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They evangelize in a 180 mph environment

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–Few evangelists have to shout over the roar of 40 cars traveling at 180 miles per hour, but volunteers with Texas Alliance Raceway Ministries wouldn’t have it any other way.

TxARM volunteers have been seeking to show race fans the “road to true victory” through ministry at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth since 1997.

“A lot of people, a lot of needs out here,” volunteer David Manning shouted in short sentences. “A lot of lost folks.”

Manning is one of more than 100 volunteers who put up with everything from thunderstorms to long days in the sun in order to serve the thousands of race fans who flocked to Texas Motor Speedway during the April 5-8 Winston Cup and Busch Series races.

TxARM volunteers are mainly from churches in Denton, Tarrant and Wise counties, but individuals from other Texas counties and other states join in as well.

Roger Marsh, a 1975 Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary alumnus, and Southwestern professor John Babler serve as Texas Alliance Raceway Ministries’ co-chairs.

In 2001, volunteers with the ministry distributed nearly 49,000 pieces of literature to fans to inform them of TxARM and Texas Motor Speedway schedules. They hoped to draw people to events where they would ultimately hear the gospel.

During this April’s weekend races, the volunteers handed out approximately 20,000 pieces of literature focused on gospel truths. “We do this kind ministry at all the events,” Babler said.

Marsh said their success at the NASCAR and IRL sanctioned races in Fort Worth depends to some extent on the speedway’s ability to draw large numbers of people. “If the raceway is successful, we’re successful,” he said.

With that in mind, TxARM volunteers do their part to help the speedway achieve success on race weekends. They distribute water and coffee to speedway workers, provide transportation to the gates of the speedway for handicapped individuals and offer a courtesy patrol on golf carts.

Babler said that Texas Motor Speedway provides ministry volunteers with credentials to allow them to fulfill their ministry roles. The speedway also provides various services, including eight golf carts, a modular building and a set-up location. Track officials even arranged for electricity to be hooked up to the location of their modular building.

The ministry’s office and tent are located in the middle of the camping area. Throughout the day and when the races are over each night, campers return to their temporary homes, but not without things to do, Babler said.

This year, campers had a number of events from which to choose. They could attend a concert, horseshoe tournament, children’s carnival, pinewood derby race or even a stand-up comedy performance by Barry McGee. Most importantly, they could attend worship services.

Southwestern President Kenneth S. Hemphill made a trip to the track and, along with the help of TxARM volunteers, had copies of his book, “The Prayer of Jesus,” signed by top racing stars. Those books were later given out in drawings.

TxARM also provides chaplaincy services, coordinated by Babler, on the speedway grounds. Their level of service during the races is unpredictable; sometimes it reaches out to emergency medical service personnel in the event of an accident.

The ministry is having an impact. Marsh noted that 48 people were known to have made professions of faith by the end of the 2001 racing season. Four are known to have made professions during the April 5-8 race weekend.

TxARM has described its purpose and vision as “sowing seeds representing the life-changing power of Christ, through written and verbal testimony and ministry.”

This year, volunteer leaders placed a strong emphasis on being “more proactive in evangelism,” Babler said.

Rain cancelled the NASCAR race on Sunday, April 7, but 187,000 people returned on Monday to see the final race, Marsh said, adding, “The additional day out there at the raceway ended up opening up more opportunities.”

When the NASCAR Craftsman Truck and Indy Racing League races take place at the speedway June 6-8, Babler and Marsh said they will be there ministering, hoping to lead someone on the road to true victory.

For more information on volunteer service with TxARM, contact Babler at (817) 923-1921, ext. 3570, or Roger Marsh at (940) 686-5449. Marsh may also be contacted by e-mail at [email protected].
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: AMID THE ROAR, STAR & FANS, TRACTS AT THE TRACK and RIDES & MORE.

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  • Lauri Arnold