LEXINGTON, Ky. (BP)–In 2006 a delegation led by Larry Martin of the Kentucky Baptist Convention traveled to Aachen, Germany, to experience the World Equestrian Games, the world’s largest equine sporting event.
This weekend Martin and the rest of the group that came to be known as Affiliated International Ministries will see their four years of planning culminate in more than two weeks of Gospel-sharing events surrounding the games, which kick off Saturday at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.
AIM director Martin, a consultant with the Kentucky Baptist Convention and its former missions growth team leader, has amassed a legion of ministry entertainers who will be performing at several venues, primarily throughout eastern Kentucky, during the Sept. 25-Oct. 10 World Equestrian Games.
The group also has enlisted hundreds of volunteers to help AIM achieve its goal of “working together to make a positive impact before, during and after the games.”
Martin said AIM has been working at the “grassroots level to build the awareness and to build relationships leading up to the games.”
“Many, many churches have been very receptive, and we’re very thankful for that. They are involved in many different ways,” he said.
Martin called the AIM effort an interdenominational one that includes individuals from eight different denominations — “and they’ve worked together beautifully,” he said. “They’re all very committed to serving together.”
AIM already has more than 350 volunteers involved with a variety of ministries during the games but could use as many as 75 more as the events get going this weekend.
Volunteer opportunities still are available at a handful of the community festivals AIM will co-sponsor through the close of the games, Martin noted.
The bulk of AIM’s work will be centered at the Georgetown Equine Expo, which will kick off Friday, one day before the official start of the World Equestrian Games.
A number of entertainers working with AIM will be featured in Georgetown, just north of the Kentucky Horse Park. From Sept. 24-Oct. 9, AIM-sponsored events will be held from 4-6 p.m. and 9-11 p.m. each day.
Day one of the Georgetown Equine Expo has been designated “John Lyons Day,” Martin said. Lyons, who is working alongside AIM, is a world-renowned horse trainer who uses horse-training techniques to share the Gospel.
Lyons also will be performing at the Equine Village inside the Kentucky Horse Park. He and Molly the Pony, a 20-year-old horse that was rescued from a Louisiana farm after Hurricane Katrina and wears a prosthetic leg, are AIM-sponsored entertainers at the venue.
According to an AIM news release, visitors to the park can access the Equine Village and Trade Show Pavilion, where AIM will have a booth, by purchasing a $25 one-day grounds pass. (This does not include admission to individual World Equestrian Games events.)
AIM-sponsored entertainers also will be featured daily from Sept. 25-Oct. 9 at the International Equestrian Festival in Lexington. The event will be held at Heritage Hall in the Lexington Convention Center on the lower level of Rupp Arena.
Several entertainers will perform each day from 4-6 p.m., including Kentucky Baptist David Garrard, a nationally known illusionist who also serves as the children’s minister at St. Matthews Baptist Church in Louisville. Benton-based gospel group The McKendrees also are scheduled to perform.
As part of an African-American Recognition Day at the International Equestrian Festival Oct. 4, Lincoln Bingham, co-pastor of Louisville’s St. Paul Baptist Church at Shively Heights, will share his story of how he, the grandson of a slave, moved from anger to a racial reconciler.
In addition to the local festivals, AIM will be taking its show on the road for a few one-day-only events.
A number of AIM-sponsored entertainers will be featured at the Renfro Valley Big Barn Entertainment Center Sept. 30 at 7 p.m. as “Renfro Valley Welcomes the World.” A similar event will be held in Shelbyville at the Shelby County Fairgrounds Oct. 3, beginning at 4 p.m.
A pair of AIM-sponsored entertainers will make the trip to eastern Kentucky to perform at the Stables at Creekside Glen in Lynch. The horse ministry is part of Meridzo Center Ministries in Harlan County.
The following day, AIM will have several featured performers at the third annual Secretariat Festival in Paris from noon-3 p.m.
With the World Equestrian Games spanning three Sundays, AIM also has made worship times available for visitors.
Each Sunday at 8 a.m., a worship service will be held at Cane Run Baptist Church, located directly across Ironworks Pike from the Kentucky Horse Park. Lyons will preach all three Sundays.
In addition, AIM is sponsoring worship services each Sunday at the Georgetown Equine Expo. The guest preacher at the first two services will be Lew Sterrett, a well-known speaker who uses horse training to demonstrate life lessons such as trust and teamwork.
Even as the World Equestrian Games get underway this weekend, Martin said AIM’s work will continue well beyond the next two-plus weeks. The group will continue to work with future events that come to the Kentucky Horse Park, he added.
Martin said he also wants to provide a network for the more than two dozen identified equestrian ministries working in Kentucky.
“There are many who are serving Christ in different ways in the horse industry who feel alone,” he noted. “But the strongest movement of God we have seen in our lifetime in the whole horse industry is occurring today.”
For example, Martin pointed out that Western Horseman magazine, one of the industry’s top publications, has a great deal of advertising that features a Christian symbol of some kind. “Thirty years ago, that would have seemed totally impossible,” he said.
For more information on events and volunteer opportunities, visit the AIM website, www.AIMKy.org.
Drew Nichter is news director of the Western Recorder, newsjournal of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.