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Hats in Iraan | Photo by Erik Tryggestad

Searching for home? Try Iraan


IRAAN, Texas — ‘Where ya headed next?”

I get asked that a lot. Sometimes I say Nashville. Other times, Nigeria. But this time I got to say, “I’m headed to Iran, and I’m gonna preach.”

I left out a pretty crucial “a” just then. It’s Iraan, pronounced “Ira-Ann,” a town of about 1,000 souls in Pecos County, Texas. It’s named after Ira and Ann Yates, owners of the ranch upon which the town was built. 

Iraan, TX 79744, USA

The Iraan Church of Christ is a longtime supporter of The Christian Chronicle, and as I was signing a thank-you note for their recent contribution, I scribbled out an invitation to guest-preach, should they ever need a fill-in. Just days later, I got a call from Jimmy Watts, one of the church’s elders. They don’t have a full-time preacher, and they’d love to see me anytime. I packed my bags and headed for West Texas.  

I drove in from Midland, where I had enjoyed the hospitality of some longtime friends from the Golf Course Road Church of Christ. I got to Iraan about 30 minutes before Bible class at 10 a.m., but the elders — brother Watts, David Brown and Zane Turk — had been there much longer. The women’s track team from the high school was headed for a tournament in Lubbock, and one student on the team was a church member. So the elders had a special prayer session for them at 7:30 before they headed out. Nineteen folks showed up.

As I set up my PowerPoint, trucks with cattle guards filled the parking lot. Church members hung their cowboy hats on hooks shaped like horseshoes. The two rest rooms bore metal signs that read “Adam” and “Eve.” 

About 60 people came for worship — a mix of ranchers and oil field workers, old-timers and young families with noisy infants. The men here take turns preaching and leading devotionals before the Lord’s Supper. There’s a real sense of buy-in from the members. Before worship, brother Watts talked about the church’s upcoming “Free Garage Sale” for the community. 

As I preached, I told them the stories that have inspired me during my 18 years with the Chronicle — stories of faith from the faraway lands I’ve visited. I made sure to mention the Iranian refugees I met in Europe who were baptized by our brethren in Greece and Austria. (It seemed appropriate to talk about Iran while in Iraan.) 

But I think the church members inspired me a lot more than I inspired them. I had to know their secret. 

Posted by Erik Tryggestad on Monday, October 28, 2019

“We’re family,” said Katie Briscoe, one of the church members. “We love each other and have a lot of love for people. There are no strangers here. You’re not a visitor for long.”

Several of the church members said they find unity through regular meals together. (We enjoyed some Frito chili pie in the fellowship hall after worship before a few of the members had an afternoon Bible study.) They also build unity among the area congregations through their involvement in the annual Pecos River Family Encampment. 

It’s rustic, they said, and wonderful.

I’ll be honest: I’ve had more than a few moments of doubt about the future of our fellowship. We’ve all seen the numbers and heard the prognostications. Just a few days ago, I got a call from a small, rural church in Texas: “Better take us off your mailing list. We’re shutting our doors.”

But worshiping with the Iraan Church of Christ gave me a feeling I haven’t had in a long time — hope.

But worshiping with the Iraan Church of Christ gave me a feeling I haven’t had in a long time — hope. 

That’s why I say God bless Texas. 

And God bless Iranians and Iraanians alike. (Or is it Iraanites?) 

May God bless us, every one.

ERIK TRYGGESTAD is president and CEO of The Christian Chronicle. Contact [email protected] and let him know if you need a fill-in preacher.

Filed under: guest preacher Insight Iraan Texas Opinion Top Stories

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