day and even moment to moment, I never know what my service will entail. Sometimes I drive folks to the rec center for a hot shower, or to the doctor’s office or the grocery store. Other times I help with repairs or camp cleanup,” he said.

Connecting with his church community in Durango, Christ the King Lutheran, Gebo has been able to find additional volunteers, resources, and support to help the families in Purple Cliffs. The church has even adopted Gebo’s efforts as one of their official missions ministries.

Grateful for the opportunity to serve, Gebo said, “We hope to grow the ministry in coming years, but for now I’m grateful for this opportunity to be Christ for others, and humbled to see Christ in them.”

Source: Living Lutheran