A Black Mesa Moment of Reflection
On Monday, June 8, 2009 I did something I had wanted to do for a long, long time. I hiked up Black Mesa to the highest elevation in Oklahoma - 4,972.9 feet above sea level, a football field under one mile high. The Black Mesa was formed by lava flow from ancient volcanoes in the Colorado Rockies - an ancient lava flow easily seen in the map above. The Black Mesa was created by this lava flow and is like a table top sitting high above the plains. Black Mesa is as far west and as far north as you can go in the state of Oklahoma.
People think Enid, Oklahoma (Garfield County) is in far northwest Oklahoma - not even close. At 7:30 a.m. I hopped in my trusty 140,000 mile Honda Accord and headed west on US Highway 412 out of Enid. I went through Woodward (90 miles), through Guyman, Oklahoma, (210 miles), then to Boise City, Oklahoma (275 miles). In Boise City you go on a circle around the courthouse in the center of town and then follow State Highway 325 west 37 miles to the city limits of Kenton, Oklahoma. Just outside the city limits of Kenton, which necessitated me turning my watch back since Kenton is the only town in Oklahoma that operates on Mountain Time, I turned north and followed a county road 4 miles to the parking lot of the Black Mesa Natural Preserve. Distance from Enid - 312 miles.
At the Natural Preserve you must park your car and then hike 4.2 miles to the top of Black Mesa. On this day I was the only hiker. I never saw another human being during the almost 10 mile round trip hike. The sounds of the land were incredible. From the locusts nesting in the thousands of cacti, to the dozens of different birds, as well as the whistling winds sweeping down the gorges, it was a cacophony of sounds and sights the nearly two hours it took me to get to the top.
But my, was it worth it.
Black Mesa is in the far northwestern corner of Cimarron County, the most western county in the Panhandle of Oklahoma. Cimarron County has the distinction of being the only county in the United States touched by four different states. As I sat and rested on top of Black Mesa, I could literally see 1/10 of the United States in terms of our states.
Less than fourteen hundred feet to my west was the state of New Mexico. On the horizon I could see the mountains surrounding Raton Pass. To my north four miles was Colorado and the ancient volcanic mountains at the foot hills of the Colorado Rockies, the very volcanoes which provided the lava that formed Black Mesa. Back to my northwest was Kansas; to the south was Texas, and due east was the great state of Oklahoma. From my viewpoint a mile above the earth I could see over a hundred miles in each direciton.
But there was something that happened while I was on the top of Black Mesa that got me to thinking. It was a bright, sunny day and as looked at the beautiful blue skies I saw a passenger jet flying east to west above me. They say at night the stars kiss your nose on Black Mesa, and I can vouch that in the day the planes are close as well. I could clearly see the plume of smoke coming out of the twin engines of the jet, with the long, white crystallized cloud it formed as it crossed the blue sky. I thought about the couple of hundred passengers on their way to Los Angeles or beyond. Then I looked down and saw a Burlington Northern - Santa Fe train snaking its way, heading west. Beside the train was a modern state highway where a few cars were heading west as well.
Just to the south of the railroad tracks and highway, easily seen from my position on Black Mesa, was the path of the Old Santa Fe Trail. from 1823 to 1880 the Cimarron Cutoff of the Sante Fe trail crossed the Oklahoma Panhandle just to the south of where I sat, heading west into Mexico and Santa Fe (a city once in Mexico but now in the US's "New Mexico"). The United States in the 1820's were very interested in establishing trade with the new country of Mexico and so a trail was forged from St. Louis to Santa Fe - a wagon trail. At Dodge City (Kansas) the trail split into a southern route (the Cimarron Cutoff ), which crossed the just south of the Black Mesa, and a northern route that took the trail west through the Colorado Rockies and then south to Santa Fe. Most travellers and traders in the 1800's took the Cimarron Cutoff of the Santa Fe trail because it was 100 miles shorter and avoided the Rockie Mountains.
With the advent of the steam engine and the railroad, the Santa Fe trail fell into disuse in the 1880's. No longer would people make the seven week journey from St. Louis to Santa Fe via wagon. They would take the train. Then, just a few decades later, people were taking cars and planes to Santa Fe and beyond.
As I was thinking about all this, I pulled out my Blackberry Curve and saw I had missed a couple of calls.
And then it hit me.
If I were a business on the east coast wanting to trade with merchants and people in Santa Fe, how foolish would I be to keep bringing my goods in a wagon over the Santa Fe Trail? Not only would I be foolish - I'd be out of business. Times have changed. The world has become fast paced. Communication is instant. From my perspective on Black Mesa, a mile high, I could see this very clearly.
Why then, do we Southern Baptists continue to use an archaic system of governance that was established in 1845 - the very time the Sante Fe trail was being used to bring goods to, and communicate with, the people of Mexico?
Isn't it about time we started having our Convention regionally, electronically and efficiently? My wife and I just spent $2,000 hard earned dollars to buy our tickets, hotel and car to Louisville, Kentucky. I spent the weekend with a church planter from Arizona who not only couldn't afford to go to Louisville, if he could, he would use his money to attend conferences that would help him in his church planting ministry.
I asked him, however, if the Convention offered a regional Convention, via satellite, that would allow him to observe, participate and vote, would he attend - say if one of the regional conventions were in Phoenix?
Absolutely! He responded.
It's time the Southern Baptist Convention caught up with the rest of the world. It's time we stopped using our archaic system of governance that excludes the vast majority of Southern Baptists from being able to participate in Convention business.
It's time we changed how we operate.
In His Grace,