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San Antonio trio takes gospel to nation’s cities

PORTLAND, Ore. (BP)??Art Stacer, Joe Cowan and Travis Johnson don’t fit the typical profile of national seminar leaders. But the Sept. 15?19 Inner?City Evangelism Seminar in Portland, Ore., they helped put together ?? which resulted in more than 300 coming to faith in Christ ?? was not a typical seminar.
Stacer, a retired U.S. Air Force radar specialist, has no ordination or seminary training but has led thousands to Christ over 26 years of ministry. Cowan and Johnson are house painters by trade who have made the sacrifices necessary ?? often several weeks on the road at a time ?? to work with Stacer for more than five years. In a Dodge Ram van painted in white shoe polish with words of hope from Scripture, they have found a ripe harvest among America’s inner?city poor.
The inner?city evangelism team’s work began in San Antonio, but in recent years they have witnessed and distributed tracts in more than 33 cities. Before the Portland conference, they had been to Denver and several other cities on the way up, and after they left they hit several cities in the San Francisco Bay area in preparation for a Billy Graham Crusade beginning Sept. 26. They usually ask police to direct them first to the city’s most dangerous areas ?? often government housing projects.
Stacer said the Lord had revealed to him early in 1995 that Southern Baptists would begin to share his vision for reaching the inner city. The men joined Southern Baptists for Crossover Atlanta evangelistic efforts during the 1995 SBC annual meeting, where they reported 160 decisions early in the week, with names and addresses ready for follow?up.
The men were asked to participate the following year in Crossover New Orleans with several others they had trained, and about 1,260 prayed to receive Christ in some of the city’s most dangerous areas. They found a similar response for Crossover Dallas this year. During the Olympics and Paralympics in Atlanta they distributed nearly 300,000 of the Interactive Pocket Guide tracts and have since distributed a truckload of leftover pocket guides either personally or through churches.
The team often is faced with threats as they defy all advice on where they should minister safely. But their profound love and faith in Christ, so strong that they do not fear even injury or death, usually is enough to confound potential attackers.
Stacer told of one instance in which he went to assist someone who had been wounded after a gang shooting, and the rest of the gang marveled at his fearlessness in standing up despite the danger. “The man who don’t go down, he is the bravest in our gang,” Stacer said they told him. “Would you like to be in our gang?” they asked.
“You know what I told them? I said, ‘I’m in God’s gang, and you live unto the Lord or you die unto the Lord. Either way, blessed be the name of the Lord.’ That affected the whole gang.”
But the threats are the exception. Most people are open and receptive, which Stacer said often surprises other Christians who accompany them on inner?city streets.
“The young people that I talk to know almost nothing about God or Jesus Christ,” Stacer said. “That tells me something. We live in a country with the third?largest population in the world. Our society is spiritually illiterate, and we know the truth. Somebody needs to go and tell them.”

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  • James Dotson