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Delaware race ministry has ‘best year yet’

DOVER, Del. (BP) – Delaware Raceway Ministry (DRM) is running strong after 31 years. And though the ministry techniques have evolved, the emphasis remains the same: sowing seeds, building relationships and sharing Jesus.

Volunteers from at least seven Maryland/Delaware churches, along with a few other local churches, worked together to serve the raceway staff and thousands of NASCAR enthusiasts who camped around the track earlier this month, giving out homemade cookies with New Testaments and Bible tracts, providing golf cart rides and hosting a worship service.

BCM/D Executive Director Tom Stolle (front row, third from left) visited volunteers with Delaware Raceway Ministry at Dover Motor Speedway. Photo submitted

The ministry started nearly 33 years ago when Jim McBride Jr., then a self-proclaimed “cocky college kid,” was riding past the racetrack with his dad, Jim McBride Sr., then the Delaware Baptist Association director of missions.

“I did one of those things you do when you’re in college. You want to catch your parents in something and sort of set them up,” the younger McBride said, laughing. “I said, ‘Dad, what do you have going on at the racetrack?’ He said, ‘Nothing, why?’ I said, ‘This is something that happens (then) twice a year, and you don’t have to pay a penny. You don’t have to market it. You don’t have to ask them to come. The race track is doing that for you. There are over 100,000 people at each race in your backyard that you can reach out to!’”

A lightbulb went off.

They began with a few volunteers at a tented area near the rear entrance to the field and gave away cookies, lemonade and some tracts. Some drivers gave testimonies to race fans as they entered the track area. The following year they began handing out free breakfast biscuits and having a short traditional church service.

“This was the best year yet,” said Jimmy Mariner, outreach leader at Lynnhaven Baptist Church. He brought two people on Saturday and four others on Sunday to work with the golf cart transport. “We saw higher attendance and people who really needed the ministry,” he said, including amputees and others who would not have been able to get to the track without the help of the DRM volunteers.

McBride said the transport team often has opportunities to pray for people affected by disability, illness or other struggles.

Maryland volunteers minister to NASCAR fans nationwide

Rick and Barbara Matney, members of Greensboro (Md.) Baptist Church, have volunteered in racing ministry a long time.

“We’ve always been NASCAR fans, so when Jim and Patti McBride, then members of Greensboro Church, said, ‘Hey, would you like to help out at Raceway Ministry?’ We said ‘yes,’” Barbara said. “We now go to six or seven tracks. While we were working, we used vacation time to serve. Now we’re both retired and can expand what we do, as long as the Lord allows us to do that physically, emotionally, and financially.”

“We hit Dover, Richmond, Martinsville, Nashville, North Wilkesboro, Bristol and Darlington,” said Rick. Each race ministry is unique, and the couple has different duties, which Barbara said makes it fun.

“But we call Dover our home track,” she said.

One of the ministry’s many blessings is the relationships volunteers have built. Each year, visitors stop by the raceway tents excited to catch up and share news. It’s like a reunion, Barbara said.

“It’s amazing what people will share with you, a stranger, because you won’t be judgmental with them. That’s important. We’re not there to judge.” Barbara stressed that being a listening ear and having compassion are needed to be successful in this ministry.

Rick recalls a man named Bill, who was one of the first people they met while camping. For 10 years, Bill would stop by their tent for coffee and to chat. Rick fondly remembers the man with an announcer type voice and a big smile.

“We talked, laughed, and shared our lives,” Rick said. “Once, he came to us and said his wife was very sick. So right there, we prayed for his wife and family and for him. Winter set in, and we didn’t see him until the spring race. He came running and hugged me really tight. Your prayers worked! My wife is doing great, really good.’ I had to step back and tell him, ‘All I do is lift your prayer up to God; He answered your prayer.’”

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  • Sharon Mager