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They’re ready to share faith when Crossover gears up June 18

DICKSON, Tenn. (BP)–Dianne Burgess and Paul Fimano plan to be among the thousands from across the nation sharing their faith in a special evangelistic thrust June 18 in Nashville, Tenn.

Burgess, whose heart for sharing her faith helped heal the brokenness in her family, and Fimano, who led his daughter Faith to faith in Christ when she was 7, will reach out June 18 in much the same way they do every week as members of First Baptist Church in Dickson, a growing town of 12,000 about 40 miles west of Nashville.

“I don’t know if you’ve ever led someone to Christ, but it is the most awesome thing,” Burgess said between morning worship services April 3 during which Southern Baptist Convention President Bobby Welch was the featured speaker.

“I’ve done a lot of things in my life, been a lot places,” Burgess said, “but there’s nothing that compares to that experience of leading someone to Christ.”

Welch is speaking at churches in Tennessee and neighboring states to build momentum for the June 18 Crossover evangelistic thrust by volunteers from across the region and the nation preceding the SBC’s June 21-22 annual meeting in Nashville. Also atop Welch’s agenda is the “Everyone Can Kingdom Challenge! Witness, Win, and Baptize … One Million!” challenging Southern Baptist churches to baptize 1 million people during the 2005-06 church year.

The eternal fate of family members, friends and countless others should stir Christians to take their faith out from the and into communities filled with people who know they need God, Welch told First Baptist members.

Burgess and Fimano have put feet to Welch’s words as have numerous others in the Dickson congregation, many of whom are involved in the FAITH Sunday School Evangelism Strategy pioneered by Welch and now widely used in Southern Baptist churches.

“When I heard about FAITH, I knew it was for me, even though I was at a point in my life where I wasn’t sure it was even going to please God if I was a good witness anymore,” Burgess said. “My marriage was falling apart [and] my daughter hadn’t spoken to me in four months.”

Nevertheless she joined a FAITH study on Jan. 12, 2003, to better learn how to share the Gospel, “and on April 11, 2003, my daughter called me late one night to talk to me, and through our conversation I led her to Christ over the telephone.”

“And I knew then that FAITH worked and that I was going to use it many, many more times, that it was not just words on paper, but they were in my heart and I was going to use them for the rest of my life,” said Burgess, who now leads one of the Dickson church’s FAITH visitation teams.

She had sought to be a witness “all through my Christian life, for the last 36 years, verbally and by action to my family and friends. [I] saw a few saved, but really wasn’t very effective with the way I was doing things.” She wanted to share her faith because of “the fact that God saved me. I was well aware I was on my way to hell. To know that He could [save] me and turn my attitude and my life around, I knew He could do it with anyone.”

After her daughter Ali’s new birth, she recounted her FAITH presentation to her husband, Gerald, only twice because “I was very limited as to what he would listen to or tolerate from me about God.” Periodically, she would ask him the key FAITH question: “In your personal opinion, what do you think it takes to get to heaven?”

Over time, the question began to weigh on his heart, and on “Aug. 17, 2003, my husband one Sunday afternoon asked me to please tell him how to be saved, and he and I prayed in the bedroom on our knees for his salvation.”

Fimano, who leads a team of youth who share their witness with other youth through First Baptist’s FAITH outreach, first received FAITH training while stationed in Hawaii with the Air Force several years ago.

Years earlier, he and his four younger brothers and sisters from a nominal Catholic family began going to church and were led to Christ through a bus ministry in upstate New York. Fimano subsequently became active in the bus outreach, and “I remember when I used to be on the bus and had opportunity to talk to people about Christ and what He meant to me, but I really didn’t have a way to present that.”

In Hawaii, the FAITH training caught his eye because of a commitment he and his wife, Rita, made after losing an unborn daughter during Rita’s third trimester when they were stationed in Japan in 1995.

In the empty nursery in their apartment, “We got down on our knees and we prayed and claimed Hebrews 11:1,” which describes faith as “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”

They told God that if He would “provide the opportunity to have another child, we would name that child Faith. And about a year later, she became pregnant again, so we named our little girl Faith,” Fimano recounted. So, after moving to Hawaii and noticing the evangelism strategy named FAITH, his interest was stirred “because Faith has such a special meaning for me.”

Among the first people Famino and his wife helped lead to Christ was a terminally ill woman and her husband. And after moving to Tennessee, “I had the opportunity to share FAITH with my girl, Faith, and she accepted Christ. So as a father, I couldn’t think of a better way in being a dad than having the privilege of leading my little girl to the Lord using the FAITH outline.”