Editor's Note: In the February/March, 2008, issue of SBC LIFE, we featured the evangelistic efforts surrounding the annual Tournament of Roses Parade in January. Twelve people made professions that year through the efforts of a handful of volunteers and a few churches. As you will see below, cooperation among Southern Baptists, the numbers of volunteers, and the corresponding professions have all increased, illustrating the vital impact of cooperation in advancing the Gospel.
Five local Southern Baptist churches, the local Baptist association, the North American Mission Board, and a record number of volunteers from across the country partnered together as they descended on the five-mile Tournament of Roses Parade route in Pasadena, California, December 31 to share the Gospel in the hours leading up to the famed New Year's Day tradition.
Volunteers from North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Texas, Kansas, Arizona, and New Mexico joined forces with volunteers from Pasadena and other parts of Southern California for outreach to the thousands who claimed their spot on the parade route as early as twenty-four hours in advance.
Martin Davis, a San Diego businessman and member of the SBC Executive Committee, has organized the Tournament of Roses Parade effort for fourteen years, which has grown from a small group of volunteers to the 175 who participated this year. Twenty-four of the volunteers were from five local churches in the Los Angeles Southern Baptist Association.
During this year's outreach, forty-three people made first-time decisions for Jesus Christ. The contact information of those receiving Christ was to be forwarded to local Southern Baptist churches for follow-up and discipleship.
The primary tool used during the outreach was a full-color parade brochure containing the order of floats, bands, and equestrian teams for the parade. As soon as the brochure was opened, the recipient saw the parade order on one panel and the Gospel and sinners prayer on the other panel. Since the brochures were freely given, they were in high demand on the day of the parade. This year, nearly twenty thousand were distributed.
Volunteers also shared the Gospel through mime presentations, Bible tract distribution, one-on-one conversations, and servant evangelism.
Clint and Carol Smith with Campers on Mission made balloon animals and shared Bible stories with the children. The Smiths, NAMB Mission Service Corp coordinators from Arizona, also brought other volunteers with them to help share the love of Christ from their base camp on the parade route.
Carol Smith remembered the excitement of a 7-year-old girl who received a balloon animal from them. As Smith talked to her about God creating the animals, the girl opened her coat to show her Christian T-shirt. "My heart belongs to Jesus," the girl said.
First Southern Baptist Church in Pasadena served as one of the base camps for this year's outreach. From there, local volunteers were shuttled to six strategic points along the parade route. These volunteers distributed ten thousand of the parade brochures along the length of the route.
Karen Wong, a 50-year-old Malaysian widow and recent convert from Hinduism, was among the local volunteers sowing Gospel seeds prior to the parade. Her pastor, Bien Llobrera of First Southern Baptist in Pasadena, said Wong first heard the Gospel in her home country when she was eleven years old. However, it took her thirty-plus years to embrace Jesus Christ as her Savior. Llobrera baptized Karen on October 11 of last year.
Charlie Corum, community ministry field specialist with the Los Angeles Southern Baptist Association, coordinated the transportation of volunteers on the morning of the parade. Corum promoted the outreach within the association and provided training for the volunteers.
This was the association's first time to participate, and Corum was thrilled to see the turnout of volunteers from local churches, noting that many of them are looking forward to opportunities for next year's parade.
Victor Benavides, metropolitan missions coordinator with the North American Mission Board, also joined the effort for the first time this year. "I really sensed an openness with the people here," Benavides said. "I was surprised that people received our literature so well."
Benavides said he believes the associational involvement this year is a prelude to greater partnership opportunities between the Los Angeles Southern Baptist Association, the California Southern Baptist Convention, and the North American Mission board as they seek to reach the Greater Los Angeles area for Christ.