NORTHPORT, Ala. (BP)–Evangelism efforts in this region are on the move — literally, via pastor Victor Bonner Jr.’s mobile Christian Prayer and Resource (CPR) Center.
The CPR Center is actually a trailer which Bonner, of Circle of Grace Baptist Church, Northport, Ala., sets up in parking lots at malls, shopping centers and grocery stores to distribute free Bibles and other materials to shoppers. The mobile unit also has prayer and counseling rooms for individuals needing one-on-one support.
“The main purpose of the CPR Center is to glorify God by helping people,” he said. He started the nondenominational ministry last fall from a desire to reach the large numbers of lost and hurting people in the Tuscaloosa, Ala., area, which encompasses the University of Alabama.
Bonner first set up the CPR Center at the 1996 West Alabama State Fair, distributing nearly 5,000 units of Christian material. To date, the center has distributed more than 8,000 pieces of literature, including Bibles.
Although Bonner could not say exactly how his idea of the CPR Center originated, he said it evolved out of many outreach ideas in his pastorate.
“I don’t know if I could put my finger on a beginning point,” he said, noting he just wanted to get God’s Word into the marketplace. “People are hearing everything else out there, and they need to hear the gospel.”
Bonner has several ways of attracting shoppers to the center. To interest adults, he invites them to register for prizes donated by local Christian bookstores. The registration card has a simple survey with questions concerning the shopper’s belief in God, church membership and denominational preference.
Bonner uses the information for specific follow-up by sending the cards to local pastors. Bonner also counsels and prays with the shoppers in the special rooms in the CPR Center. To attract children, Bonner ties a cartoon tract containing a simplified version of the plan of salvation to a balloon — and they seem to enjoy the tract more than the balloon.
Although Bonner made personal arrangements in securing the trailer and other initial expenses, the CPR Center is supported by area Christian business leaders, churches and individual contributors.
Businesses are asked to make an initial contribution of $100 and to follow with a contribution of $30 or more per month for at least 12 months to help cover the expenses of the operation. Individuals are asked to give an initial contribution of $25 and to follow with a contribution of $10 or more per month for at least 12 months. Bonner uses 60 cents of each dollar given to purchase Bibles, tracts and other resources.
The center has seen positive results, with several making decisions for Christ, including first-time decisions, Bonner said. He partially credits the number of decisions to the availability of the prayer and counseling rooms.
“I would like to go anyplace where there is a public gathering,” Bonner said. “I want to be available where people are and to get Scripture into the hands of a large number of people.” Also hoping to set up in low-rent housing developments, he said, “My prayer for this ministry is that it will reach a segment of people our traditional services are not reaching.”
In a letter to potential contributors, Bonner wrote, “We go where they are.” He added, “We are still trying to fine-tune this thing” so “a large segment of people receive the Word of God to help them know what God wants to do to help them in their need.”