September 25, 2006

Running the Race Set Before Us
by Pastor Connie Larson DeVaughn

On Saturday, September 16, twenty one ABCers were out at the Rose Bowl bright and early, stretching our faith muscles, setting our eyes on Jesus, running in our own faith race (Heb: 12:1). Hundreds of other people were there, too. These were physical runners who had signed up for a 5K race sponsored by the County of Los Angeles to benefit “Girls-at-Risk.â€? Our purpose was to staff a booth, one of many. The Police and Fire Departments, other county service agencies, and several businesses that cater to runners’ needs were some of the other presenters.

We made sure that ABCers with the gift of evangelism were on hand, people like Dan Donovan who prayed that day with one person to receive Christ, Peter Larson, who easily finds a way to talk with strangers on spiritual topics, Brenda Mitchell, who always find hurting people who need prayer, and Tony Bennett, whose love of Christ is transparent and up front in every conversation.

But that left the rest of us who would not identify evangelism as our main spiritual gift. Roland Wiley and Matt Bassett were asked to MC the race, so they spent their entire time on the stage, announcing winners, sponsors, etc. The rest of us used our gifts in a variety of ways to foster conversations around us. Several face painters helped draw crowds to our booth. A children’s area drew kids and their parents to us. Many free give-aways allowed people to browse through our literature as they picked up their free gifts. And a big hit was the free candy bar which was given after people answered questions of a quiz that led in spiritual directions. Most importantly, we prayed, before, during and after the event.

For people who don’t do outreach naturally, this was a stretching experience, of giving our time and our selves to God for him to use. After the race Jackie Kelsey wrote:

“I prayed a special prayer that morning that the Lord would use me for His will. As we were laying out some of the giveaways on the table, I noticed a bracelet that said ‘When in doubt – pray’ and I smiled and continued to do just that. While I’ve been involved in outreach events in the past, I’ve never actually had a ‘one on one’ with someone that I’ve never met before. My first encounter was with ‘Debbie,’ a woman who was enrolled in a drug recovery program. I listened and learned as Brenda led the discussion about how the Lord loves and cares for all his children. Debbie admitted that after years of struggle that she had turned to the Lord for help and was now following the Lord. She was committed to completing her recovery program and staying sober. I was deeply moved as we held hands and Brenda led us in prayer. I was blessed to have Brenda to watch and learn from as she drew people in with her warm smile and grace. She gave me confidence to approach others, to ask questions and yes, to pray with them. As directed by Pastor Connie, I used the Bible quiz to generate conversations about personal faith. Throughout the day, this allowed me to speak with many different people and different age groups and to listen to some stories about difficult struggles in their lives.

“As I reflect on the day, the highlight of my experience was that I got to pray for about 5 different people. I think it’s a very powerful experience to touch someone’s hand or shoulder and pray for them. And I think it may have been a long time since some of them have experienced that. We learned that there were several young women from recovery group homes that were transported to the event, so the race sponsored to raise funds for at–risk girls also provided rich soil for spiritual enrichment. Many came up to the booth on their own and you could see the hunger in their eyes to learn more about the Lord. Many were abused, neglected and lost women who were finding their way back to society through recovery and God.

“One woman touched my heart. She was a beautiful 31 year old who had been on drugs for 15 years, and has been sober 6 months now. She has given her life to the Lord and you could actually see the joy that only the Lord can bring radiating from her face. She has a 9 year old daughter that she requested prayer for. Another woman that I met and prayed with hadn’t been to church for several years. We had a good conversation about the Lord and His mercy and grace in our lives. Please pray for these women and all those whom we touched that day.

“I can’t say that I personally brought anyone to Christ, but I do know that this ministry planted seeds. I was able to witness powerful prayer and was amazed at how people responded to Christ’s love in action. I feel very blessed by the people I met and this entire experience will always remain in my heart.â€?

This annual event has proved to be one of our best outreach efforts. Maybe it’s the nature of this race for “Girls-at-Risk,â€? but over and again we have noticed that many people who stop by our booth are already open to God, or especially need God. I can’t say that our bodies were any fitter for participating in this race. But our faith sure was.