Arkansans sweat in the Texas heat to share the love of Christ

    June 9, 2018

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    Joe Westbury
    Special to the ABN

    FORT WORTH Texas — The sun was hot and the air was dry and the shade was sparse. But that didn’t keep Arkansas Baptists who were in town for Crossover in advance of the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting from sharing their faith.

    Guzzling cold bottled water and lathering plenty of sunscreen was the order of the day on Saturday June 9 as two of those volunteers students at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary took their faith to the streets.

    By last evening the final day of Crossover 100 seminarians had contacted 13129 homes participated in 1993 gospel conversations and recorded 213 professions of faith. When 75 other participants are included from the four Southern Baptist seminaries partnering with Southwestern the numbers totaled 19464 homes contacted 3180 gospel conversions and 340 professions of faith.

    And that was after six days of walking through neighborhoods and leading up to the Harvest America rally on Sunday evening June 10 at AT&T Stadium. More than 100000 guests are expected to pack the stadium the home of the Dallas Cowboys to hear the gospel proclaimed by California pastor and evangelist Greg Laurie.

    Dennisa Reade a member Leslie Baptist Church Leslie was among numerous Arkansas Baptists who have been spending all week sharing their faith at Crossover Dallas.

    Reade a Master of Divinity student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary has been on a team knocking on doors in the Fort Worth area giving gospel presentations and leaving information in advance of the Harvest America rally at AT&T Stadium in nearby Arlington on Sunday June 10.

    Reade’s husband Chris is pastor of Leslie Baptist and received a Master of Divinity degree from the seminary in December.

    “I love to share Christ with people” Dennisa Reade said under the shade of a tree as temperatures pushed 100 degrees in the city. “It’s been on Chris’ and my heart for a long time. Bringing people to Christ is just what Christians do. We are trying to lead our church into a very missional mindset and there is no better way to lead than by example.”

    Chris McCarty young families and children’s pastor at Mount Carmel Baptist Church in Cabot was one of those students knocking on doors in the sweltering heat. On Saturday the temperature approached 100 degrees the same as the previous days when the heat index topped out at 104.

    He is working on a Master of Divinity degree with an emphasis in preaching and evangelism. However he quickly says he won’t be graduating anytime soon; he’s fulltime at his church and is on the “slow track” rather than the “fast track” taking classes online and through extension classes at the Arkansas Baptist building in Little Rock.

    It is his first Crossover but not his first mission trip. His interest was piqued from a previous experience with a Carolina Baptist Association trip to Guatemala. That trip featured an outreach called Operation Go which was very similar in concept to Crossover: encountering local residents with the best news they would ever hear he says.

    “I had such a good experience sharing my faith on that trip that I wanted to see if people in my own culture would respond as well as the Guatemalans did. And I’ll have to say this has been an incredible experience” he said while eating a sandwich at his team’s host church.

    The lunch hour was a wonderful opportunity to get out of the heat and into the church air conditioning for an hour he joked.

    Comparing the two experiences he said he had “a huge amount of responses” on the other side of the Fort Worth doors on which he knocked. The majority like in Guatemala were positive conversations about the gospel.

    “Even when decisions were not made seeds were still planted and that’s why we were out there. But yesterday we saw a young man come to Christ after a very long day of not seeing any positive responses” he said between crunching potato chips with his sandwich.

    “What was so remarkable is that we did not approach him but he came right up to us out of curiosity. He asked who we were and what we were doing and we began sharing the gospel and he accepted Christ right there” McCarty explained.

    “It was clearly a God-ordained encounter.”

    The soft-spoken Arkansan could not say enough about the support from Birchman Baptist Church in the White Settlement community in west Fort Worth. That’s where his team has been based for the week providing meals resources prayer support and information on neighborhoods that need visiting.

    “I have never seen a church with such a strong prayer ministry. While we are out we Tweet out specific prayer requests for a situation and church members follow us and immediately begin interceding for that situation. They are literally praying constantly for Crossover and our efforts as their ambassadors. They follow #Crossover18 as well as their feed #bbca18” he explained.

    Coincidentally the Southwestern team leader assigned to Birchman for the week is Dalton Hodges. The Jonesboro resident who claims Walnut Street Baptist Church as his home church was in charge of all logistics for teams operating out of the church and keeping volunteers like McCarty fed rested hydrated and supplied with plenty of sunscreen a little bug repellent and Harvest America as well as Birchman Baptist Church door hangers.

    Hodges considers himself as a “gofer” for the week working in the shadows but in a critical support role “going for this going for that. Water is important and I can’t let my people get dehydrated in this heat” he said.

    Hodges is employed full-time at Southwestern coordinating international mission trips through the World Missions Center. That dovetails perfectly with his Master of Divinity major and its emphasis in international church planting.

    Like McCarty this is his first Crossover experience and though he wishes he was going out door-to-door everyday he acknowledges his assignment does help him utilize his organizational skills.

    His experience in Evangelism Explosion at his home church helped lay the groundwork for his love of sharing his faith. He accepted Christ at 18 and was involved in the outreach from high school through college.

    “I grew up in a Christian home and know all about Christ but the pieces just never fit together. It wasn’t until I accepted Him that it all made sense … that being a Christian was more than just going to church on Sunday like I had been doing for years. Being a Christian is a total lifestyle experience; it affects all you do and all you are” he explained.

    “Christ changed my life and I realized it was my responsibility to tell others about Him. And that’s why I’m out here today.”

    Joe Westbury is managing editor of The Christian Index the official news journal of the Georgia Baptist Convention.