PASADENA, Calif. (BP)–A record number of volunteers from across the country descended on the five-mile Tournament of Roses Parade route in Pasadena, Calif., Dec. 31 to share the Gospel in the hours leading up to the famed New Year’s Day tradition.
Volunteers from North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Texas, Kansas, Arizona and New Mexico joined forces with volunteers from Pasadena and other parts of Southern California for outreach to the thousands who claimed their spot on the parade route as early as 24 hours in advance.
Parade-goers came with folding chairs, tables, board games and bed rolls for a coveted front-row seat from which to view the flower-covered floats, bands and equestrian teams in the parade, which marked its 121st year.
Martin Davis, a San Diego businessman and member of the SBC Executive Committee, has organized the Tournament of Roses Parade effort for 14 years, which has grown from a small group of volunteers to the 175 who participated this year. Twenty-four of the volunteers were from five local churches in the Los Angeles Southern Baptist Association.
During this year’s outreach, 43 people made first-time decisions for Jesus Christ. The contact information of those receiving Christ will be forwarded to local Southern Baptist churches for follow-up and discipleship.
The primary tool used during the outreach is a full-color parade brochure containing the order of floats, bands and equestrian teams for the parade. As soon as the brochure is opened, the recipient sees the parade order on one panel and the Gospel and sinners prayer on the other panel. Since the brochures are freely given, they are in high demand on the day of the parade. This year, nearly 20,000 were distributed.
Volunteers also shared the Gospel through mime presentations, Bible tract distribution, one-on-one conversations and servant evangelism. One team from New Hope Bible Church in Wichita, Kan., distributed nearly 10,000 Bible tracts that they brought with them.
Graham Lingg, 23, was among the group from Wichita sharing the Gospel on the streets. As he and another team member were talking to people in the crowd, they encountered a man from Texas and sensed that he was searching for God.
“I was amazed that God allowed our paths to cross since he was from Texas and we were from Wichita,” Lingg said. After an extended conversation and delving into the Gospel, they left him with a Bible tract and a DVD of a message by their pastor.
Two mime troupes with Action Ministries, one from Apple Valley, Calif., and another from San Diego, both consisting of homeschoolers from several Christian denominations, carried their battery-operated sound system to present the Gospel message as they performed mime routines to contemporary Christian music.
Each troupe performed their routines multiple times during the outreach. Between music sets, the Gospel is verbally presented by an evangelist using a megaphone. Also, the parents of the youth talk to the people in each audience about Christ and the need for a Savior.
Kim Domner, leader of the Apple Valley Christ in Action mime team, recounted an encounter with a man on a bicycle who followed the group to two different performance locations. “He had a lot of questions about what we do and about the Lord,” Domner said, “Even though he didn’t pray with me to receive Christ, he left with a lot of answers and the seed of the Gospel was planted.”
Clint and Carol Smith with Campers on Mission made balloon animals and shared Bible stories with the children. The Smiths, Mission Service Corp coordinators from Arizona, also brought other volunteers with them to help share the love of Christ from their base camp on the parade route.
Carol Smith remembered the excitement of one 7-year-old girl who received a balloon animal from them. As Smith talked to her about God creating the animals, the girl opened her coat to show her Christian T-shirt. “My heart belongs to Jesus,” the girl said.
First Southern Baptist Church in Pasadena served as one of the base camps for this year’s outreach. From there, local volunteers were shuttled to six strategic points along the parade route. These volunteers distributed 10,000 of the parade brochures along the length of the route.
Karen Wong, a 50 year old Malaysian widow and recent convert from Hinduism, was among the local volunteers sowing Gospel seeds prior to the parade. Her pastor, Bien Llobrera of First Southern Baptist in Pasadena, said Wong first heard the Gospel in her home country when she was 11 years old. However, it took her 30-plus years to embrace Jesus Christ as her Savior. Llobrera baptized Karen on Oct. 11 of last year.
Charlie Corum, community ministry field specialist with the Los Angeles Southern Baptist Association, coordinated the transportation of volunteers on the morning of the parade. Corum promoted the outreach within the association and provided training for the volunteers.
Since this was the association’s first time to participate, Corum wanted to keep their involvement simple. He was thrilled to see the turnout of volunteers from local churches, noting that many of them are looking forward to opportunities for next year’s parade.
Victor Benavides, metropolitan missions coordinator with the North American Mission Board, also joined the effort for the first time this year. “I really sensed an openness with the people here,” Benavides said. “I was surprised that people received our literature so well.”
Benavides said he believes the associational involvement this year is a prelude to greater opportunities between the Los Angeles Southern Baptist Association, California Southern Baptist Convention and the North American Mission board as they seek to reach the Greater Los Angeles area for Christ.
Darrel Davis is an evangelist with Foundation Ministries in Garner, N.C., who participated in the Rose Parade outreach in Pasadena, Calif. To learn more about the annual Tournament of Roses Parade outreach, visit www.paradeministry.com.