Kingman & Needles

The drive from Phoenix to Lake Havasu City is not a particularly enjoyable one. Even having grown up in the desert, it’s still a bleak and unforgiving landscape. The freeways and go by in rapid succession at first – the 202 to the 10. Then a long thrust westward before swerving off onto Vicksburg Road and a few miles more to connect up with the 72. This drives north and west to Parker, where you veer eastwards on the 95 to Lake Havasu City. I don’t think I’ve ever driven the stretch of road between I-10 and Lake Havasu City before, or visited LHC.

So from the standpoint of covering new ground it was interesting. But the actual scenery was not, and despite a great deal of recent rains and a green fuzz over most of the low desert outside of Phoenix, after Parker despite the nearness of the Colorado River the landscape is harsher, rockier, with even less vegetation other than what people have planted in their yards right along the ribbon of water created by the Hoover Dam.

But the three-and-a-half hour drive is worth it. For starters, I get to see a colleague of mine from California, Rev. Tim Barkett. He served down the road from me about 60 miles in California but decided to relocate to the high desert in September of 2020. Now nearly a year later I too have uprooted from the edge of the North American continent to the desert, though not for long (God-willing!). So I aim to arrive by mid-day Saturday so he and I have some time together. We’re blessed to have time to enjoy lunch, a check-out of the only pool hall in town, and then dinner at home with his wife and youngest son.

Sunday morning we’re all up bright and early. Rev. Barkett now serves two parishes about 56 miles away from each other and an average of that far from his home in LHC. This takes some coordination. We drive three vehicles to the juncture of the 95 and I-40. We leave two of them parked at a truck stop and pile into his large pickup for the final 40 miles or so to Kingman. I’ll explain why in a minute.

We head northwards first toward Kingman and a 10am worship service at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, where Rev. Barkett has recently accepted the Call to be their pastor. The congregation was formed in the mid-1980’s and is a friendly group of folks who are gracious in welcoming me. After Divine Service and a presentation to the folks afterwards, it’s back onto I-40.

We head back to the truck stop. There, his wife and son take their car back home to LHC. Rev. Barkett drives on to Needles, CA. I’m following him in my vehicle because I have to leave early from Needles to race back home to teach a session on the First Article of the Apostles’ Creed to a group of church workers in Taiwan. It’s not quite an hour drive to Grace Lutheran Church, in existence since the 1930’s as part of Needles, CA – a city perhaps most famous as the residence of Snoopy’s brother, Spike in the Peanuts comic strip. It’s a smaller group here, but no less gracious. We make our way through the Divine Service and again I preach, but this time I have to apologize and leave immediately, switching out of my robe and clerical for a cooler t-shirt for the drive back across the desert.

The altar area of Grace Lutheran, Needles.

This time I also take a new stretch of road – the 95 that runs straight south from Needles to Blythe. There’s practically nothing for that 90-mile stretch, something I’m keenly aware of in my beloved but 17-year old vehicle. Thankfully, there are no problems, no overheatings, and I make it home in time for a quick shower and then a three-hour teaching session graciously translated into Mandarin by Rev. Michael Paul, recently returned to Taiwan and still in quarantine in his hotel room.

A busy weekend. A lot of driving. A lot of hot, desolate scenery. But also much joy in the life-giving waters of the Word and Sacraments of the Divine Service and the opportunity to serve these two small communities, share their connection with the larger Church that spans the Pacific Ocean all the way to Taiwan and beyond!

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