Las Vegas — bright lights and Sin City. For First Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Las Vegas is the setting in which they proclaim the Gospel to bring forgiveness of sins and the brightest light of all —Christ.
A few blocks from downtown — not the Strip that many identify with Las Vegas, with its towering buildings and overwhelming glitz — in a diverse neighborhood, sits First Good Shepherd Lutheran Church.
A new mural, painted by artist Heather Toledo, adorns the one side of the church. The “All Nations” mural, based on the painting from John Lautermilch of St. Louis, accurately depicts the complexion of the community around it.
“We want to show people in downtown Las Vegas what Heaven will look like,” said the Rev. Brad Beckman, pastor of First Good Shepherd, who embraces the unique challenges and opportunities in urban ministry. He’s here after shepherding flocks in St. Louis, Arlington, Texas, and Lincoln, Nebraska.
During the mural’s dedication in October, Beckman said the mural symbolizes to the community that Jesus loves everyone and wants people from all nations to put their faith and trust in Him. The church is in a neighborhood desperately in need of hope, and it may seem that joy isn’t prevalent. But Beckman said what makes him joyfully Lutheran is the “opportunity to preach, teach, and reach all people with the joy of the peace in Christ.”
About a dozen small lights at the church illumine the mural at night. They compete with the millions of glittering lights in downtown and the Strip. ““I am the light of the world,” said Jesus.
“Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12 ESV)
This mural represents the light that rises above all other lights in the city.