Living water distributed during Crossover efforts
June 20 2003 by James Dotson , Baptist Press

Living water distributed during Crossover efforts | Friday, June 20, 2003

Friday, June 20, 2003

Living water distributed during Crossover efforts

By James Dotson Baptist Press

PHOENIX - Water is a big issue in the Valley of the Sun, an area known for its dry, hot climate. So when several thousand Southern Baptists shared the living water of Jesus Christ as part of Crossover Arizona, it made perfect sense to douse their message with the conventional hydrating variety.

"Would you like some water? It's free, and it's cold - I promise you," said Clyde Besson, pastor of Mountain View Baptist Church in Phoenix, as hikers came off nearby Camelback Mountain early June 14.

Phyllis Foy, left, of Mooresville, hands a free bottle of water to a hiker during Crossover evangelistic efforts. Foy, whose husband, Bob, is BSC first vice president, is a member of Peninsula Baptist Church in Mooresville.
"Has this bottle been blessed?" quipped one hiker as she grabbed a bottle.

Volunteers bestowed such blessings on more than 300 hikers. Each bottle was marked with the church's name and the text of John 4:14, in which Christ promises, "Whoever drinks the water I give will never thirst again."

The water giveaway was one of 62 separate events scheduled during a June 11-22 Crossover evangelism effort involving 42 Arizona churches. Various "compassion in action" events touched skate parks, a shopping mall and other venues, while block parties offered free food and fun in neighborhoods throughout the region. Other volunteers shared Christ door-to-door as opportunities arose during spiritual opinion surveys, or they simply walked through neighborhoods praying for the individuals who live there.

"It's mainly a way of building bridges to the community, but also out of it we had a couple of opportunities to share. So we felt pretty good about it," Besson said of the bottled water outreach.

The "living water" analogy also was part of an evangelistic television advertising campaign airing in Phoenix June 12-20.

While the focus was not necessarily on immediate results in many of the events, early reports indicate hundreds of new believers in Christ will soon receive follow-up visits from local churches on how they can grow in their faith.

A Crossover emphasis is held each year on the weekend before the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting. This year churches in other parts of the state will sponsor events June 21 in partnership with participating Phoenix-area churches.

One group of about 25 volunteers got an early start June 11 with a four-day Inner City Evangelism (ICE) conference in Mesa, where street evangelism efforts resulted in 247 professions of faith.

Richard Weeks, a pastor from North Carolina, said it was the first time he had been with the group - but not likely the last.

"It's amazing how God's brought me out here this week to (meet up) with strangers. I've never been able to do that before," he said.

Weeks said the first day was difficult because of a language barrier, but the rest of the week a Hispanic interpreter helped him realize how receptive people were to the gospel.

"I think we had six people come to receive Christ in one little apartment complex," he said.

Weeks also was able to share the gospel with a grandmother who prayed to receive Christ in her living room.

"As she (prayed), her grandson came into the room, and we asked her if we could speak to him. He was about 14, and we led him to Christ," Weeks said. Two skateboarders at a city park who said they had never heard about Jesus also prayed with Weeks to commit their lives to Christ.

Other witnesses shared with a group of day laborers, resulting in four decisions for Christ.

"It was really exciting because we saw that their hearts were getting softer as we spoke," said Jesus Arturo Salazar, a member of First Baptist Church of Mesa.

Skateboarders were a key audience for First Baptist Church of Chandler, which sponsored a skating event featuring professional Christian skateboarders who gave demonstrations and shared their faith.

Prayer-walking was critical to many of the Crossover events, with churches praying over communities before the out-of-state volunteers even came to town, while others utilized the incoming volunteers to pray for individual homes.

In Mesa, prayer-walkers spent six hours walking through 35 apartment communities where The Bridge Fellowship Baptist Church hopes to start Bible studies - and ultimately churches.

The same 1,175 homes were revisited the next morning by door-to-door survey teams, resulting in 88 prospects, Banta said. Such surveys - conducted by 20 Phoenix-area churches - ask how churches can better meet the needs of families and allow residents to express an interest in learning more about a relationship with Christ.

At Wellspring Baptist Church in Chandler, a group of national Challengers and Acteens leaders found a variety of responses in a neighborhood outreach.

"We had a good conversation with a woman who was out of church and looking to get back into church and was looking to get her children and grandchildren back in church. And that was neat," said Amanda Warden of Russellville, Ky.

One Hispanic congregation reported more than 100 professions of faith and other churches reported an increase of interest in their church activities and multiple professions of faith.

Block parties also remained a mainstay of Crossover, blending multiple evangelistic opportunities around free food, carnival games and entertainment in city parks.

In Mesa, while one group of volunteers did door-to-door surveys and passed out flyers in the neighborhood across the street, a block party sponsored by Celebration Fellowship allowed volunteers and church members to mingle with guests and take opportunities to share their faith. In many venues it was not unusual to see small prayer huddles as individuals accepted Christ.

An International Festival at Margaret T. Hance Park in central Phoenix was the largest of the events, with 817 registered guests - not counting members of any of the 14 participating churches. Eight ethnic groups sponsored booths where they served samples of native food. The event also was expected to result in two new churches, one a Cambodian congregation.

In northern Phoenix, a party sponsored by Love Baptist Church offered Vacation Bible School registration and an opportunity to get to know families visited earlier by survey teams.

The engine for all of the events was an army of some 1,200 out-of-state volunteers who made the sacrifices necessary to help the Phoenix churches.

B.P. Nachtigall, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Pampa, Texas, said he brought a group just to participate in a Crossover block party - a commitment involving a drive of more than 800 miles.

"It's something that we can be involved with short-term," he said. "The people that have been involved in the past have found this is something we can do, and we've really enjoyed it."

Others noted that Crossover helped them introduce their children to missions involvement.

"It was just a good opportunity," said Justine Browning, a member of Highland Hills Baptist Church in Las Vegas. "I brought my 12-year-old daughter, and the Lord just spoke to my heart about getting her involved. And I thought it would be nice for us to do it together as a team."

And on the trail down from Camelback Mountain, Beth and Larry Robertson of Hilldale Baptist Church in Clarksville, Tenn., were joined by their two daughters in handing out cold water on the hot trails.

"They're a little young to do the door-to-door evangelism," Beth Robertson said, "so we thought this was a good way to get the whole family involved."

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6/20/2003 12:00:00 AM by James Dotson , Baptist Press | with 0 comments
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