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Amid bumper-to-bumper race fans, officers buoyed by Baptist workers

LEBANON, Tenn. (BP)–While 40,000 excited fans enjoyed the Busch Series Pepsi 300 at the new Nashville Superspeedway, one man was content to take a break from the crowd.

After six hours of manning bumper-to-bumper traffic at the track’s inaugural NASCAR race April 14, state trooper Jack Troy Vaughn took his first rest of the day to grab something to eat. The meal was provided by the Emergency Personnel Support Team (EPS). Vaughn paused in between bites of ham to comment, “We’re not used to this kind of hospitality. We’re used to hostility not hospitality.”

This “hospitality” was extended to all police, fire and medical personnel at the Superspeedway. EPS – with its “Making Christ known by Serving” motto — is a ministry that has pioneered the concept of witnessing to those who work at the Superspeedway events. Most ministries target race fans.

On both April 13 and 14, EPS volunteers traveled a five-mile radius around the speedway to deliver three meals plus snacks and water to each of the 200 police, fire and medical workers. Had EPS not been at the race, “We would just do without,” Vaughn said.

Instead, EPS was there and willing to feed, witness to and serve those who were serving the race community. Each meal was placed in a carryout box, which included a card with the verse “We know that all things work together for good to those who love the Lord — Romans 8:28.”

“They have been really receptive of what we’re doing,” said volunteer Faye Jarrells. “You pull up with the food and smiles just break across their face.”

“People need nourishment in many different ways — physically and mentally,” said state trooper Anthony Davis, “and if you get it at the same time it’s great.”

EPS was the brainchild of pastor Tim Eldred and Tim Bearden, group leader of Missions Awareness for the Tennessee Baptist Convention. Their months of hard work and planning culminated in a near-perfect, glitch-free weekend powered by 70 volunteers in the ministry’s first-ever event. “Anyone who tends to emergency,” Eldred explained, “that’s who we’re serving.”

“This is a lot more awesome than we ever thought it would be,” Bearden said.

Equally valuable is the race ministry provided by nearby Gladeville Baptist Church, which, said coordinator Doe Dayton, strives “to serve the race fans and the track.”

More than 90 people from 10 different churches volunteered throughout the weekend for the Gladeville ministry. A tent was set up in the parking lot where fans could stop by for breakfast and kids could play games. Pamphlets were available and volunteers were at hand to talk and witness to passersby.

“We’re not out to slam people in the head with the Bible,” said senior associate pastor Phil Johnsey. “Many [fans] have said they’re really appreciative of us being here and being visible.”

The ministry also operated a booth closer to the racetrack where volunteers gave away 13,000 cookies. In addition, fans could also receive NIV Sports New Testaments, which included personal testimonies from drivers and personalities in the NASCAR scene.

“Our long-term goal is to help people,” said Johnsey. “And as our relationship grows [with the track management], we’ll grow. I can foresee this in the future being big, big, big.”
See more sports news at BPSports, www.bpsports.net. (BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: RACEWAY MEALS and RACEWAY FUN.

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  • Ashley Michael