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Farewell to Hobbs minister

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VIRGINIA CUNNINGHAM/NEWS-SUN

“It’s time to enjoy some retirement,” said Elio Barrios, a man who has served Lea County for more than 30 years in the field of ministry.

“It has been a privilege to serve this community. I have met so many wonderful families in the years I have been here. I am saddened to be leaving the area but I look forward to the adventure to come,” Barrios said.

Barrios came to Hobbs the first time for his father’s funeral in 1981. He remembered it was cold, the grass was brown and there were no leaves left on the trees. He said he remembered thinking he didn’t think he would ever come back to this place. But then he did in 1982 for his sister’s wedding. By 1983 he made his home in Hobbs.

He started in ministry at the age of 15 in Guatemala. When he came to Lea County he continued working in this capacity. Starting in 1984, Barrios has worked with many Spanish baptist churches in the area.

He also served as the chaplain for the Hobbs Police and Fire Departments.

“He was my go to phone call,” Barry Young, the City of Hobbs fire chief said. “Most any time we needed him to come to a scene, either for the family or for our own personel, he would come. There were times when we would go to a call and it would involve the death of a child and he would show up, ready to be there for that family. We could even call him if one of our staff needed someone to talk to or us as a group. … He will be truly missed by us and in this community.”

In 1999 Barrios joined Vista Care Hospice as their chaplain.

“It was a blessing to get to be with families as they walked the last mile with their loved ones. I’m glad I got to be there for those families. It is also one of the reasons I got into the funeral home business,” Barrios said. He served with hospice for 17 years.

Starting in the 90s, Barrios first worked with Calvary Funeral Home and then later with Chapel of Hope Funeral Home.

“I knew I’d never get rich,” he said with a giggle, “but it was never about that for me. My reward was in being their for people.”

“He is a great friend,” said Sherry Joe Norman of Chapel of Hope. “Taking care of people is in his heart — it’s like his calling. He not only took care of the grieving families at Chapel of Hope, but he took care of our families too. He mentored and counseled us in the word of God, but his love for us nourished our souls.”

“Matthew chapter 25 comes to mind when I think of Elio,’ said Danielle Hammack of Chapel of Hope. “Elio is a good a faithful servant. And because he is good at the things he does, God sent him to be in charge of the many things he has done in this community. He has served in so many capacities and touched the lives of many people. We have been lucky to have him here, and we are better for knowing him.”

Bettye Kirby of Loving-ton and a previous owner of Kirby Smith Rogers Funeral Home also worked with Barrios on numerous occasions, saying he has many great qualities but at least one thing stands out.

“I remember when I first heard Elio sing,” said Bettye Kirby of Lovington. “It was amazing. His deep, God-given voice soared through the air. I was spellbound. He is an amazing man and his smile and humor can not be matched. He is my friend and God’s disciple.”

For short periods of time Barrios moved away from Lea County, but he didn’t go far — living a few years in Roswell and then Carlsbad.

When he returned to Hobbs in 2010 he helped Taylor Memorial Baptist Church start a multi-ethnic and younger-generational service. This helped with congregational growth.

In 2013 TMBC wanted to start a mission to preach the gospel to an area not before reached. Barrios played an instrumental role in this, as they found that place in his home country of Guatemala.

Livingston, Guatemala, is a rural area that has to be reached by boat. The Garifuna tribe resides in this area that is surrounded by jungle. The Garifuna are made up of people who were indigenous to the area mixed with Haitian slaves who were able to escape in the 1800’s when their boat capsize near the coast of Livingston.

“These people had not heard about the word of God. We were able to go where this tribe was and go door to door spreading the word to people,” said Barrios.

The mission has since grown. Not only are they spreading the gospel, but have also started teaching basic English to the children of the area.

“Elio was an essential key in what we are doing now (in Guatemala). Because of his influence we were able to purchase land there to build a church,” said Adam Bryant, of Hobbs. “He is honestly one of the most humble and genuine people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. He is a man of God, friend, and confidant who loves people.”

The last few years in the funeral home business have presented emotional and physical hardships.

“The pandemic was hard. We had little sleep because we were picking up and doing funerals so much,” Barrios said. He decided while he was still able to move around it was time to retire and enjoy some time for him.

“I’m sad because I have had to tell people that I won’t be able to do this wedding or this quinceanera. I have made connections with these families through the years, and I love being a part of their events in life,” said Barrios.

Barrios will depart Lea County, bound for San Antonio, Texas, where his brother resides. He has other family that also live in the area.

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