A Diamond in Coal Country
In 2019, County 17 is embarking on a new endeavor to spotlight those in our community who go above and beyond to make a difference; those shining stars, or diamonds in the rough that aren’t just surviving, but working to help themselves and others thrive in Campbell County.
Each month, we will bring you one of these stories. If you know someone who stands out in a crowd, feel free to send us their name and contact information at email@example.com.
Called to Serve
Pastor Marty Crump has a big heart for the community. Having grown up in Gillette during the late 1960s and 70s, he’s been around to watch the city evolve from a rollicking boom town into a more diverse community big on investing in itself. Gillette gets a bad rap when it comes to other cities in Wyoming, he pointed out, but as far as he’s concerned, it’s the best kept secret in the state.
He points to the tornadoes that touched down last summer, and the many ways neighbors and communities came together to help one another.
It might not be the most beautiful city in the state, he noted, but the people are top-notch.
“The beauty of Gillette is its people,” he said, “and this county has always been big on community and helping each other out.”
Take his congregation at Family Life Church in South Gillette.
“They’re so busy that typically I only catch a view of their backs as they’re heading out,” he said.
Along with taking care and supporting one another and doing mission work in Africa, they also are committed to mission work locally. To this end, they have adopted Westwood High School, and do a variety of things to help support the teachers, students, and their families. Parishioners take lunch to the teachers once a month and host free holiday dinners for students and their families, among other things to show their support.
None of this is done to try to woo new parishioners to the church, but rather part of what Pastor Marty considers their obligation to the community.
His roots in Gillette run deep, beginning with his grandparents, who homesteaded in Campbell County during the 1920s. His grandfather worked on local ranches and eventually moved to town where they ran the dairy. His dad, too, worked for a couple ranchers and ultimately opened Big Horn Tire, which has been a mainstay in the community for decades.
That his son ended up pastoring and not in the tire business was a bit of a surprise to them both.
“Everyone in my family does tires,” Marty laughed, “but I do pastoring.”
Oddly enough, Marty had no intention of becoming a pastor as a young man, and in fact, after high school moved to Seattle to study marine biology.
“I didn’t even know to swim,” he said, “but I knew I wanted to be like Jacques Cousteau.”
After a few semesters at school, he became disillusioned studying the ocean, and instead returned home to Gillette where he started a small construction company. Business went well for him and he enjoyed the work, but then God called him to serve, an experience which he’s still at a loss for words to explain. Looking back, he sees that God had his hand on his shoulder from an early age.
“Calling is something that you feel in your heart, not your head, if that makes sense,” he said. “It directs you in the direction that God is telling you. He directs your life, even when you try to fight it.”
And he did. Not only did he not see himself pastoring, but never imagined that he’d be doing it in Gillette. It’s hard to pastor, he pointed out, when so many people knew him as a kid and had already pre-judged him. He also didn’t think he could live in the place where he’d grown up.
But that inclination to resist only led him closer to the truth, that in fact, several decades later he’s exactly where he needed to be.
Today, as he sits next to his wife Carrie in his sprawling office at Family Life Church, he couldn’t be happier with his life. The couple have just returned from a vacation in southern Florida, and he and Carrie are trying to get back into the swing of things. Carrie, Pastor Marty pointed out, is not only his best friend but she’s also his right-hand woman.
The two met when they were in their late teens after Carrie’s dad moved them to Gillette to work in the oil industry.
As he’s fond of saying, the oil boom brought him his wife. Like Pastor Marty, Carrie had felt a similar call, as well as feeling the Lord working in her life at an early age. The pair were perfectly inclined to start the church, which they built and began with another couple and later took over 34 years ago. The husband was a counselor and that component too has lived on in their church with a handful of professionals in residence, who are trained in biblical counseling.
They started the church with a congregation of five people, which has since grown to over 800.
“If you have a healthy flock of sheep, they tend to grow,” the pastor said of his congregation.
Their congregation is mostly blue-collared workers, “the lunch-box crowd,” who like the Pastor and his wife, have huge hearts for helping one another and serving the community. Like Gillette, he’s proud of his parishioners and all the good work they do, including their annual steak dinner for peace officers.
Pastor Marty started this tradition in 1998 when he approached the police and sheriff’s department with the invitation. What’s the catch? they both warily wanted to know to which Pastor Marty responded there wasn’t one. They simply wanted to thank them for the work they do, pray over them, and feed them a steak dinner.
It was initially slow to grow but in recent years has gained steam, with one officer setting the record for eating seven steaks.
Their church is not affiliated with any denomination, which Pastor Marty conceded, makes him “seem weird,” but he doesn’t believe in any form of discrimination, particularly when it comes to helping people outside of the church.
He jokes that he’s the guy they call when they need to oversee a wedding or funeral. Because so many long-standing residents know his family and knew him as a kid, they feel comfortable calling him, which he enjoys.
“Pastors take care of people,” he said, “and I’m not in competition.”
He particularly appreciates when he meets new people from out of town, who have no idea how they landed in Gillette. Much like his own life, he sees that they’ve been directed by God and that they’re exactly where they need to be whether they know it or not.