Pastor Rick bids farewell to members of church
Though some may feel as if they've known Rick Lamb forever, it was just 12 years ago that he dropped off his resume at West Haven Baptist Church, anchoring it under a rock beside the front door.
And about three months later, in February 1993, the Lambs and their sons, Benjamin and Jonathan, left their church and home in Aztec, N.M., and moved to Tonganoxie.
Now, Lamb and his wife are moving again. In June, he will become pastor at Northside Baptist Church in Corsicana, Texas.
On Sunday, Lamb, known throughout Tonganoxie as Pastor Rick, preached his last sermon in Tonganoxie.
It was an emotional service that included him baptizing 15 people by immersion and accepting two new members into the church and preaching to a packed sanctuary.
This week, Lamb is wrapping up his work in Tonganoxie as he prepares to embark on the next chapter in his life.
Corsicana, located 45 minutes south of Dallas, has a population of 25,000. The city is home of the international fruitcake company, Collin Street Bakery.
At the church he's going to, Lamb will take to the pulpit in a sanctuary that seats 1,100. On religious holidays it's likely all the seats will be filled. But on most Sundays, about 450 usually attend worship services, Lamb said.
But even those who don't attend church will be able to catch Lamb's sermon on the local television station.
In fact, Lamb gave his first sermon at the church April 3, and later saw himself on television.
"I'm pretty bald, but I looked more bald on the TV," the 51-year-old Lamb joked, adding he was a bit nervous, preaching his first sermon at a new church filled with people he'd never met and being on TV at the same time.
"But I'll get used to it," Lamb said with a smile.
Leading the way
Though impressed by the size of the church, as well as the fact that he'll be assisted by nine full-time staff members, and that the church has an orchestra and a 48-member choir, Lamb said it was the church members themselves who impressed him.
"They're just very dedicated people," Lamb said. "They're anxious to get a pastor that has a shepherd's heart and that will preach and teach from the bible and love them."
While in Tonganoxie, Lamb led a growing congregation at West Haven Baptist Church.
"When I first came here there were 80 or 90 people that came to worship most of the time," Lamb said, noting the church's annual budget then was $85,000.
Now the church has at attendance of almost 300 on most Sundays. And they're supporting their church financially as well. Lamb noted the church's annual budget has grown to about $343,000. During this time the church has dug itself out of debt.
"When I came, the church had a debt of about $550,000," Lamb said. "... It has taken nine years to pay off the old debt. Now, in addition we've saved about $350,000."
The church's future likely will include construction to enlarge the building, Lamb said.
Lamb, born July 7, 1953, in Big Spring, Texas, grew up in Red River, N.M., where his parents still own and operate a ski shop.
He hasn't always been the overachiever some might say Lamb is today.
After high school he went to the University of New Mexico where Lamb competed on the ski team, "studied some" and eventually dropped out of college.
Lamb, who didn't become a Christian until he was 23, described his younger self as being "a fairly nice person who had no direction and purpose in life. I had no idea why I was here and what I was supposed to do and be in the world."
Gradually, after Lamb and his wife, Becky, became engaged, she steered him on a search for new meaning. Becky was among friends and relatives who encouraged Lamb to attend church.
"The Lord began to speak to me inside and I felt Him challenging me to examine my life, my need of Him and to put my faith in Jesus Christ who died for me," Lamb said.
His new look on life soon took on a life of its own.
Lamb and Becky, who were married in the fall of 1976, found inspiration in what Lamb refers to as a "dead church."
"Right after I was saved, we went back to New Mexico and joined a church that was dead as a doornail," Lamb said. "There was not much spiritual life there. I just wondered why the people there were not very passionate about their Christ, about life."
This is when Lamb began to realize his call to the ministry.
"I describe it as an inward push of the Holy Spirit where I felt that the Holy Spirit was saying, 'Rick, I want to use you to help encourage a genuine passion for Christ,'" Lamb said.
Into the ministry
He went back to college, this time at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix.
"They had a strong religious program and they had a professor that was well-known for Greek," Lamb said. "I studied Greek and religion for three years ... then went to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas."
The location is home to the largest evangelical seminary in the world, Lamb said, noting that when he was there the seminary had 4,000 full-time students.
"The first year I worked in construction to pay our way through," Lamb said. "After a year I got called to my first church, a little country church an hour south of Fort Worth -- it was wonderful, the people loved me and allowed me to be their pastor for three years, it was just wonderful."
In fact, it could be said in going to Texas, Lamb is returning to his home turf. Corsicana is a 90-minute drive from the church Lamb first pastored.
It's been less than a year since a heart attack nearly took Lamb's life.
On June 1, 2004, Lamb, who had no history of heart disease, was playing softball with members of his church.
"I started perspiring heavily and didn't know what exactly was going on," Lamb said.
It was Lamb's turn to bat.
He hit a single and made it to first base. By then his discomfort had grown to an excruciating pain in his chest. Lamb staggered off the field and dropped to the ground. The pain was the most intense he had ever felt.
"You hear people say it's like an elephant is standing on your chest," Lamb said. "That's exactly what it's like."
Fortunately, there were others around who knew what to do. Someone called 911. In the meantime, a nurse who was at the ballpark gave him two aspirins and told him to chew them.
"It may have saved my life," Lamb said, adding he's since been told that aspirin taken during and after a heart attack may increase the chance of survival.
In a hospital two hours later, tests showed that Lamb's coronary artery was 100 percent blocked. But five days later, after angioplasty and the insertion of two stents to widen the artery, Lamb came home.
"I started a program of a strict diet and exercising every day and trying to reduce stress," Lamb said, his eyes glistening with tears as he talked about his heart attack and experiences in the hospital. "And I am 100 times stronger today than I was before the heart attack last year. I really believe that God was very gracious to me and that he saved my life."
Becky, who teaches fourth grade at Tonganoxie Elementary School, and Rick plan to move to Texas after the school year ends. The couple have two grown sons. Jonathan is a graduate student at the University of Texas in Austin, and Benjamin works for a construction company.
Lamb said he hopes his stay in Texas will be as meaningful as his years in Tonganoxie.
"I really loved working with not just the church, but the people in the town, the VFW members, school board," Lamb said. "Then there's the merchants, business owners, everyone else. It's been fun. People have been very good to us. It's been great being here, loving it here."
And yet, he's ready to move on.
Gesturing with his right hand, looking through wire rimmed glasses, Lamb added, "We only have a certain amount of time here on earth. Me personally, I want to invest myself in things that really matter, that really are important. I love what I do. It seems there is a great opportunity at the church where we are going. There is a great opportunity to reach a lot of people for Christ and to help disciple people."