LEXINGTON, Ky. (BP)–In the weeks leading up to the World Equestrian Games, competitors are not the only ones ramping up for the country’s largest-ever equine event.
A group of nearly 50 Kentucky Baptists — most of them students — engaged in a mission project of varied tasks relating to the Sept. 25-Oct. 10 games at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, tackling “whatever somebody needs you to do,” as LaRaine Rice described the outreach.
Rice is the volunteer coordinator for Affiliated International Ministries, an ecumenical group of churches and organizations conducting a variety of ministries before, during and after the World Equestrian Games.
The international equestrian competition is expected to attract as many as 500 athletes and 600 horses and upwards of 600,000 spectators.
A crowd that large requires a great deal of preparation for officials with the Kentucky Horse Park and the World Equestrian Games, and AIM has been an instrumental part of the process.
“I could throw anything out there to [AIM] and … they’re like, ‘We’re on it,'” said Melissa Gamble, volunteer services manager for the World Equestrian Games.
Groups from nine Kentucky Baptist churches participated in the AIM-sponsored mission project. Working July 5-9 mostly at the Kentucky Horse Park, the mission team of primarily high school students learned that summer missions isn’t just about leading backyard Bible clubs or repairing houses.
“Anything they asked us to do is what we did,” said Rice, who also is Kentucky Woman’s Missionary Union’s youth and college consultant.
Jobs included cleaning the seats at the horse park’s indoor and outdoor arenas, painting fences, pulling weeds and picking up cigarette butts — most of the time in temperatures exceeding 90 degrees.
“I think it gives them a humbling experience to know that servants get down in a lowly place,” said pastor Rick Clark of Central Baptist Church in Lawrenceburg, Ky., who brought a group of four boys — all of them young Christians eager to learn about missions.
“We feel like this is getting them started on the right track to do missions early in their lives,” Clark said.
The mission team detoured from their horse park duties one day to work inside a warehouse filling hospitality bags for the hundreds of grooms who will be working at the World Equestrian Games. Gamble came up with the idea of doing something nice for the games’ “unsung heroes.”
The grooms “come in way before the teams and they take care of the horses night and day,” she said. “They’re the ones that are out in the mud and the cold and the dark.”
The gender-specific bags were packed with a number of everyday personal hygiene items such as toothpaste, deodorant and washcloths.
Each bag has AIM’s “More Than Gold” logo, a five-color horseshoe design that helps AIM volunteers share the Gospel with others.
During the games, the More Than Gold emblem will be prominently displayed on AIM volunteers’ T-shirts and on trading pins, which have become popular souvenirs at worldwide sporting events such as the Olympics.
Each participant in the mission project was given a More Than Gold pin and encouraged to give it away — along with a Gospel presentation.
At Georgetown College where the mission team stayed during the week, Rice said some team members used the pins to share the Gospel with Georgetown students working at the cafeteria.
“They’ve been very intentional about remembering even when they’re on the college campus, it’s a mission field, too,” Rice noted.
Clark said his students realized that cleaning the horse park’s arena seats was something they could do at their own high school football stadium, praying over each seat in the process.
“They realized they were to pray for the people that were going to sit in those seats,” Clark said. “It kind of brought it home to them.”
Drew Nichter is news director of the Western Recorder (www.westernrecorder.org), newsjournal of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.