Editor’s Note: This story will be updated with final results have been tabulated.
NEW ORLEANS (BP) – Southern Baptist seminary students walked the streets, presenting the hope of the Gospel. Churches hosted block parties for their neighbors. New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS) held an appreciation event for local law enforcement. These events barely scratch the surface of all that took place during the Serve Tour + Crossover outreach events for New Orleans and the surrounding areas.
In an interview, New Orleans Police Chief Michelle Woodfork said the seminary “always wants to help, always wants to do something with us and for us, and we want to do things with them and for them, too. It solidifies our partnership; it makes it stronger.
“We’re building bridges,” she said. “Our community partners are our best partners. They’re the most important partners. They’re the ones we serve. They’re the ones who support us the most. We love stuff like this. It’s why we’re all here.”
Infinite Blessings, a local nonprofit, sought to encourage the officers in attendance along with NOBTS by serving food and creating a lively atmosphere through music and games. Terrica White, who founded Infinite Blessings in 2020, began the group’s efforts by giving out groceries to families through small projects throughout the city during the coronavirus pandemic.
“New Orleans is such a beautiful city, but it’s also a really broken city,” White said. “So, we thought, why not be the hands and feet of Jesus and love these officers and love the people in our surrounding areas right where they are?”
The event at NOBTS was one of a number of similar outreach efforts that took place throughout the city, as Send Relief, the compassion ministry arm of Southern Baptists, worked with local partners to meet needs and create opportunities for sharing the Gospel. Among those projects was a Send Relief medical and dental unit to serve those who have had difficulty accessing health clinics.
“Southern Baptists are at our best when we are working together for the sake of evangelism and mission opportunities,” said Tim Dowdy, vice president of evangelism at NAMB. “The state convention, local associations and churches, along with NAMB and Send Relief, came together for Serve Tour + Crossover, and the Gospel was shared hundreds of times.”
Dozens of Southern Baptist seminary students also discovered the value of boldness and the power of the Gospel as they worked through local churches to make a kingdom impact by sharing the Good News of Christ Jesus and inviting people to neighboring churches for events and services.
Conner McDonald, a student at NOBTS as well as the student minister at Bluff Creek Baptist Church in Clinton, La., was out with a group of his peers when he shared the Gospel with a pair of 12-year-old boys near an iconic New Orleans cemetery in the community.
“We prayed right there with them,” McDonald said. “These two kids rode away from the physical graves and also their own spiritual graves. It’s been an awesome week. We’ve seen a ton of people come to know Jesus, not because of anything we’ve done but just because we’ve been faithful, going out and sharing Jesus.”
Serve Tour + Crossover invited a number of volunteers from outside the state, such as Jonathan Dixon, the worship leader at University Church in Lakeland, Fla. He, along with his parents, wife and infant son served at the Baptist Friendship House (BFH), prayer walking and preparing bags of food and hygiene supplies ahead of a block party the BFH hosted for the neighborhood homeless population.
“I was raised in a pastor’s home and on the mission field as early as 11, 12 years old. I’ve been on and off the mission field ever since with very few breaks,” said Dixon. “So now, to be able to be here with my wife who was also called to missions at a young age like I was. Now with my son, who won’t remember this, but the impact will be real for his whole life if we’re faithful to the Lord with him.”
Most of the events intentionally served local churches and directed those who heard the Gospel to connect with those churches in their communities.
Dean Ross, pastor of Family Church in Kenner, only recently launched a new congregation after navigating the 2020 pandemic and the destruction of 2021’s Hurricane Ida, where the church was able to minister to the community by giving away meals and supplies. Their church has been eager to continue reminding the neighborhood that they are there for them.
“We deployed Crossover evangelism teams during the week. We were able to go out into the community and had some really good conversations,” Ross said. “What we’ve noticed is that people really want to see change in our city, and more and more, they’re open to seeing Jesus as the solution for that change. It was really encouraging this week.”
Iglesia Bautista El Buen Pastor in Metairie hosted a block party that included a Gospel presentation. They invited people in the community through Facebook, urging those who had needs to reach out to the church. More than 40 people reached out requesting help.
“We are excited because today, we had about 10 professions of faith. These are people who, they don’t come to church,” said Gonzalo Rodriguez, who has pastored the church for 42 years. “That’s why we were excited to have block parties like that. I thank God for the Convention that we have this type of ministry. The response has been great, and I’m very glad for that.”
A group of volunteers came to Vintage Church in Metairie on Friday and fulfilled a dream of theirs by building a playground on the church campus, which includes a green lawn that neighbors frequently use. Pastor Dustin Turner said the playground enables the church to continue being a presence in the community, where church members can share their lives with their neighbors and open up doors to share the Gospel.
“It is such a blessing for Southern Baptists to support us financially in doing this but also to support us in their time and their energy to help us to build this,” Turner said. “There are going to be impacts that Southern Baptists don’t see that we’re going to be able to see for generations to come because of the work that they’re doing in just a couple of days.”
Daryn Sinclair with Send Relief contributed to this report.