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At equestrian games, a warm welcome

LEXINGTON, Ky. (BP)–The years of anticipation finally ended as the World Equestrian Games have begun at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.

Kentuckians rolled out the red carpet for competitors from 58 countries at the games’ opening ceremonies Sept. 25 with more than 23,000 people in attendance.

The ceremony featured 40 different equine acts, showcasing drill teams, Western roping and riding and even a thoroughbred race reenactment, as well as an elaborately choreographed musical production.

Several Kentucky-born celebrities helped kick off the event including legendary boxer Muhammad Ali and country music star Wynonna Judd, who serenaded the crowd with the state song, “My Old Kentucky Home.”

Early the next morning, dozens of people gathered to worship across the street from the horse park at Cane Run Baptist Church.

The Sunday service at the 182-year-old church was one of two sponsored by Affiliated International Ministries, the interdenominational group of churches working together to share the Gospel with World Equestrian Games visitors. The other was held at the Georgetown Equine Expo. Services will continue at both sites the next two Sundays.

“Christians are constantly thinking about the world,” AIM director Larry Martin told those gathered at Cane Run Baptist. “We’re praying for the world. We send people all over the world, and it’s a very, very rare time when God brings the world to one location.”

The World Equestrian Games are expected to bring hundreds of thousands of visitors to Kentucky through Oct. 10. Many of them will be traveling from countries that do not have a strong Christian presence.

“When they’re coming to us, then we have the opportunity just to serve and show them Christ in a way we could never do in their own country,” said Keith Ivey, a North American Mission Board worker from Georgia who is volunteering with AIM during the games.

“Then they go back [to their countries] as missionaries, or they are more receptive to missionaries that are in their part of the world,” Ivey said.

On Sunday afternoon, Ivey manned AIM’s booth at the Trade Show Village inside the horse park. He and other AIM volunteers handed out information about the organization and plenty of “More Than Gold” pins, the multi-colored, horseshoe-shaped souvenirs that convey the Gospel.

Even though AIM volunteers working inside the horse park were limited in how they could share about the pins, Ivey said some fellow believers stopped by the booth just to pick up pins to take and share with others.

Another big draw at the booth was an appearance by horse racing legend Pat Day. The Hall of Fame jockey has worked with AIM since it started, and he gave his testimony at the Cane Run Baptist Church worship service.

The Kentucky Derby-winning jockey has been outspoken about his faith for many years, and he said sharing faith outwardly is the key to showing Christ’s love to those who will visit Kentucky during the World Equestrian Games.

“It’s a tremendous opportunity when they come into our locality to let our light shine,” Day told Kentucky Baptists’ Western Recorder newspaper, noting the Gospel children’s song, “This Little Light of Mine.”

“And as we do so, I believe that people will be drawn to that; that we’ll have the opportunity to share with them the basis of our faith and the love of God,” Day said.

AIM volunteers are expressing that love through service.

A last-minute approval allowed for AIM to establish a shuttle service from the main parking areas to the front gate of the horse park. Martin said eight shuttles usually are running during the days, most of which are church vans on loan from Kentucky Baptist churches.

With its logo prominently displayed in each van’s window, the AIM booth became a stopping point for visitors expressing their gratitude — which opens the door for conversations, Ivey said.

“They come by to just say they appreciated the ride,” he said. “They’ll tell me how nice the volunteers were. So, that’s just a great segue into giving them the pins and talking with them about where they are [spiritually] and answering questions.”
Drew Nichter is news director of the Western Recorder (www.westernrecorder.org) of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.

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