FENTON, MI – It was an unbelievable flame. The blow out took the whole crew by surprise, but fortunately no one was seriously injured. There were a few bruises, cuts and scrapes as the roughnecks scrambled for their trucks or just “high-tailed” it out across the sand and mesquites.
The geological surveys that had been done by the seismograph team indicated large oil deposits and some natural gas, but they did not show pressures of this magnitude. The driller knew they were in trouble when the gauges that monitored the wellhead pressures began to fluctuate violently. That is when he told everyone to bail. The derrick hand that worked the top of the rig grabbed the emergency cable that was attached to the top and slid to safety as the rest scattered like a covey of West Texas Blue Quail.
It took about ten minutes before the well blew and began spewing drill stem into the air like limp spaghetti. As soon as the gas appeared sparks from metal being slammed together ignited the fuel, and the giant earth torch began to burn. I was only about eleven years old, but I remember the event like it happened yesterday. It was front-page news in papers throughout the West Texas oil fields, and the area television stations carried footage every evening.
What was a financial and possible deadly catastrophe for an oil company was a blessing for most of the children of this little dusty hamlet in which I lived. Even though the well fire was several miles from our town, it was so intense and bright as it burned millions of cubic feet of gas it literally lit up the evening sky. So much so that we played baseball in the back yard during the dead of night with no other light except for the “giant gas street lamp” that had been provided thanks to God, Gulf Oil and a few unlucky fellows. This meant that our summer days were now in extended mode until the fire could be snuffed.
The company that owned the rig and mineral rights called in the famous oil well fighting team of Red Adair. After several days of preparation, the implementation of some ingenious methods of extinguishing a well fire, and an indeterminable amount of courage the billowing blaze was blown out. The well was capped with a specially made set of valves, and much like one would turn off a water faucet the flow was halted. Several million dollars exchanged hands, and Red and his boys went back to Houston. Everyone was happy except the children of my hometown. Our extended frolic in a surrogate sun had just been stopped. The fun was over, and we were relegated to the confines of a sixty-watt porch light. It was a sad day in the annals of kiddom.
I often think about the vast reservoirs of power that lay hidden beneath the sands of the Permian Basin, and the potential for good they hold. There are unbelievable storehouses of energy sitting dormant under various strata of earth just waiting to be released. So too in every Believer resides an illimitable storehouse of God’s power and energy, just waiting to be released. There are times when some brave soul is willing to explore the depths of God’s power and when he does, releases a Light that impacts all those around him. He shines brightly and wonderfully for all to see and marvel. Yet there are always those who want to control this “glow”, and send in the “spiritual fire snuffers” to take care of this out of control saint. They run in, blow out the fire and run home. That’s what spiritual fire snuffers do. Then they are not seen until another flare-up occurs.
Today more than ever, we need Believers who will plumb the depths of God’s reservoirs of power and grace. We need Believers who are willing to burn uncontrollably for Him. We need Believers who will so exude the light of our Lord that all those around are bathed in that brightness. Every once in awhile I see a Believer who has tapped into God’s power and is burning for Him. I also see the cold-water committee running to put him out. It too is a sad day in the annals of the Kingdom. I am praying for a blowout in the church, one unstoppable by any means. How about you?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tim Patterson is Executive Director/Treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. Elected unanimously in May of 2015, Patterson formerly served for 9 years as pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla. He also served as trustee chair and national mobilizer for the North American Mission Board.