In the hours before the Tournament of Roses Parade, more than seventy volunteers led twelve people in making decisions for Christ among thousands who staked out a spot to view the festivities along Pasadena's Colorado Boulevard.
Volunteers from churches across the country, including a number of evangelists, participated in a variety of New Year's Eve initiatives spearheaded by San Diego businessman Martin Davis for the twelfth consecutive year.
Two mime teams performed more than thirty-five times throughout the night at various spots along the crowded street. After each performance, evangelist Darrel Davis shared the Gospel.
"It's a unique environment," said Davis, who traveled from North Carolina to join the parade ministry for the first time this year. "When I heard about this opportunity I knew the Lord was calling me to help. There is a lot of seed planting going on here. We gave them a lot to think about."
At a table distributing free popcorn, Dean Osuch, pastor of evangelism at Shadow Mountain Church in San Diego, handed a seven-year-old boy from Ohio a bag of the snack and asked, "Do you think about God?"
After a brief discussion about the Gospel, the boy went back to where his family was spending the night in order to see the parade. Later, Osuch found the boy again a few blocks away standing with his parents and two sisters.
After sharing the plan of salvation with the boy, drawing from the words of John 3:16 — with his two older sisters watching over their brother's shoulder — Osuch asked if he was ready to pray to ask Jesus into his life.
"His two sisters instantly said yes, but the boy didn't," said Osuch, who brought his son and a dozen other church members to help give away the free popcorn. "As we prayed, I could tell the boy was praying too. He had this big smile on his face, and I knew he got it. He really understood what he had done."
Before Osuch left, the boy had already scribbled his phone number on a piece of paper for him to call later to follow-up.
"God orchestrated the whole thing," Osuch said of the three siblings who received Christ.
Volunteers also included members of three Calvary Chapel churches and New Life Church in Southern California. Teams engaging in street evangelism used a flipchart with trivia before preaching the Gospel on stepstools.
"We have one purpose tonight — to evangelize," said Steven Guiterrez of New Life Church who participated in the outreach for a second year. "There are so many people here, and they have nowhere to go," he said, adding, "It's all for God's glory."
Other volunteers made balloon animals, did face painting, and printed certificates showing what a person's name means.
The next morning, January 1, they passed out 14,500 brochures listing the order of the parade floats — and including steps to becoming a Christian and contacts to local Southern Baptist churches. Last year, about half that many brochures were distributed due to a smaller number of volunteers.
Toting a briefcase full of tracts, Graham Lingg, 21, a student at Wichita State University, walked up and down the parade route handing out the Gospel message and engaging people in conversations.
"I really enjoy sharing the Gospel with people and I'm on Christmas break so I flew out here to tell people about Jesus," said Lingg, who traveled with two other friends from Kansas to participate in the ministry.
The parking lot of Calvary Chapel of Pasadena on Colorado Boulevard is the home base for the Rose Parade outreach.
Some of the volunteers set up tents and trailers beginning about 2:30 p.m. on New Year's Eve and grabbed cups of coffee or drinks until it was time to pass out brochures the next morning.
"I love this ministry," said Debbie Trim of San Diego, who has been involved since the ministry's inaugural year. "I used to be so shy at first and now I am the one sharing the Gospel over the bullhorn. This is just part of my holiday plans every year."
Martin Davis, who is assisted by NAMB in printing the brochures, voiced a vision for increasing the number of volunteers every year.
"This is an interdenominational evangelistic outreach...a Kingdom effort," said Davis, a member of Shadow Mountain Church and the SBC Executive Committee. "This is a great opportunity to bring members of an evangelism class to put into practice what they have just learned. It's all about street witnessing. Even if just one person comes to know Christ, it's worth it."
For more information or to volunteer for next year's Rose Parade ministry, contact Martin Davis at email@example.com or 619-977-9138.
Kelli Cottrell is a writer based in Grand Rapids, Michigan