Challenge of Las Vegas energizes HLG students
LAS VEGAS – What happens in the heart of a Las Vegas Christian doesn’t stay in Vegas. At least not when Hannibal-LaGrange College (HLG) is there to help.
A dozen students and missionary-in-residence Marc Neddo spent their Christmas break in “Sin City,” bringing the Gospel from Missouri to the deserts of Nevada.
HLG has been partnering with Life Baptist Church in the gambling capital of the world for several years, a partnership Neddo says the Las Vegas Christians highly value.
“They said, and I quote, ‘Best group we have each year,’” Neddo said.
Neddo and the 12 students hit the streets in the neighborhoods surrounding Life Baptist, prayer walking, distributing flyers, handing out free breakfasts at intersections and helping to renovate a crisis pregnancy center.
“The church leaders there really like the work ethic and attitudes the HLG students have, and we love the leaders, the people, the ministry,” he said. “Word-of-mouth recruits the next batch of students for the following year.”
It’s not a big shock, but Las Vegas has a different spiritual climate than Bible-belt Missouri with a church on every corner.
“Vegas has a cave mentality,” Neddo said. “People return from work, open up the garage door, drive in, close the garage door, and you do not see them again. They do not interact with their neighbors. There are no yards to speak of. They entertain themselves inside their homes, their caves.”
Neddo said that means that ministry can be difficult, but life changing, once the door opens a crack.
“Any genuine caring interaction is hard to come by but means a lot,” he said. “I wished one man ‘Happy New Year’ as I saw him in his open garage. He was taken aback, didn’t quite know what to say as we walked by, but then made it a point to peer over his wall and get our attention, all smiles, and thank us and wish us a sincere Happy New Year as well. They don’t really know the Gospel. They are thus honestly intrigued, and touched by genuine kindness and concern.”
While the people are different, the Gospel and the church stays the same.
“This church is not all that different, other than the pastor probably has more counseling sessions than the one in Hannibal, just because more people have very messed up lives in Vegas and are maybe more open to seeking true help. Also, demographically the Vegas population is younger, and that is reflected in the church: a lot of young families in their 30s.”
As is usually the case with mission trips, the people being ministered to aren’t the only ones who are blessed.
“[The HLG students] loved it as usual,” Neddo said. “They were ‘all there’ when ministry was going on, and got along well during the down-times. They liked interacting with a ‘pre-Christian’ population.”