Michigan Couple Making Lasting Impact in Harlingen Park
Motivating residents to partake in community outreach
by Rocio Villalobos
Dave and Ruthann Tabler have always felt called to serve and have done so over the years through teaching, volunteer work, and ministry, with Dave two years into retirement from serving as the pastor of Harlingen’s Paradise Park RV Resort.
After spending 13 years providing weekly sermons, renewing vows, and making home and hospital visits to pray for those in need, he is one of the park’s longest-serving pastors.
“We were involved with Christian Resort Ministries, and another pastor sent an email they were praying for a preacher for ‘Park Place,’” Dave explained. “So the leading layman called me and asked me to send some of my sermons. They got back to me and said, ‘Yes, come on, but you’ve got to be there in two weeks.’”
“We called our children and grandchildren and said, ‘Let’s have Thanksgiving Saturday,’ so we did,” Ruthann said. “They all came; then we left on Sunday.”
While Dave said he was at first intimidated, he quickly settled into the role and found success.
“I never wrote my sermons down; sometimes I’d write an outline. I knew what I was going to say, so I said it,” he said. “They only told me I was supposed to stand up there on a platform. Instead, I walked around among the people. But when more people came, I said, ‘Maybe I ought to be up there.’ They spread all over.”
In his second year as Park pastor, Dave helped establish a memorial for the Park’s late residents and led the service every January.
“We had a lot of people coming in,” he said. “I would say something briefly about the individual and a very short sermon--not heavy, just uplifting, because we had all faiths coming out.”
Though now fully retired, the Tablers continue to come down each winter from their home in Michigan and remain active in the RGV community and their park.
Every Monday, Ruth makes soup for her neighbors, feeding up to 150 people. And each year, she and her husband get their neighbors to help adopt local families for Christmas.
“We have done many families over the years and we just overwhelm them,” Ruthann said. “I always wear pants with pockets and say the right-hand pocket is mine, but the left-hand pocket is for the Christmas gifts. It always fills up. Anytime it seems like I’m going to run out of money, somebody would come up and give me another $20, $50. The Park provides it. I just use the pockets.”