NEW ORLEANS (BP)–When they were welcomed to the host committee of the National Football League’s Super Bowl XXXVI, Liz Stewart and Ashley Lewis were introduced as the “Baptist interns.”
“It wasn’t exactly the best introduction,” Stewart told Baptist Press. “You know, the Bible Belt stops when you get on the bridge coming to New Orleans, and when they found out we were Baptists they had a lot of questions.”
Any doubts the host committee may have harbored against the two New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary students were soon dispelled.
Stewart and Lewis combined a servant’s heart and a strong work ethic to win over their colleagues and earn opportunities to share the gospel of Jesus Christ.
“They [the host committee] were leery when they hired us,” Stewart said, recalling the day last October when she joined the project. “They didn’t think we would fit in, but we really did.
“We showed them that we are normal people who like to have a real good time,” she said. “In a way we had to prove ourselves and we did it with a good attitude and hard work.”
For Stewart and Lewis, the opportunity to work with the NFL’s host committee was a dream come true — and for the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans, it was an answer to prayer.
The seminary students were in Ken Taylor’s class called New Orleans Ministry and Missions.
“We took the class because we thought it would help us know the city better,” Stewart said. “One day [the class] went to [BAGNO] and they were telling us about upcoming ministry opportunities and they mentioned they were looking for two interns to work for the Super Bowl.”
Stewart, who has a degree in sports medicine, and Lewis, with an undergraduate degree in commercial tourism and recreation, could hardly believe the opportunity.
“We nearly spit our lunch on the table,” Stewart recalled. “We raised our hands and said we’ll do it.”
That was back in October. With the Super Bowl only two days away, Stewart and Lewis were working 14 hour days preparing for the nation’s most hyped athletic event.
“It’s been pretty exciting,” Lewis said from his office across from the Louisiana Superdome. “I have been overwhelmed by the quality of people who work here.”
Lewis has been able to put his undergraduate degree to good use. One of his responsibilities was coordinating the national media party for the Super Bowl — a hearty affair that included 4,000 to 5,000 print and broadcast journalists.
“It was one of the largest parties thrown by the NFL,” he said.
“I know that the opportunities I’ve had will be useful in future ministry,” Lewis said. “I’m learning how to plan large events and somewhere down the road that’s going to help me out.”
Lewis and Stewart were paid through the North American Mission Board and received a food stipend from BAGNO. Their work schedule the week leading up to the Super Bowl was been non-stop.
“Wednesday [before the Super Bowl] was my hardest day,” Lewis said. “I got to work at 7 a.m. and went home at 2 a.m. The next day I was back at work at 7 a.m. and got home and 3 a.m.”
With an unforgiving schedule, Lewis and Stewart said their seminary professors have been understanding.
“[They] gave us the week off for class,” Lewis said. “We were very blessed with professors who understand what we were doing.”
Stewart said she has been thankful about the ministry opportunities that have come their way.
“Many of our colleagues had questions about Christianity and why we are in seminary,” she said. “We’ve had such a good time.”
“We’ve had the chance to share with those we work close to,” Lewis added. “We are in an area that has such a strong Catholic presence. For the most part, our ministry has been in our conversations. And we noticed that they are respectful of what they say around us because we are Christians.
“This was a tremendous opportunity,” he said. “To be able to use your college degree to minister is great.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: SUPER BOWL INTERNS.