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International festival launches Crossover

SAN ANTONIO (BP)–At least 1,000 people attended a festival featuring foods prepared by six ethnic churches in the San Antonio Baptist Association June 2 to kick off Crossover San Antonio, an outreach effort preceding the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention.

“The last I heard, we had 24 professions of faith,” Steve Payne, Crossover coordinator for the association, told Baptist Press. “Several people had some questions about whether there were any Baptist churches near where they lived, so we were able to answer those questions. It was a good day, a lot of good fellowship. I think everybody was well pleased with it.”

The international festival, held at Brackenridge Park from noon until 5 p.m., offered free samplings of Chinese, Korean, Lao, Indian and Hispanic food as well as prize giveaways including a high-definition television and a laptop computer. For the children there were balloons, slides and snow cones.

Payne said about 140 volunteers from the association and from Intentional Community Evangelism (ICE) teams from states such as Arizona, Georgia and Kansas joined in the effort.

Three particular young women from a nearby town stumbled upon the festival and left with the hope of salvation.

“All three girls had planned that they would leave their hometown to come to San Antonio and do some bar hopping,” Roland Lopez, Hispanic church planting consultant for the association, told BP. “That following day, which was Saturday, they decided to go to Brackenridge Park. Being at the park and seeing the free food and free door prizes, they decided to come for a free lunch.

“They were sitting there, and I approached them and shared the Gospel with them. In sharing the Gospel, I found out that one of them had been exposed to the Gospel and was not a Christian,” Lopez added. “They were kind of smirking and smiling and one said, ‘Mr. Lopez, we’re not making fun of you or anything. It’s just that I’m looking at these other two girls because of the fact that I just can’t get away from God.'”

Lopez said the girls had come to San Antonio looking for fun “and found themselves confronting the Lord Jesus Christ. It was a privilege for me to share the Gospel with them and lead them to faith in Christ.” Now he is working to find a Baptist church in their hometown where they can be reached for follow-up.

Also that day, Lopez noticed an 88-year-old man and his daughter eating some of the international food, and the man said his wife had died the previous week.

“I engaged him in a conversation as he was eating and found that he needed to be ministered to and prayed for,” Lopez said. “I shared the Gospel of the Lord Jesus and led both to faith in Christ.”

Such face-to-face talks about life happened across the park as ICE teams and local volunteers canvassed the grounds, striking up conversations that eventually led to questions about salvation and church membership. In addition to the 24 who professed Christ, Payne said he hopes the event sparked something that will lead others to make decisions in the future.

Several people have asked the association if there will be a similar event next year because they enjoyed it so much.

“Even the park employees wanted to know that because they said it was a neat way for the churches to reach out to the community,” Payne said. “They were very well pleased with that.”

And Payne saw some progress within the association as some of the churches got to know each other better.

“I think it drew together the Asian churches,” he said. “A lot of times they feel left out there by themselves, but they got to know each other better. I think working with Hispanic churches also they realized the importance of our Hispanic churches and different ethnic groups. They’re talking about the possibility of maybe doing one next year, making this an annual thing. They felt excited about it, I think they felt it was well worth doing, and I think it’s just a way of sharing the Lord with the community.”

The San Antonio association has about 250 churches, Payne said, and many of them are Hispanic. Some congregations have five to 10 members, and others have 5,000 to 10,000 members, he said. Though the city has a rich religious heritage, 82 percent of the population of 1.5 million people does not attend church regularly and 65 percent of the population has no church home at all.

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  • Erin Roach