“The walk to the top was the hardest part,” Armando Fernandez shared. “The ride down was easy.”
Fernandez, a Crossover volunteer from Idlewild Baptist Church in Tampa, Fla., was talking about the zip line ride at the Crossover block party at Sterling Baptist Church in Fairview Heights, IL. His description was not unlike the efforts to share the gospel through the many Crossover events that took place June 11. It can be tough to get started sharing the gospel, but once you do, it’s easy.
Sharing the gospel with the local community is what Crossover is all about. Each year hundreds of volunteers come to the Southern Baptist Convention a few days early to participate in Crossover evangelism outreach projects in and around the host city.
The St. Louis metro area – in both Missouri and Illinois – was the recipient of the the outpouring of the gospel. “We’re in love with the metroplex,” said David Gray, Sterling’s pastor. It’s that love that inspired the church to be a Crossover ministry site. Jesse Wilham, student pastor at Sterling, worked to lay the ground work for the evangelistic event.
Whether it’s sharing the gospel story or planning an evangelistic event, the groundwork must be laid. Cooperation from a number of Christian ministries and agencies made the it easy for volunteers to be placed in situations where they could share Christ.
The North American Mission Board funded the zip line rides, which normally run $30-$50 per person. Five hundred hamburgers and hotdogs were donated by a local company. A children’s ministry from Chicago provided drinks. The city of Fairview Heights loaned tents to the church. Gray said the local Chick-Fil-A even set up a stand “because the manager said they needed to be part of the event.”
Seventy-five people from eight churches representing Florida, Illinois, and Missouri made it their mission to come to Sterling Baptist Church to help its members reach the diverse neighborhood around them — some 20,000 Anglo Americans, African Americans, Guatemalans, Puerto Ricans and Nepalese for starters.
Idlewild’s Hispanic ministries pastor, Eloy Rodriguez, said the team came to Illinois because, “We’re doing what the Lord has asked us all to do. This is our Samaria.” In Acts 1:8 Jesus instructs his followers to share the gospel in their “Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth.”
Their church has made it a practice to prayer walk their own community and others sharing Christ with the people they meet. “We’re doing what the Lord asked us to do, bring the Lord to the people,” said Lina Freeman.
The team arrived on Wednesday night and started canvassing the neighborhood Thursday. It was then that Rodriguez had a life-changing encounter with a neighborhood man. “We were asking people if there was anything we could pray with them about. Many said they had recently lost loved ones. But, one man said, ‘Last Sunday, I was going to kill myself.’”
The man told Rodriguez he had been in his car and was going to drive into traffic, put pulled back when he realized not only would he kill himself, but the people in the other cars as well.
Rodriguez and his team shared the gospel with the man who accept Christ as his savior. After wards, “That guy gave me the biggest hug I’ve ever had,” shared Rodriguez.
Down the street from the block party the church hosted a soccer tournament, and Saturday night featured a concert by the praise bands from Anna Heights Baptist Church and Iglesia Bautista Latina in Effingham. A Sunday night concert by the southern gospel trio Sons of the Father capped off the Crossover weekend.
Gray said his goal was to reach 1,000 people through Crossover, and by mid-Saturday the church was well on its way with 500 people registered at the block party and soccer tournament. The best news was 12 people had accepted Christ.
“It’s been phenomenal what’s happening,” Gray said.
– Lisa Sergent