ST. LOUIS (BP)–“What are you guys doing out here?”
The question couldn’t have been more inviting for Victor Benavides, an inner-city evangelism (ICE) specialist with the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board.
After explaining that he and his friends were walking the sidewalks sharing the gospel with passersby, Caroline Anderson extended Benavides an invitation he wasn’t expecting — inviting him to address a group of about 50 people, mostly children, at a cookout she was hosting for the community June 7.
“You guys are an answer to prayer,” said Anderson, who owns a neighborhood daycare. Anderson had invited a local minister to address the crowd, but he hadn’t arrived in time.
“I don’t even know this guy, so he’s going to have to introduce himself,” Anderson told the crowd before handing the microphone to Benavides. After passing out “Jesus Loves You” stickers to the children, Benavides shared a five-minute presentation of the gospel called “The ABCs of Salvation.”
When he asked the crowd if anyone would like to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, about 10 people raised their hands, including several adults.
Benavides said the blessing of inner-city evangelism is that God is always working a step ahead of the street evangelists creating divine opportunities to share the gospel.
Nearly 1,200 professions of faith have been recorded in St. Louis as a result of the ICE team efforts June 4-9. Twenty-three men from Tennessee, Georgia, Texas and Alabama traveled to St. Louis for what has become a key evangelistic outreach of Crossover since 1995. ICE teams typically account for as much as 40 percent of the professions of faith recorded each year during Crossover.
“You’ll never make a decision more important than making Jesus Christ your Savior,” 73-year-old Hiram Acree, of Duluth, Ga., told two men and a woman sitting on cement steps outside a two-story red brick duplex in the Water Tower Community of St. Louis.
“The Bible says whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved,” Acree continued as he stood under the bright early afternoon sun June 7, wearing a baseball cap and backpack full of New Testament Bibles.
Twenty-year-old Michael told Acree he had never owned a Bible. “I’ve never read it,” he said.
A few minutes later, Michael held Acree’s hand and prayed to accept Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. “Welcome to the family of God,” Acree told Michael. “Who’s the first person you’re going to tell that you accepted Jesus as your Savior?”
“My mother,” Michael replied.
Before walking away, Acree promised he would pray for Michael and asked him to pray for him as well. “I want you to pray for me that I would always put Jesus first in my life,” Acree said.
Benavides said that while the number of salvation decisions is tremendous, the ICE team efforts will not be complete until those who made professions of faith are active in a local church.
“To me it will be successful when I hear down the road that these new converts are being discipled in the local church,” he said.