SAN ANTONIO (BP)–When Miriam Davis rolled her battered Mustang convertible to a stop at the dog park section of McAllister Park, volunteers welcomed her with bottled water and a cheery greeting. It’s not that Davis and her half-chow, half-terrier “chowder” are celebrities — the outreach was an act of kindness by CrossBridge Community Church as part of the Crossover outreach in San Antonio.
Distributing water bottles was among the activities of nearly 1,000 Southern Baptists volunteers who participated in block parties, door-to-door evangelism and other evangelistic activities in San Antonio prior to the June 12-13 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting.
“Jesus showed compassion and mercy and we can, too, by giving someone a cold drink of water,” CrossBridge member Rebecca Ortiz said.
Ortiz and her husband David worked with 69 other volunteers of all ages, including members of Mt. Gilead Baptist Church in Dothan, Ala., to distribute 720 bottles of water in four San Antonio parks.
The bottle’s label included a passage from the Book of John, which quotes Jesus: “People become thirsty after drinking this water. But the water I give them takes away thirst altogether. It becomes a perpetual spring in them and gives them eternal life.”
“It’s a concrete, non-threatening way to communicate God’s love,” said Kendale Moore, a staff member with the SBC’s North American Mission Board who volunteered through Crossover’s website.
“Telling unbelievers that God loves them doesn’t always translate, but physically showing it by giving people water helps translate things into a language they can understand,” Moore said.
The outreach ended at noon, but CrossBridge member Sean Dittman and his team continued distributing water and Gospel tracts throughout the day at gas stations and in a nearby park. They also distributed water to people sitting in their cars in the parking lot of an adult entertainment store.
At least one woman asked Dittman and his team to pray with her to receive Christ as Savior.
“She cried out for the Lord,” Dittman said, recounting that the woman, a grandmother, said she realized her early years attending church were not the same as a personal decision asking Christ to come into her life.
At McAllister Park — a place where dogs seem to socialize and where their owners can relax and talk — the Ortiz family, including 18-month-old Elizabeth, took water and flyers promoting their church services to park’s enclosed dog section and talked to nearly 25 people, who just barely outnumbered the dogs. The church volunteers talked with the dog owners about a variety of topics -– including their dogs, their families, the NBA Finals and their spiritual life.
By late morning, temperatures climbed to the 90s, leaving dogs and owners alike ready for a cool drink.
M.C. Duke walked her two dogs not far behind Bill Spaulding and his Labrador mix. Both welcomed the bottled water, with Duke adding: “It was really sweet. It is a good way to let people know what you’re doing without being pushy.”
Rebecca Ortiz considered the event a success as part of her church’s effort to reflect the heartbeat of Christ.
“This event is not about having a bunch of immediate professions of faith,” Ortiz said. “It’s to see the hands and feet of God in action.”
And sometimes results follow.
As the day wound down, Rebecca Ortiz swung Elizabeth on her hip, strolled over to Davis and her chowder and struck up a conversation. After a short time, Ortiz gave Davis her home and cell phone numbers and an offer to meet at CrossBridge.
Before long, Davis pondered coming to church, saying, “I might give it a shot.”
John Wagner, a junior at The King’s College in Manhattan, is a journalism intern with Baptist Press during the SBC annual meeting in San Antonio.