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Hispanic outreach in Kansas draws 200 to faith in Christ

LIBERAL, Kan. (BP)–Erasmo “Ed” DeLeon greeted people as they entered one of the side entrances at “Festival Cristiano” in Liberal, Kan.

Dressed in dark pants and a short-sleeved blue shirt and tie, DeLeon could have been serving as an usher at a Sunday morning church service.

But this particular event was a special outreach aimed at Hispanic people in the Liberal area, and it followed a similar event the day before in Garden City, Kan.

When the dust had settled and event organizers had a chance to catch their breath, they were in awe of how God had worked. An estimated 4,000 people attended the two events, and 200 people made decisions for Christ.

Immediate evangelistic follow-up also found responsiveness. At one church in Satanta, 178 people attended services on the Wednesday night following the block parties. Normally, there would have been about 25 people in attendance. Thirteen people accepted Christ as their Savior.

The southwest Kansas outreach was unique because it was a pilot project using mass media to target a specific ethnic group for evangelism. Hispanics comprise an estimated 60 percent of the population in southwest Kansas and thus were the focus of advertising on television and radio and in newspapers throughout the region for the outreach event headed by the Kansas-Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists, the Western Kansas Baptist Association and the association’s Hispanic Fellowship.

But members of the Hispanic churches were key in making the two events happen. The Western Kansas Hispanic Fellowship, which consists of 14 churches, extends beyond the association’s borders by including churches in the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles.

DeLeon was one of the dozens of Hispanic church members who assisted in the September events. Volunteers cooked hotdogs and hamburgers outside while being engulfed by smoke blown by the ever-present prairie wind. Inside, they served food, made cotton candy and popcorn, passed out free Bibles, assisted people in registering for door prizes and operated the children’s moonwalk.

DeLeon had an exciting announcement for an Anglo visitor: “Today is four months! Four months ago today I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Savior!

“I used to be a bad person,” he said of his days as a drug dealer. “You should have seen me — my bones were dry.”

But DeLeon encountered God while driving to nearby Guymon, Okla., to pay bills. He was listening to a Christian radio station — KJIL 99.1 in Meade, Kan. — when he was convicted of his sins and accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior.

DeLeon found a church home at Iglesia Bautista Be-Tel in Liberal, and now he wants to share his excitement about his new life in Christ.

Along with support from Southern Baptists, the two outreach events had extensive community support, said Jason Crawford, KNCSB media strategy missionary.

“The community support element was very important,” he said, noting, for example, that various media outlets matched the advertising dollars in carrying the ads.

Grocery stores donated food, and a beverage company provided cans of soft drinks at a greatly reduced price, which the Hispanic churches then purchased and gave away. Businesses donated door prizes, including two used cars. A car was given away in both Liberal and Garden City, proving to be a strong drawing card.

But the most important part of each event was sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Praise bands from the Hispanic churches performed, along with Nacho Galindo, a Hispanic music evangelist. Then Manuel Alvarez, a former Catholic priest, shared his testimony and challenged the crowds to accept Jesus Christ as their personal Savior.

Plans are being made for Hispanic outreach events in southwest Kansas in 2005, Crawford said. However, follow-up — the most important part of the outreach — continues.

“The post-event strategy is the most important,” he said.

Members of the Hispanic Southern Baptist churches are following up on the people who accepted Christ at the outreach events, and a media blitz in Spanish has encouraged people to call the North American Mission Board’s Evangelism Response Center at 1-888-JESUS-2000 or visit its website at http://thegoodnews.org. The telephones have been manned locally by nearly four dozen volunteers who received bilingual Spanish/English telephone encourager training.

One of the workers in the background was Randy Caddell, director of missions for the Western Kansas Baptist Association. Caddell stood by a huge tub filled with ice and passed out cans of soft drinks. He mopped his sweaty brow from the humidity caused by a rainy summer in the normally arid region.

Caddell said the two outreach events “have grown us together to accomplish a task.”

Pondering the large Hispanic population in the area, Caddell said, “It is key for [Southern Baptists] to work harder to reach our Hispanic brothers and sisters.”

    About the Author

  • Eva Wilson

    Eva Wilson is editor of the Baptist Digest, newsjournal of the Kansas-Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists. Retired editor Tim Boyd contributed to this report.

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