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SBC leaders engage in friendly competition on the track in Indy

GuideStone Financial Resources President Hance Dilbeck hoists the first-place trophy in a Pinewood Derby held Jun e 10 at the WMU booth in the exhibit hall of the 2024 SBC Annual Meeting in Indianapolis. Photos by Elijah Hickman

INDIANAPOLIS (BP) – One by one SBC entity leaders arrived at the Royal Ambassadors (RA) Derby racetrack in the WMU booth in the SBC exhibit hall as the crowd of spectators grew. Each brought their meticulously crafted car in a special case to be weighed and closely examined to ensure all specifications were met.

It was the culmination of months of preparation after Sandy Wisdom-Martin, executive director-treasurer of National WMU challenged the presidents of the entities to race and sent a deluxe car kit with rules.

“The entity leaders certainly understood the assignment,” Wisdom-Martin said. “They came ready to race. There was energy and excitement that brought incredible joy to the gathered crowd.”

After averaging the times of 13 races, Hance Dilbeck, president of Guidestone Financial Services, took the checkered flag with an average time of 2.4194 seconds. Coming in a close second was Paul Chitwood, president of the International Mission Board, with an average time of 2.4326. Jeff Iorg, president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee, rounded out the top three with a time of 2.4448.

“Pinewood derby racing has been a fun and great way to involve boys in Royal Ambassadors and missions education for generations,” Chitwood said. “For us to be able to spotlight that and join in the fun is a creative way to bring the focus in the exhibit hall to the missions work Southern Baptists do together.”

Along with Dilbeck, Chitwood, Iorg, and Wisdom-Martin, other competitors in the race – several of whom are already calling for a rematch in 2025 – were:

  • Danny Akin, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
  • Jason Allen, president, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
  • Jamie Dew, president, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary
  • David Dockery, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
  • Adam Groza, president, Gateway Seminary
  • R. Albert Mohler, Jr., The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
  • Kevin Ezell, president, North American Mission Board
  • Ben Mandrell, president, Lifeway Christian Resources
  • Brent Leatherwood, The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission

“Being from Kentucky, I’m a little more familiar with horse racing, but it was a fun competition,” said Ezell. “The best part was helping to bring a focus on WMU and all they do to educate and mobilize Southern Baptists for missions. We are deeply indebted to them for the incredible way they help keep the mission moving forward.”

“It was so fun to see all the entity leaders dressed in their suits, cheering on their entity cars, raising their arms in victory, laughing and reliving their RA days,” observed Connie Dixon, National WMU president.

Though Dilbeck’s winning time was impressive, it was still slower than that of Josiah Jones, a fifth grader from Quitman Baptist Church in Quitman, La. Jones won the national RA Derby race on Sunday evening, June 9, following the WMU Missions Celebration with a time of 2.3503 as several current RA members gathered in Indianapolis to race.

The RA Derby races were made possible thanks to Tates Creek Baptist Association in Kentucky that provided the track and Johnny Webb who delivered it and set it up.

Royal Ambassadors (RA) is WMU’s missions discipleship group for boys in grades 1-6. RA racers bring men and boys together as they learn about missions, pray for missions, support missions, do missions, and demonstrate Christ’s love to others.