DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (BP)–Four months ago, Tony
Antolino hit bottom.
Suicidal, the heroin-addicted gang member made a call
to a friend in Daytona Beach, Fla., that not only saved his
life, but his soul.
The person he turned to was Laura Parks. A new
Christian who had made profession of faith only months
before, she had become involved in a college and career
Sunday school class at First Baptist Church of Daytona Beach
and was eager to share her new-found joy with others.
“I just wanted the Jesus in me to be the Jesus in other
people,” she explained, “but I didn’t know how. So, I did
the FAITH thing.”
Parks was referring to an evangelism training strategy
at her church which “marries” witnessing with the caring
ministry of the Sunday school. Church members agree to
attend 16 training sessions and practice what they learn in
home visits. The initiative also includes weekly meetings
for Sunday school teachers and group leaders, intentional
discipleship and plans for assimilating new Christians into
the life of the church.
After counseling and encouraging Antolino, Parks led
her friend to Christ over the telephone and launched him on
a new course for life.
“Back in New York, all my friends thought I’d be the
first one to die. Now I’m the first one with eternal life,”
Antolino testified during a Jan. 20 FAITH enlistment banquet
at The Ocean Center in Daytona Beach, Fla., drawing a
standing ovation from the 1,000-plus attendees. The event
launched a new round of evangelism training for First
Baptist, Daytona Beach, and exposed hundreds of church and
denominational leaders from 15 states to the benefits of the
Parks and Antolino are a living example of the “ripple
effect” of FAITH. Antolino accepted Christ after Parks
shared with him over the phone. And she became a Christian
partly through the witnessing efforts of her sister,
Patricia, and friend Anthony Orzo, both of whom were going
through FAITH training.
A year ago, Orzo was an alcoholic who spent his
evenings partying at local nightclubs. But after accepting
Christ through Parks’ witness, he quickly became active at
First Baptist, ministering to kids through the church’s bus
ministry. Less than a month ago, he went on his first
mission trip, sharing his faith with young people in Brazil.
Two other FBC Daytona Beach members shared their
testimonies during the banquet, which was part of a week-
long “FAITH Originator Clinic” held at the church Jan.
19-23. A joint strategy of the Southern Baptist Sunday
School Board and the North American Mission Board, FAITH is
designed to stimulate a dramatic upturn in baptisms in the
Southern Baptist Convention during the next five years. The
new initiative is modeled after a program carried out at FBC
Daytona Beach the last 12 years.
Following her conversion, Karen Adams of nearby Port
Orange, Fla., said God “lit a fire in me that was almost
overwhelming.” Raised as a Catholic, she became involved in
a Lutheran church before meeting her husband, Mack, a
retired Baptist missionary, over the Internet. Largely
through his witness, she made a profession of faith about a
year ago and the couple became members of FBC Daytona Beach.
Eager to share her faith with others, Adams enrolled in
FAITH evangelism training at the church. On the fifth week
of training, she and her two-member witnessing team were
going through their prospect cards when she discovered one
listed the name and address of her oldest son, 25-year-old
“I couldn’t believe it because I knew he had visited
our church, but he had refused to fill out a visitor card,”
Adams said in an interview after the banquet. “He didn’t
want anyone coming to visit him. We have no idea how that
card got there.”
Though she hadn’t yet shared the plan of salvation
using the FAITH evangelism outline, she asked her team
leader if she could present it to her son.
“For the next half hour, I talked to my son on my
fingers,” Adams said, using them to share the five-point
FAITH presentation — Forgiveness, Available, Impossible,
Turn and Heaven.
“When I asked him if he wanted to pray the (sinner’s)
prayer, he said ‘yes.’ The feelings I had that night I
cannot describe. To me, that was the greatest moment a
mother could ask for. FAITH has really been a gift to me.”
Bettyanne Edson, a member of an adult Sunday school
class at FBC Daytona Beach, described herself to church
leaders as “a recovering liberal.”
“If you knew where I came from. … My roots are
Southern Baptist, but the church I got involved with was not
evangelistic. It was more about meeting people’s needs. I
didn’t realize that my church was dying and I was dying,
too,” Edson said.
“My one salvation was Church Music Week at Ridgecrest
(Baptist Conference Center in North Carolina). I really felt
the presence of God at that conference. I would live on that
for a year.”
Eventually, Edson joined FBC Daytona Beach where she
enrolled in FAITH training. “You could change my name to
Pauline,” she said, adding her relationship with Christ
intensified as she learned how to witness to others.
A special moment came when she was able to lead her
husband’s best friend to Christ while he lay dying in a
“Every Thursday night until Jesus comes, I will be
going out doing FAITH evangelism,” Edson said.
During the FAITH Originator Clinic sessions and
interviews during the week with Baptist Press, several other
FBC Daytona Beach members shared testimonies, including:
— Terry Coates, an outreach director for a senior
adult Sunday school class and a FAITH team leader. Born into
a Japanese Buddhist family, she became a Mormon after moving
to the United States. She made a profession of faith in
Christ in the 1980s and joined FBC Daytona Beach.
After participating in evangelism training, Coates
became burdened for her family in Japan. She translated the
FAITH presentation into Japanese, recorded it on
audiocassette and mailed it to her mother. At first, her
mother rejected Christ, bringing Coates “one of the darkest
moments of my life.” But after a year and a half of prayers,
Coates’ mother called her to say she had accepted Christ.
“Two years later my mother went home to be with the
Lord,” Coates said. “In our last phone conversation, she
said, ‘I’ll see you in heaven, Terry.'”
— John Morello, a local businessman with a 100-person
sales force across the country. He said a “radical change”
has taken place in his life since he accepted Christ 16
months ago. He’s already become an active member at FBC
Daytona Beach, serving as director of special education
Sunday school at the church and as an international
evangelism trainer on a recent missions trip to Africa.
Sharing his faith has had dramatic results in his
family life, too, Morello said, adding his marriage is
stronger than ever and his 9-year-old daughter recently led
a friend to Christ. Recently, he also led to Christ a man
who came to his office to interview for a job.
— Charlie Harrell, a local dentist who was on the
church’s first evangelism team more than a dozen years ago.
He recently felt impressed to become more open about sharing
his faith with co-workers and patients. As a result, his
office staff formed a weekly discipleship group and one
worker accepted Christ. The ministry quickly spread to the
office next door where another worker made a profession of
“I’ve come to learn that God wants all of me, so what
better place to share my faith than at work? I’m here eight
to 10 hours a day,” Harrell said.
— Tom Haynes, early hour Sunday school director at FBC
Daytona Beach and owner of a chain of furniture stores in
the area. He’s shared his faith on a local golf course and
recently led three young men to Christ while driving them
back home from a business appointment.
“They prayed to receive Christ, but I had to pray with
my eyes open because I was driving,” Haynes said, laughing.
“The greatest gift my pastor ever gave me was pushing me and
encouraging me to become a soul-winner. It’s never too late
— Lizzy Bergstrom, a 16-year-old junior at Spruce
Creek High School in Port Orange, Fla. She recently led a
friend to Christ at her home and also led 10 people to
Christ on a recent mission trip to Brazil.
“A lot of kids are searching these days — if there is
a God, where they came from. I notice that even at school,”
Bergstrom said. “Going through FAITH training definitely
helped me be better prepared to answer their questions. I’m
more confident now about sharing my faith.”
In a message delivered at the FAITH banquet, FBC
Daytona Beach pastor Bobby Welch listed four “rewards”
participants receive when they go through FAITH training: 1)
a renewed fellowship with Jesus, 2) spiritual growth, 3) an
opportunity to witness lives being changed and 4) joy.
Welch doesn’t buy the concept of a “spiritual gift of
“You cannot find it in God’s Word,” he said. “Every
last one of us have been given the commission and command to
get out and do it.”
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (BP)–Four months ago, Tony