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While Denver parties, witnesses impact eternity

DENVER (BP)–As thousands of people converged on Denver for the Democratic National Convention, a small group of Southern Baptist street evangelists arrived in the city to make an impact far beyond even a four-year term in the country’s highest office. They came to make an impact for eternity.

About 80 volunteers from throughout the United States and a group from Canada hit the streets of Denver on Sunday, Aug. 24, just as attendees began checking into hotel rooms and checking out nearby restaurants. They are distributing “Eternal Life” tracts and striking up conversations about the Gospel with anyone who will listen, concentrating many of their efforts on Denver’s 16th Street pedestrian mall, where visitors eat, shop and frequent bars.

“The first day was pretty slow,” said Ron Clement, team leader for church enrichment and evangelism at the Colorado Baptist General Convention. “Part of the challenge is that people attending an event like this have a higher awareness of their worldview and less receptivity to other viewpoints.”

Clement said some volunteers sharing Christ with DNC attendees were met with suspicion because the tract they were using had the word “life” prominently on the cover.

“Some people thought it was a pro-life pamphlet and thought we wanted to discuss abortion,” Clement said. “So there is a suspiciousness here that we don’t normally encounter.”

Still, volunteers say more than half the people they approach with a tract are willing to accept it, even if they don’t want to engage in a conversation.

“People have meetings they need to attend, they have an agenda,” said Mark Yoho, a North American Mission Board logistics coordinator for Intentional Community Evangelism (ICE) and one of the organizers of the outreach effort. “They’ll take a tract, but they don’t necessarily have the time to talk. We knew this would be different than anything we have done before.”

Yoho, who traveled to Denver from his home in Sugar Valley, Ga., said about a third of the 45,000 evangelistic tracts they brought with them have already been distributed.

“Many times what we see with a mass tract distribution like this is it will produce fruit, especially later in the week after people have a chance to read the tract and one of our evangelists reconnects with them,” Yoho said. “If we can get a tract in their hands and they read it, God will speak to their hearts. All we have to do is a follow up visit.”

The evangelistic outreach is occurring alongside a large-scale effort by local Southern Baptist churches to prepare, deliver and serve some 9,600 meals a day to city, state and national law enforcement personnel when they take much-needed breaks from DNC security duties. About 600 volunteers are participating in that ministry.

When DNC attendees are in meetings, ICE volunteers fan out to other parts of the city, sharing Christ with Denver residents. On Tuesday, several volunteers walked the streets of Denver’s Five Points area, a section of the city rich in African American tradition and culture.

“We’ve had lots of opportunities to start conversations with people down here,” said Bill Mullen, a member of Denver’s Riverside Baptist Church and a long-time street witnessing veteran. “We just ask them if they’d be willing to look at the tract and then we pay attention. You can tell if God is at work. And if He is, He will give you the words.”

Mullen teamed up with Dennis Chambers of Flat Rock, Ala., and a member of White Oak Baptist Church in Trenton, Ga. Among others, the two-man team was able to share their faith with Yousaf, a Muslim who was selling “Obama for President” T-shirts on the sidewalk.

“There are a lot of areas where our religions would agree,” Yousaf told the men. “Including that it is wrong to lie and it is wrong to steal.”

As Yousaf listened intently, Mullen and Chambers explained that he could know beyond a doubt that he would spend eternity in heaven with God when he dies. They left him with a prayer, a handshake and a copy of the “Eternal Life” tract.

“What this takes is obedience and faith in God,” Mullen said. “And then you just need the experience. When I first started in sales, I would drive around the block for three hours trying to figure out how I was going to make a sales call. But once I did it a few times I said, ‘This is easy!’ And sharing Christ is the same way.”

In a short time, Mullen and Chambers had handed out about two-dozen tracts and talked with six people about the Gospel.

“We are just responsible for sowing the seeds,” said Chambers, who leads a jail ministry back home in Alabama. “God will take care of the rest.”

It was refreshing to talk to people about Christ in Denver, Chambers added.

“They are so honest about what they believe here. In the South, cultural Christianity is so strong, people will tell you they are Christians just so you will leave them alone. Here, they are nice about it, but they will tell you they disagree with you.”

That’s a mindset quite common in his state, Clement noted.

“People here are very independent. They are used to doing their own thing. It’s part of the rugged West mentality,” Clement said. “They are spiritually-minded, but there’s a feeling of ‘don’t force your beliefs on me.’ It’s why we have to continue to pray and remember that God is the one who will bring the harvest.”
Mike Ebert is coordinator of publications and media relations for the North American Mission Board (www.namb.net). For more information on Southern Baptist ministry efforts at the Democratic National Convention, visit www.lovedenver.org

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  • Mike Ebert