August 2010 Issue
Reaching Out to Orlando
by James Dotson & Mickey Noah
A friendly conversation, a story,
a realization, and a prayer: that's the gist of what happens when
one person shares and another accepts the simple Gospel of Jesus
Christ. And while the methods and venues may have varied, the
scene played out 1,505 times June 7-12 as Southern Baptists expressed
their core message of hope through Crossover Orlando.
The effort, held just prior to the Southern Baptist Convention's
June 15-16 annual meeting at the Orange County Convention Center,
involved more than seventy local churches and twelve hundred outside
volunteers. Venues included weeklong Hispanic Crossover
and Intentional Community Evangelism (ICE) efforts, as
well as a one-day blitz June 12 that included fifteen neighborhood
block parties, visits to homes, food distribution at five churches,
free water bottles for tourists on International Drive, and a
huge family festival for the Hispanic community at the Central
Each year, the North American Mission Board (NAMB) is responsible
for the national coordination of Crossover, but
it depends on NAMB's vital partnership with sponsoring Baptist
associations and local churches for implementation.
Bill Faulkner, director of missions for the 168 churches in
the Greater Orlando Baptist Association, said he believes the
benefits will extend far beyond the spiritual decisions that were
"Encouraging churches in an event like this will help
them see that they can do this all the time," Faulkner said.
"It doesn't have to be a special event. It doesn't have to
be necessarily with volunteers from outside. They see it and they
say, 'Wow, we can do this.'"
Additionally, decisions recorded throughout Crossover are distributed
to local churches for immediate follow-up with individuals.
The Hispanic Crossover initiative involved about eighteen
churches during the week before the convention in street evangelism,
home visits, evangelistic services, a Vacation Bible School, and
an effort to have families invite individuals to their homes to
share Christ. A total of 270 professions of faith were reported.
"One of the things that I noticed is the ease with which
some people are just opening their doors and accepting Jesus as
their Lord and Savior," said Eloy Rodriguez, pastor of Hay
Vida En Jesus and one of the coordinators of the outreach. "I
guess the times that we're living in, most of the people that
we share with are in need. So they're very open to the Gospel."
This effort was the largest coordinated outreach ever among
Hispanic churches in Orlando, Rodriguez said.
At a two-day soccer clinic at Comunidad Cristiana En Sus Pasos,
high school soccer coach Andy Schatz of Marietta, Georgia, taught
soccer skills with the help of volunteer coaches from the church.
The ongoing World Cup competition brought an additional level
of interest, as participants were able to watch part of a Mexico
vs. South Africa game.
Those attending the clinic also had an opportunity to hear
and respond to presentations of the Gospel, and by the end of
the second day, eighty had made professions of faith including
fifteen parents who participated in a closing ceremony the evening
of June 11.
"Getting them interested with soccer gets them connected
especially with the leaders," said Andrew Snow, part of a
youth group helping out from New Providence Baptist Church in
Marietta, Georgia. "So that way, when we have ministry opportunities
they're more likely to listen."
Marcel Torres, associate pastor of En Sus Pasos, said it was
the first time the church had attempted a soccer camp but
maybe not the last.
"It's been amazing," he said, noting that earlier
worries of low advance registration were erased with the 110 kids
who participated over the two days.
Sharing Hope on the Streets
This year's Intentional Community Evangelism (ICE) initiative
had teams sharing Christ June 7-12 in parks, on sidewalks, and
in neighborhoods near sixteen area churches. By the end of the
week more than 750 professions of faith had been recorded.
With a focus on lower-income and crime-ridden communities,
ICE volunteers routinely lead hundreds of individuals to Christ,
often several at a time.
Loren Phippen, leader of one of the groups, said a barrier
in one home was overcome when he realized that a Haitian man spoke
French a language Phippen had learned while living in France
for several years before he became a Christian.
"He went from being a little defensive ... to ready to
listen," Phippen said. "He and the four kids prayed
with me to receive Christ, and he asked me to get a Haitian pastor
to come visit him. It was just a great encounter."
Elsewhere, Daylin Rodriguez, a native of Cuba and currently
a student at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, told how
she and evangelist Darrell Robinson saw a miraculous intervention
of God to break up an impending gang fight.
The pair had led a number of people in the area to Christ,
and the police had broken up a fight while they were there. Shortly
afterward, the gangs gathered to fight again and Robinson walked
right up to the crowd.
"He said, 'In the name of the Lord come to Jesus,' and
held up the Bible like this" Rodriguez said of Robinson.
"They started just looking at each other and they got
into their cars and they left," she said, adding that it
wasn't as much that they were intimidated by Robinson but just
that the gang members had been thrown into a spirit of confusion.
"We kept sharing the Gospel, and in less than two hours
eighteen people had accepted Jesus," Rodriguez said.
Food, Fun, and Slime
More than one hundred kids African American, white,
and Hispanic showed up at Winwood Park for First Baptist
Church of Altamonte Springs' block party June 12 one of
fifteen held throughout the area. Pastor Todd Lamphere, with the
deep voice of a DJ and a comedian's personality, used green slime
to garner kids' attention.
Using the shade of a mossy water oak, Lamphere and his "Slooze"
game show "slooze is the game where slime and ooze
collide" helped lead 29 young souls to Christ. And
when it's ninety-five degrees, getting sprayed with cold, fake
green slime is not as bad as it sounds.
Lamphere said the slime show has been responsible for thousands
of recorded professions of faith by youth over the last fifteen
years, including the seven years he's been at Alamonte Springs.
While Lamphere's block party was perhaps the most unique, none
was bigger than at First Baptist Church-Apopka, where one thousand
people braved oppressive heat to play, eat hot dogs, and receive
a box of free food.
Paul Gordon, FBC Apopka's pastor, said the church worked on
its block party for eight months, enlisting 141 volunteers at
a church that only runs 200 each Sunday.
"We expected one thousand because we distributed one thousand
food vouchers," Gordon said. The one thousand did not include
community youth, who turned out for the block party itself
with its several inflatable and sports attractions, live music,
magic shows, and face-painting.
But the attendance magnet at Apopka was the food drop, in which
hundreds came some showing up two hours early for the 10
a.m. opening for two free bags of dried and canned goods.
By the time the food distribution began, there was a half-block-long
line of people waiting. Some were African American, some white,
some on canes, some in wheelchairs all needing physical
or spiritual food.
"Between the church and the ICE volunteers, we
mapped out and walked our local neighborhoods last week, giving
out the vouchers," Gordon said.
Before receiving their bags of food, those waiting in line
were led under a yellow tent, where they had the opportunity to
be counseled and hear the Gospel. The tent was a cacophony of
languages English, Spanish, Creole. There was even a deaf
ministry signing for the hearing-impaired.
Southern Baptist Convention President Johnny Hunt was one who
came to check out the FBC-Apopka block party and food drop.
"I love to make the rounds of the block parties, but this
year, I wanted to settle in at some of them and be involved. I
love the block parties," Hunt said. "It proves that
it's not that people won't come to these things, but that we're
not meeting their personal needs. When the church begins to care
about the human needs, they will earn a greater platform from
which to share the Gospel," Hunt said. "The people of
this neighborhood are seeing that Baptists care."
Hunt's own First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Georgia, brought
more than one hundred volunteers in eight fifteen-passenger vans
to support the food distribution "packaging" operation
at First Baptist Orlando.
First Baptist Orlando was the "point" church for
Crossover Orlando's 2010 food drop at Apopka and
several other locations, according to Bill Mitchell, global impact
pastor for the church.
The church used some eight hundred volunteers to stuff two
bags of food for each of ten thousand families in the central
Florida area enough food to feed a family of four for a
Surveys Spark Conversation
A slightly different take on evangelism came with a door-to-door
outreach in neighborhoods surrounding First Baptist Church of
Central Florida. About 250 volunteers hit the streets with packets
of spiritual opinion surveys designed to lead into opportunities
to share Christ when appropriate.
During training, a key piece of advice to the volunteers was
to seek out "divine appointments" the times when
God has obviously set up the encounter and not to move
on from homes when that was obviously the case.
For Mike Tullos and his wife, Pam, of Fort Worth, Texas, it
couldn't have been more clear. In their first visit, the Tulloses
scheduled for appointment soon as international missionaries
to Serbia met a woman from Macedonia, a country bordering
"We immediately connected," Tullos said, adding that
Pam wound up sharing the Gospel and leading the woman to Christ.
"We all know that God is in the business of saving people,
but it's so fun to see it actually unfolding in such a divine-appointment
way," Tullos said. "That's just too many coincidences
to not see the Holy Spirit working in the process. For me, it's
just a reminder that God is in control, and He really is involved
Hot Day, Cool Water
As part of Crossover's "Kindness Explosion,"
Suzette Wood, a special ministries missionary based in Orlando
for the North American Mission Board, headed up a team of 150
volunteers who handed out nearly four thousand bottles of cool
water to thirsty Orlando tourists along famous International Drive,
Orlando's tree-lined avenue of hotels, restaurants, and other
"The coolest thing was that our 150 volunteers ranged
in age from children as young as six to college students to senior
adults," Wood said.
"The best thing summing up the week for me was for people
to see Southern Baptists at their best cooperating with
one another at association, state, and national levels,"
said Mike Armstrong, executive pastor of First Baptist Church
of Winter Park and coordinator of Crossover Orlando.
"They saw the best of what Southern Baptists truly are, and
that is a cooperative people."
James Dotson is a member of North Lanier
Baptist Church in Cumming, Georgia, and Mickey Noah is a member
of First Redeemer Church in Cumming, Georgia. Both are writers
with the North American Mission Board.
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