March 10, 2008

LA Marathon Wrap Up
by Matthew Bassett

Sixty two people took up temporary residence on a corner of the Los Angeles Marathon (11th and Main—mile marker 19.6) Sunday, March 2. Thirty eight of them were from Altadena Baptist Church. Our band and Gospel Choir set up in the blocked off street. Kid’s Corner dominated one corner, alongside our display of brochures, tracts and fun give-aways. Encouragers stretched out around the other three corners and perimeters. This year we shared the music site with another band, “Brand of Heroes,â€? so when one group was playing and singing, the other group took a break. In this way we provided constant, spirit-lifting music to the Marathon runners for over five hours, until the street sweepers came through and the barriers were taken down.

Here is some of what God was doing in us and through us:

Worship Our musicians poured out their hearts to God through voice and instrument. All of our music glorified God. Many of the runners visibly responded to this music. Especially as the day wore on, and the runners turned into walkers (and draggers), our music inspired, pepped up, and encouraged many. This year runners ran directly to our stage, and turned sharply left in front of us. With this set up, it was especially noticeable to see people pick up their lagging steps in time with the music as they approached and turned. Many lifted their hands in praise. Several ran many steps out of their way to stand directly in front of the choir and band, appreciating the music. One bystander took his harmonica out of his backpack, and joined the musicians for an instrumental solo.

“Let the little children come to me.â€? Kid’s Corner was popular with children and young adults who played with table games, had their faces painted, created and colored through the day. One family of five came to watch the Marathoners run through their neighborhood, but ended up hanging out at Kid’s Corner for over five hours, only occasionally glancing at the main attraction on the street.

Evangelism Preparation for our outreach at the Marathon began months ago, as the Outreach and Worship Departments worked hard on refining our focus and purpose. A morning of evangelism training the week before prepared us to seek opportunities to share the gospel. This year three people found Christ on the route! Leonard, a self-proclaimed “drunk and prodigal sonâ€? has been on the streets a long time. Wiping away tears, he prayed to receive Christ. Carlos, an immigrant of just two days, also prayed the sinner’s prayer. Many of our group talked to the parking enforcement officer stationed right in front of our group. Tony Bennett asked her if she wanted to receive Christ, and gave her a tract to read. Another Christian parking officer talked to her later in the day and led her in that prayer, and then told us of the impact of our music and our connection with her.

Prayer We paid special attention to the people stationed near our group. Fire fighters, police officers, parking enforcement were offered food and water. A Metro engineer on break approached to check out our materials, and ended up requesting prayer for his son. Spectator Chris first met us last year, at a different place on the route. He still had two bracelets on his wrist that we’d given out last year. He was delighted to see us again. He’s been sober two years and is involved in a Jesuit mission. Brenda Mitchell and Peter Larson prayed for several other bystanders.

Training Ten young adults from Formosan Evangelical Church came to see what we do on the site. Their church has not done a lot of outreach in the past and they are looking for training in order to start their own ministries. They were singing on the streets, praying and involving themselves in our ministry, as a precursor to becoming more active on their own.

This year more than ever, we saw some of “whyâ€? God had us on that street corner that morning. Our hearts were lifted and our faith strengthened. God is good.

Faith Promise and You
by Pastor Connie Larson DeVaughn

The economy, the economy, the economy…turn on a radio, open a newspaper, eavesdrop in the grocery lines, and this subject is what people are thinking about, worrying about, and talking about. There is no question that many of us have taken a hit in our pocketbooks this year.

This is budget time at ABC, and if you keep an eye on our financial picture, you will know that, not surprisingly, our church finances have also taken a hit. The Deacons, Departments, and congregation will be struggling in this next month to be faithful stewards of our resources as we prepare our budget for the coming fiscal year, starting in April.

It is also time to set our Faith Promise goal for missions. Faith Promise is giving above our regular tithes and offerings so that Christ’s gospel may be preached to the ends of the earth. These are the funds that have enabled us to increase our giving to missionaries we support every year, except last year, when we held the line steady.

The Missions Committee has also been wrestling with the desire to remain faithful in our giving to missions, in light of our financial realities. Because of the weak dollar overseas, because of our weak economy, many of our missionaries are greatly under-supported. Our part in their overall support is critical, and we take that responsibility seriously.

For many Christians it is a challenge to tithe 10% of our income to the church. Generosity is a learned value, especially in our materialistic culture in which “Iâ€? is the focus of most financial decisions. Some of us are still on a learning curve with our tithing. If this is true of you, please challenge yourself to meet that goal this year as your first commitment.

But for those who are further down the path of giving, please prayerfully consider participating in Faith Promise this year. It seems counterintuitive to be asking us to extend ourselves in lean years. But the reality is that in the lean times when our faith is stretched, it is also most strengthened. When we are incapable in our own strength, or when we don’t have the eyes to see as God sees, yet we step out in faith to follow him, God shows us more of himself than we would have seen otherwise. Some of our best growth comes out of those lean years. And if we don’t commit ourselves then, we will not have the discipline or desire to do it in times of plenty.

So please consider your giving patterns, especially at this time. And if you would like to participate in our Faith Promise goal, please fill out the enclosed card and mail it to the church, or put it in a Sunday morning offering during this month.