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N.O. outreach: Hardest thing is first ‘knock’

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–The rain finally subsided enough so that Ken and Glennes Brassfield could walk around the neighborhood where an Operation NOAH Rebuild volunteer team is hard at work painting the inside of a school. After asking God for guidance and for receptive hearts, the Brassfields head down the street hoping to meet residents and chat with them for a moment.

“The hardest thing is knocking on that first door,” Glennes said.

Sensing the moment is right, the Brassfields head to the door, knock and strike up a conversation. Sometimes they are turned away. But more often than not, the Lord has pricked the heart of those they are speaking with and before long they are engaged in a conversation about spiritual matters.

The Brassfields consider their ministry in New Orleans a way to carry out God’s calling to be His messengers. The results, they say, “are up to Him.”

Within an hour of heading out into the neighborhood, the Brassfields spoke to five residents. Two of them accepted Christ as their Savior, one in her home and another on a street corner.

The Lord has blessed their commitment to personal evangelism as nearly 400 people have surrendered their lives to the Lord through their ministry.

“They’ve been one the most effective evangelism ministries down here,” said Joe Williams, a chaplain with the North American Mission Board.

The Oklahoma couple traveled to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, arriving for their first visit in August 2006 and returning 10 times. Originally they thought they would be assisting residents who needed to talk about their losses after the hurricane or helping volunteers cope with everything they saw and heard. Instead, the Brassfields discovered residents who needed Christ in their lives.

Ken said the main factor in the openness and receptive hearts of the residents has been the volunteer work in the area. In particular, those working with Operation NOAH Rebuild Operation (New Orleans Area Homes Rebuild), who have prayed for the city, witnessed to residents and poured countless hours of volunteer work in homes across New Orleans during a three-year partnership project between New Orleans churches and associations, the Louisiana Baptist Convention and the North American Mission Board.

“It seems like almost everyone we talk to makes a decision,” Ken said.

With follow-up in mind, contact information is gathered, a devotion book is given and the new believer is encouraged to share his/her decision with a loved one. His contact information is given to a local church as well as to NOAH. A large number of those they share with are not connected to a church, so follow-up is an important step in the strategy of personal evangelism.

“We’re here a week and then we’re gone, but we like to check in with the pastors and NOAH to see how the follow-up has gone,” Ken said.

David Maxwell, project coordinator Operation NOAH Rebuild, said rebuilding earthly homes is important to NOAH, but they are only earthly homes.

“What the Brassfields and others like them are doing is allowing God to use them to help people receive Christ. And with salvation comes an eternal home not made with hands,” Maxwell said.

The Brassfields hope to continue to see God work in the hearts of the people in New Orleans as they make repeated trips to the area.

“We want to train and equip others to be out sharing the Gospel since the harvest is so ripe in New Orleans,” Ken said.

Their passion for personal evangelism is contagious. As they visit NOAH work sites, they invite team members to join them.

“The last time we were here, we had some members of a team follow us to see what we were doing. Then, they began to share themselves. … It was so exciting,” Ken said.

Keith Manuel, an evangelism associate with the Louisiana Baptist Convention, said the Brassfields “have embraced this city with the love of Christ. Not only have they worked tirelessly, but they have sought to equip others to share the Gospel message.”

While the Brassfields have numerous years of experience and training in personal evangelism, they insist that what they do is neither special nor difficult. It’s simply a matter of being obedient.

“God showed me 2 Timothy 4:17 recently. … He’s our strength and all we need,” Glennes said.

“It becomes easier the more you do it,” Ken added.

The Brassfields encourage teams to incorporate personal evangelism in their mission trip planning. They suggest making time after the workday for visiting with neighbors near the homes they are working on or have one group do construction work while the other does evangelism. The weeks they are in town, the Brassfields are happy to work alongside a team and train them.

“I am praying for God to send more servants like the Brassfields to work alongside our local churches in the fertile fields of New Orleans,” Manuel said.
Stacey Billger is the missions media strategist for the Louisiana Baptist Convention. For information on evangelism opportunities in New Orleans, contact the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans office at 504-282-1428.

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  • Stacey Billger