PHOENIX (BP)–Rosanna Rivas smiled broadly, gesturing for a family to join her in the shade at a Crossover block party at Iglesia Bautista el Faro in Phoenix.
Rivas, who traveled from Orlando, Fla., to spend a week going door-to-door in advance of the block party, said it initially was “a little tough” approaching wary residents who are exposed to “too many beliefs” in the multicultural region.
One woman Rivas shared Jesus with, Maria, reminded Rivas that sometimes being “aggressive” helps, because God softens wounded hearts.
“The Lord can make a difference,” said Rivas, a native of the Dominican Republic and member of Orlando’s Hay Vida en Jesus. To her, being aggressive simply means taking the time to listen and learning the reason people may not be open to hearing the Gospel.
Rivas said Maria “was carrying in her heart problems trusting people.”
Although she had visited several churches in the area, Maria told Rivas they did not teach the Word of God as Rivas had presented it — a simple Gospel presentation of her need for salvation and an invitation for her to accept Christ.
“I asked her if she wanted to pray and she said ‘yes,'” Rivas said. “And she said it in her own words, ‘yes.’
“That made me cry,” Rivas paused. “It’s such a joy to see that happen.”
In a city where 4 out of 10 people are Hispanic, native Spanish linguists like Rivas were in high demand during Crossover 2011, according to her pastor, Eloy Rodriguez, who has been bringing church members to the evangelistic outreach since 2000. Each of Rodriguez’ five team members was assigned to a different church in the Valley of the Sun.
Rivas and Rodriguez both were at the June 11 National Hispanic Celebration sponsored by the North American Mission Board where it was reported that among the Hispanic churches participating in Crossover, 549 first-time decisions for Christ had been recorded.
Rivas is a single mother “struggling to survive,” Rodriguez said, and was so excited about the opportunity to share Christ that she took a week off of her job to volunteer for Crossover.
Most of the team members are bilingual with developing English language skills, but all are trained to share their testimony and use a variety of evangelistic tools including witnessing tracts and the EvangeCube, a highly visual story of the birth, life, death, burial and resurrection of Christ, Rodriguez said. And none are rookies, he said, all having done Crossover at least once before.
With the distance involved — Orlando to Phoenix — this year the church brought five volunteers, but next year plans to rent a van and bring at least 10 to New Orleans, he said.
“They want to help,” Rodriguez said. “We need to tell the story. This gives them the opportunity to tell the story of what Christ has done for them.”
Joni B. Hannigan is managing editor of Florida Baptist Witness.