PASADENA, Calif. (BP)–For the 15th year, Southern Baptist volunteers from the Los Angeles Southern Baptist Association and several states will participate in ministry centered around the annual Rose Parade in Pasadena on New Year’s Day.
The Rose Parade, which will draw an estimated 600,000 people, runs from 8-11 a.m. Pacific Time and is aired live on ABC, NBC, Hallmark Channel and Univision. The parade is seen in more than 200 countries and international territories.
With First Southern Baptist Church in Pasadena, a multicultural congregation, as their main base, Baptist volunteers will distribute more than 30,000 free full-color brochures — titled “Order of Marching Bands, Equestrian Teams and Floats for the 122nd Rose Parade” — along the parade route. Each brochure also includes a Gospel presentation and local church contact information.
Additionally, on Dec. 31 from noon until the start of the parade at 8 a.m. on Jan. 1, volunteers will share the Gospel through mime presentations, Bible tract distribution, one-on-one conversations and servant evangelism. Intentional Community Evangelism (ICE) volunteers from several states will be on hand to help train members from local churches how to witness among the vast crowds in three-hour shifts.
Traditionally, parade-watchers come out 24 hours in advance to get coveted front-row seats to see the flower-covered floats, bands and equestrian teams during the five-mile parade down Pasadena’s Orange Grove and Colorado boulevards.
“Around 7 o’clock on the morning of Dec. 31, you may have only 500 people lined up along the parade route,” said San Diego businessman Martin Davis, a founder of the Rose Parade ministry, a Mission Service Corps missionary with the North American Mission Board and a member of the SBC Executive Committee.
“But as the hours go by, the crowd grows by the hundreds, then the thousands and then the tens of thousands,” Davis said. “People camp out all night long. They’re just sitting there and are very open for us to talk to them about Christ.”
From 6 a.m.-9:30 a.m. on Jan. 1, volunteers will staff another outreach: a refreshment station at First Southern Baptist Church in Pasadena, welcoming and offering parade float and horse-trailer drivers free coffee, juices, water and pastries, and making the church’s restrooms available. Free Bibles and literature also will be available at the refreshment station.
Davis, now in his 15th year with the parade ministry, was working in evangelism at the California Southern Baptist Convention in the 1990s when he watched the Rose Parade on TV and thought to himself, “Look at all those people. Most of them are probably lost.”
“So I looked into what we were doing as Southern Baptists to reach them and found out we weren’t doing anything at that time,” Davis said. In December 1996, he joined with the California Campers on Mission to start an outreach to those who camp out along the parade route.
“God says, ‘My words do not come back void.’ Last year, while we saw 43 people come to know the Lord, there were probably many more than that. It’s knowing that God is doing things we don’t see or even know about that keeps me going,” Davis said.
In preparation for the Rose Parade ministry, 63 Baptists from three Los Angeles-area associations attended a training session in November at First Southern Baptist Church of Pasadena, pastored by Bien Llobrer. Victor Benavides, a member of NAMB’s personal evangelism team in Alpharetta, Ga., trained the volunteers on how to prayerwalk, witness and engage in follow-up.
The Rose Parade ministry, which will involve 200-plus volunteers in all, is a cooperative effort led by Charlie Corum, community ministries consultant for the California Southern Baptist Convention, in partnership with the Los Angeles Southern Baptist Association and NAMB.
For more information on outreach at the 122nd annual Rose Parade or to sign up as a volunteer, go to www.paradeministry.com
Mickey Noah is a writer for the North American Mission Board.