Today’s From the States features items from: Western Recorder;
Arkansas Baptist News.
First Responders Day ‘built bridges’ in community
By Myriah Snyder
Shelbyville, Ky. (BP) — In light of recent tension between some communities and first responders, and “to build some relationships in the first responder community, and help the community as a whole get to know its first responders,” Shelbyville’s First Baptist Church recently hosted a “First Responders Weekend.”
“We wanted to say thank you for all they (first responders) do, but also to get to know them. We wanted to build bridges between the first responder community and the community as a whole,” Pastor Maurice Hollingsworth said.
“If you know people and appreciate them, it’s hard to get mad at them. So we wanted to offer that opportunity,” he added.
“Law enforcement especially is kind of under attack. It’s great to see the community rally, not just behind the law enforcement, but firefighters and EMS, and everybody that works together to keep this community safe,” Trooper Eddie Whitworth, of Kentucky State Police and member of First Baptist, said.
The idea for the weekend came from a similar event where Hollingsworth was pastor in New Mexico. Hollingsworth’s family has a long tradition of roasting an entire pig, which takes around 15 hours. They invited police officers to come eat and fellowship with them by the fire throughout the night as they roasted a pig. The results of that event were that many people came to know Christ, Hollingsworth said.
“Sometimes it’s a little bit hard for a cop to think a pastor can relate to his world, and that’s true,” observed Hollingsworth. “I don’t understand what he has to face, but somehow when we’re all sitting around the fire, in the middle of the night, taking care of a hog at 3 a.m., barriers are kind of broken down.”
One of Hollingsworth’s prayer partners, a retired Secret Service agent for Kentucky, saw the picture of the event in New Mexico and suggested they do the same thing — but for first responders.
The first event of the weekend was the hog roasting. Many first responders came and ate and played corn hole during their breaks throughout the night.
The next afternoon, a community fair was held in the church’s parking lot. First responders sent crews, fire trucks and EMT vans. The fire department even brought a car to demonstrate how the “Jaws of Life” work.
“We had a lot of people here on our parking lot, basically just getting to know these guys who take care of us and protect us all the time,” Hollingsworth said.
That evening, the church hosted a barbecue, where an attorney for the Commonwealth presented an award to one of the law enforcement agents.
On Sunday, the worship service saw more than 600 people in attendance. “We had a time of prayer for the first responders to ask God’s protection over them and blessing over their families and a prayer of gratitude for all that they do for us,” Hollingsworth said.
“It was a tremendously effective way to demonstrate to the community that we care about what happens not just on Sunday morning, but we care about them all week long,” he said. (WR)
Myriah Snyder is a reporter for the Western Recorder.
Baptists reach bikers at BBB
By Caleb Yarbrough, Arkansas Baptist News assistant editor
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (BP) — Hundreds of thousands of motorcycle riders recently converged on northwest Arkansas to take part in Bikes, Blues and BBQ (BBB), one of the largest motorcycle rallies in the country. Southern Baptists from across Arkansas and beyond used the event as an opportunity to share the Gospel of Christ.
Now in its 16th year, BBB is held each fall. The rally bills itself as “the largest motorcycle rally in the United States benefitting local charities.” It was estimated that 2014’s rally saw more than 400,000 visitors to Fayetteville and surrounding communities.
Due to BBB, for four days each year, Fayetteville becomes Arkansas’ largest city, and arguably, its largest mission field. As in years past, Arkansas Baptists partnered with Baptists from multiple other states in ministering to the mass of bikers and onlookers.
Faith Riders is a national motorcycle club organization started in Florida and made up of mostly Southern Baptist bikers from across the country. Jeff Hairston is the director of the northwest Arkansas chapter of Faith Riders based at Cross Church, which operates a booth at the heart of BBB each year.
“On Saturday night, God showed up and showed out,” said Hairston. “In the last 90 minutes, 20 people came under the tent and were saved. We had people that needed prayer for marriages, for addictions, for jobs.”
“We were so busy at 10 o’clock that we couldn’t even close the tent,” he added.
Hairston said the Faith Riders volunteers working in and around the tent gave personal 3-minute testimonies to 1,069 people and saw 90 people accept Christ during the rally.
The Faith Riders booth had 85 volunteers from across Arkansas and other states including Alabama, Missouri, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Tennessee. Over the four-day event, the volunteers put in about 880 man-hours witnessing, prayer walking and maintaining the recycling for the entire BBB event, a service that allows the group to use a tent free of charge.
Hairston said after this year’s event, one of the riders from Alabama told him, “‘I just wanted you to know. We have prayed about it as a group as we were coming home, and we want you to know that whatever you need next year, we will be back, God-willing, and we are going to bring more people with us.'”
In 2016, Hairston plans to have a Harley-Davidson motorcycle as a giveaway at the Faith Riders tent. According to the success of such a giveaway at other rallies, Hairston hopes it will increase the number of individuals that come by the tent by three to six times, meaning 3,000-6,000 people hearing a personal presentation of the Gospel.
“As far as the number of people that usually accept Christ, it is usually between 8 and 10 percent of the people that you share with,” said Hairston. “We could be looking at 600 people accepting Christ in this three-and-a-half days that we are there sharing testimonies.”
Hairston said each individual who accepted Christ at the Faith Riders booth will receive a follow-up phone call from the volunteer who led him or her to the Lord. These individuals’ contact information will also be passed along to churches and ministries in and around their residences in order to help them find local churches to get plugged in to.
First Baptist Church, Fayetteville, which is located on Dickson Street, the main drag of the city where most of the BBB festivities take place, holds a bike wash each year during the rally. Rick McCoy is a member of First Baptist and one of the organizers of the event.
McCoy said this year is the 13th year that First Baptist has hosted its bike wash outreach. He said that this year five people accepted Christ as a result of the bike wash outreach.
“We have a breakfast on Saturday morning, and we had over 200 people. We probably had close to 50-plus volunteers. The GAs (Girls in Action) helped us with the breakfast for about the last six years or so. They take it on as a project,” said McCoy.
“We give out patches, John 3:16 patches, and pins that go on their jackets. We have the church open, and we let them use our bathrooms and we wash their bikes. We don’t take any donations or anything for any of it. It is all free,” he said.
“We see how God is working,” said McCoy. “I have been riding motorcycles since I was 8 years old, and if you get on one of those, it’s kind of dangerous. I tell a lot of kids on those fast (bikes), ‘crotch rockets’ that I call them, that you need to know the Lord pretty close.”
The South Main Baptist Church, Crossett, chapter of Faith Riders was among the volunteers involved in First Baptist’s bike wash. It was the fourth year that volunteers from South Main Baptist had come up from south Arkansas to share Christ and minister during BBB.
Stephanie Copes, member of South Main Baptist and board member of the Arkansas Baptist News, was among the 10 volunteers from the church who participated in the bike wash.
“I got to take my teenage daughter with us this year, and she got to help wash bikes. Myself and her, my husband and two of the gentlemen there from First Baptist actually got to pray with a woman who was about to have surgery,” said Copes. “It was really humbling to see her come to us and just say, ‘Hey, can you lay hands on us and pray for me?'”
Copes said that in addition to working with First Baptist’s bike wash, South Main’s Faith Riders chapter had a tent set up in which they gave away “Man of God” tire gauges and motorcycle-themed Christian literature.
Larry King, a member of South Main Baptist and its Faith Riders chapter, was one of the first volunteers to get involved with First Baptist’s bike wash ministry when it began more than a decade ago.
“So many people are against motorcycle rallies because they think the people are just so bad. But we tell them that everybody needs Jesus,” said King. “I tell them, What do you think Jesus would do if He walked up here? … He said, ‘It’s not the healthy that need help; it’s the sick.'”
“We try to tell the people in the churches that God is sending them to you and you ought to get out there and witness to them. We need more people to witness to the lost,” said King. “So many of the church members will run — ‘Let’s get away from here, leave town; I don’t want to mess with them.'”
“The first two bikers that rolled in here, from Omaha, Neb., they came to get their bikes washed. … We were washing their bikes, and Rick (McCoy) witnessed to them and led both of them to the Lord. And that is the whole purpose of the bike wash,” said King.
Caleb Yarbrough is the assistant editor at the Artkansas Baptist News.
EDITOR’S NOTE: From the States, published each Tuesday by Baptist Press, relays news and feature stories from state Baptist papers and other publications on initiatives by Baptist churches, associations and state conventions in evangelism, church planting and Great Commission outreach, including partnership missions. Reports about churches, associations and state conventions responding to the International Mission Board’s call to embrace the world’s 3,800 unengaged, unreached people groups also are included in From the States, along with reports about church, associational and state convention initiatives in conjunction with the North American Mission Board’s call to Southern Baptist churches to broaden their efforts in starting new churches and satellite campuses. The items appear in Baptist Press as originally published.