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Gospel adds meaning to Rose Parade festivity

PASADENA, Calif. (BP)–Jessica Terena, 14, sat in a folded camping chair with her family. They were snuggling to keep warm and trying to find ways to entertain themselves while waiting for the coming morning’s Pasadena Rose Parade.

In a moment of boredom, they were greeted by Southern Baptist volunteers who made balloon hats, gave them a brochure with the order of the parade and the plan of salvation and took their pictures.

“This is awesome,” said Terena, wearing her two-foot high balloon hat made by a volunteer. “It’s great that they [the volunteers] go around entertaining people and preaching the Lord’s story.”

Her friend, Ramsey Ihnat, 14, agreed.

“It’s cool how they don’t care what people think of them and it gives us something to do,” Ihnat said.

A team of 17 teenagers put on Mime shows presenting the Gospel Dec. 31 along the crowded five-mile parade route and another 10 volunteers took free photos of people for JoePix, a ministry where those photographed must first read about the Gospel on the JoePix website before accessing their free photo.

Martin Davis, a Mission Service Corps volunteer in San Diego with Southern Baptists’ North American Mission Board, began volunteering to work on parade floats several years ago and noticed there was no Southern Baptist presence along the parade route where a million people congregate each year.

Two years ago he petitioned local churches to bring volunteers to the parade route to share the Gospel.

“It’s a blast,” said Davis, who makes balloon animals for the kids and shares the Gospel with them. “The most effective ministry so far here has been the mimes because they ask people at the end to raise their hands if they want salvation,” said Davis, who also serves on the SBC Executive Committee.

Last year eight to 10 people on the street accepted Christ as a result of the mime ministry.

“It gives people something to do while they are sitting around,” said Kala Cooper, 14, one of the mimes with Youth in Action, a homeschool organization in San Diego. “The reaction is great. People ask us where are we going next and want to follow us. We stick out like sore thumbs.”

The skits performed by the mimes are remembered after the parade.

“We had one man tell us he accepted Christ in April because of a skit he couldn’t get out of his head that we had performed at last year’s parade,” said Cheryl Cooper, mother of Kala, who helps the mime team. “That was enough for us to want to come back and help out every year. It’s a unique ministry and the possibilities are endless for groups who want to share the Gospel.”

In September, Davis asks local churches to volunteer and at the beginning of December he accesses the order of the Rose Parade and assembles it into a brochure for volunteers to pass out with the Gospel printed inside along with local Southern Baptist phone numbers and his own e-mail address.

Bart Martinez, pastor of Faith Baptist Mission in San Diego, a Filipino church, brought several volunteers who were willing to do anything.

“We were reluctant to come at first but Davis was so excited about how we could minister here we couldn’t say no,” Martinez said.

In 15 minutes his group was trained in photo evangelism by JoePix director and NAMB consultant Davies Owens, and soon they were venturing onto Colorado Boulevard with orange JoePix baseball caps and digital cameras.

“This is one of the most exciting and fun ways to evangelize,” Owens said. “You couldn’t get a more perfect environment. It’s like fishing in a barrel. People are open and looking for entertainment.”

Owens hopes to have more than 100 volunteers at next year’s parade to take photos along the parade route.

“This year we are testing the grounds and hope to expand next year,” said Owens, who travels to various large events teaching volunteers how to minister through JoePix.

At first, Louie Ignacio, pastor of River of Life Fellowship in San Diego, was a little nervous about the JoePix ministry.

“I hope I don’t mess it up,” said Ignacio, who brought several volunteers from his congregation to help out. “I’m a little nervous since it’s my first time with a digital camera.”

After an hour, Ignacio was comfortable and excited.

“This is surprisingly easy,” he said, after returning from taking photos. “It’s an amazing ministry. People want their picture taken.”

By 11 p.m. the ministry volunteers come back to their base camp, a church parking lot, to wrap things up for the night.

“We’ve found that people start partying and want to be left alone after that time,” said Davis, who wishes more churches would send teams to minister at the event. “We want to work where God is working and this is a great place to share the Gospel.”
Martin Davis can be reached at (858) 467-9138 or by e-mail at [email protected].

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  • Kelli Cottrell