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Rose Parade outreach yields results

PASADENA, Calif. (BP)–Abi, a young Hispanic woman, was one of thousands of people camped out on East Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena, Calif., on New Year’s Eve, waiting to see the 2009 Tournament of Roses Parade. She was unaware that the best news she would hear that day would have nothing to do with the parade.

Loren Phippen, an Intentional Community Evangelism (ICE) team member and evangelism director for the Heart of Kansas Southern Baptist Association in Wichita, approached Abi and began to share the Gospel with her.

As Phippen used an illustration tool called an EvangeCube to tell Abi about Jesus, he noticed that she was receptive. As he was about to invite her to pray, Abi asked him to sit down in a chair beside her because she wanted to ask him a serious question.

“What does the Bible say about homosexuality, Loren?” Abi asked.

“The Bible has a lot to say about homosexuality,” he answered.

Abi admitted to being in a homosexual relationship and said she wanted a way out. Phippen knew the conversation was a divine appointment, and he shared with her what God says about homosexuality in His Word.

With tears streaming down her face, Abi said she wanted to leave her life of homosexuality behind and trust Christ as her Savior.

Phippen was one of eight ICE team members and 152 volunteers from California and churches across the country that converged in Pasadena for the annual Rose Parade outreach.

Martin Davis, a San Diego businessman and a member of the SBC Executive Committee, has organized the outreach for 13 years. He said this year brought the highest number of volunteers ever.

Each year between 750,000 and 1 million people line up along the 5 mile parade route to see the famous floats covered in flowers, to hear the marching bands and to watch the equestrian teams. Some parade goers claim their parade viewing spots on the sidewalk as early as 8:30 a.m. on New Year’s Eve.

The Gospel is shared with parade goers through a variety of methods including mime teams, tract distribution, face painting, balloon animals, popcorn and cotton candy giveaways, as well as “What’s in a Name” certificates that tell people what their name means.

Several volunteers man the base camp at Calvary Chapel on the corner of East Colorado Boulevard and Roosevelt Street. From there, they engage passersby and give out free food, paint faces and print name certificates. They encounter many opportunities to engage in spiritual conversations.

One teenager asked, “What’s the catch?” after a volunteer offered him free popcorn. The volunteer assured him that there was no catch and then shared the Good News of salvation with him.

The centerpiece of the Rose Parade outreach is a souvenir parade program, designed by Davis, which has the marching order for the parade and a Gospel presentation inside. It also lists local Southern Baptist churches where people can go for follow-up. This year volunteers distributed about 17,000 brochures to the crowd. Many people asked for extra copies as keepsakes. In addition, ICE team members and other volunteers gave out an estimated 5,000 Gospel tracts.

Mark and Gwynette Yoho of Fourth Watch Ministry in Sugar Valley, Ga., were distributing Gospel tracts and programs along the parade route when they found three 12-year-old boys playing cards on the sidewalk. Gabriel, Gabriel and Joseph listened closely to a Gospel presentation.

Both boys named Gabriel prayed to receive Christ as Savior. As Mark began the follow-up process with them, a college-aged man approached the group and began to question the boys. He wanted to know where their parents were and why they were talking to Mark. One of the boys replied, “Because we are interested in what he has to say.” At that, the college-aged man walked off and said no more.

On Tuesday before the outreach began, ICE team members spent the day prayerwalking the parade route. While prayerwalking, Hiram Acree from Duluth, Ga., and Dan Christian from Denver decided to pause and pray for direction. About 10 minutes later, the wife of a local Hispanic pastor came along and shared with Acree and Christian how discouraged she and her husband were in trying to reach the city.

She told them that she didn’t usually walk down that street but felt like she wanted to walk that day. She was encouraged to see other people who had a heart for lost people in Pasadena. Her husband Alfonzo arrived and shared some of the same frustrations with Acree and Christian. The volunteers shared some Scripture and prayed with them, and they both went away encouraged.

As the crowds were gathered for the parade, a mime team composed of middle and high school students from San Diego carried portable sound equipment with them and presented the Gospel visually on the street by performing routines choreographed to contemporary Christian songs. Many people remembered them from previous years and requested that they stop and perform.

After one of the presentations, a woman asked for prayer for her brother who was in prison and was sick, and a volunteer prayed with her that the Lord would heal her brother and would send someone to share the Gospel with him. Others asked for prayer for a sister who was suffering from lung cancer, and a volunteer was able to pray with them too.

Davis said the volunteers recorded 27 decisions to accept Christ through the Rose Parade outreach.
Darrel Davis is an evangelist with Foundation Ministries in Garner, N.C., and he participated in the Rose Parade outreach in Pasadena, Calif.

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  • Darrel Davis