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Texas standoff gave Baptists numerous ministries to lawmen

FORT DAVIS, Texas (BP)–Texas Baptists provided physical and spiritual food for participants on both sides of the tense, week-long Davis Mountain Resort standoff in far West Texas.
Ed Jennings, director of missions of the Big Bend Baptist Association, which covers Marfa, Alpine and Fort Davis, was on-site with the estimated 200 to 300 lawmen during most of the standoff between officers and heavily armed Republic of Texas separatists holed up in their “embassy” in the mountains near Fort Davis.
Eight Texas Baptist men — led by Dick Jenkins of Odessa — brought an 8- by 24-foot trailer to the command post two miles from the “embassy” to provide food, prayer and encouragement to the officers. It was the first time a TBM disaster relief unit has been used in such a standoff, Jenkins said.
Jennings has been chaplain for seven years to the Presidio County sheriff’s department and has ministered during those years to lawmen who serve in the sprawling area larger than most eastern states.
He helped with logistics and ministry during the tense standoff, helping provide beds, toiletries, food, counseling and prayer to the lawmen from numerous federal and state organizations gathered to serve arrest warrants on Richard McLaren, the separatists’ so-called ambassador, and his followers holed up in the ramshackle trailer they called the Republic of Texas “embassy.”
Part of Jennings’ contribution was “two to three prayer walks” each day as he walked around the area, “especially when the men were about to move forward or to make another thrust” toward the ROT compound.
“I would just walk and pray, giving the operation to God and lifting it all up to the Lord,” Jennings said.
He was on hand when McLaren and most of his followers surrendered, and ministered to them — offering prayer, counsel and Bibles — after they were incarcerated in the Presidio County Jail in Marfa.
Jennings said the most difficult thing he did during the standoff was to “visit with the officer who had to shoot one of the guys who had run off” after the majority of the separatists had surrendered peacefully. Two separatists escaped into the wilderness, and one — a 41-year-old California man — was shot and killed after he fired at his pursuers, wounding two tracking dogs.
The officer who killed him is a corrections officer who serves as a dog handler.
“That was the most difficult thing of the whole event,” Jennings said. “This man wasn’t trigger-happy or anything like that. He was just put in a position where he had no choice.”
From his position as chaplain to the lawmen, Jennings was able to offer the services of the TBM feeding unit. The siege started Sunday, April 27, after the Republic of Texas separatists held two residents of the Davis Mountains Resort hostage for 12 hours in retaliation for the arrest of one of their followers on weapons charges.
At first, Salvation Army units tried to keep up with the task of feeding the lawmen, but by Wednesday the task had become impossible, so Jennings asked coordinators if they would like to have another unit. When they said yes, he contacted TBM offices and arranged for the unit stationed in Odessa to be sent down. It arrived on site about 1 a.m. Thursday and fed breakfast at 8 a.m. that same day.
The unit fed continuously and provided other services — such as praying with the lawmen — until coming out and returning home to Odessa Sunday, May 4.
“We had done church feeds, on church parking lots, but had never gone out for a real field exercise before,” Jenkins said. “This was a whale of a way to get broken in … .”
As he looked back on the effort, Jenkins said it is “amazing how God worked it all out. I am firmly convinced that God had his hand on this operation the entire time.”
He described the operation as being like the story of the loaves and fishes in the Bible, where Jesus multiplied the food to cover the need.
“We were told to be prepared to feed from 50 to 150 people, and my guesstimation is that we were feeding at least 200 to 300 coming and going during the entire operation. We came ready to serve breakfast to 150 people and probably fed more than 200, but had food left over.
“About the time we thought we were going to run out of food, somebody would come up with a pickup truck load or a trailer full of food. It is amazing how God worked it all out.”
Both Jenkins and Jennings expressed regret and sorrow that one separatist was killed. That was the only injury which occurred to anyone during the whole operation, they said.
Jenkins told how one lawman gave each of the TBM crew a 9mm bullet as a “souvenir, and told us he was thankful the bullet was the only one which he had to ‘spend’ in the operation.”
That it was given before the fatal shooting did not lessen the relief that the standoff — for the most part — ended peacefully and without other injury.
“These guys (the TBM crew) were a blessing,” Jennings said. “It was just awesome how God used them. They boosted morale. They fed hungry stomachs. And one law enforcement officer told me they were a blessing to be around.”
Jenkins said he hopes the team “did some real good. I think we planted some seeds and we will just have to let God take care of the rest of it. Every time one of the teams (of lawmen) went out (to patrol the area), one of our guys prayed with them before they went.”
Jennings also prayed with lawmen who went out to patrol the area around the “embassy” which later was found to have pipe bombs, land mines, booby-trapped propane tanks and gasoline cans planted across the perimeter.
“One of the men came back later to tell me how much he appreciated my praying with him before he went,” Jennings recounted. “He said he had stepped on one of the bombs and that nothing happened.”
Jennings added that the event really sunk in on him when he returned to his home in Marfa and his wife, Blanca, told him how she and the wives of some of the lawmen had gotten together several times for prayer, not only for their loved ones, but for the entire situation as well.
“I am thankful for all of those who were praying for this situation,” he added. “We were isolated up there in that remote country and I did not realize until I came out that Thursday (May 2) was the National Day of Prayer. I want to say thank you to Texas Baptists and to people all over the world who were praying for us.”
He added a special thanks for the men who operated the feeding unit and to Texas Baptists “who had the insight to make available a specialized ministry that could be used in a situation such as this.”
“And those guys on the unit … I can’t say enough about them and the work they did and how much they were appreciated.”
Jenkins said the workers cleaned up and loaded the unit Sunday morning and, on their way out, stopped by the Davis Mountains Baptist Church. “This Baptist layman got to preach that day,” he said.
The members of the church, which was built by TBM retiree builders, said they had not missed having a service at the church since it was started, and they didn’t want to miss Sunday either, Jenkins said.
“The ladies sang, I got to preach, the guys gave testimonies and we just had a great time in fellowship,” he said.

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  • Dan Martin