Gas Crisis Becomes Mission Opportunity

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CWN.org -- Every crisis creates opportunities, even for missions. For three hours on a hot summer afternoon in the Georgia mountains, residents caught a short break from America's gasoline crisis.

More than 120 Cleveland, Georgia, residents received a free gallon of gas and had their windows cleaned and tire pressures checked courtesy of a Southern Baptist church and ministries of the denomination's North American Mission Board.

Workers from the Georgia Mountain Resort Ministries and the North American Mission Board's Families on Missions took part in the outreach, which was funded by First Baptist Church, Cleveland.

Keith Ivey, GMRM director, created the gas buy-down initiative and some 80 Families on Mission participants and GMRM summer missionaries participated in the giveaway at a local convenience store.

Ivey organized the project after reading an article about a church that sponsored a similar, successful outreach. After considering other possible evangelistic efforts -- such as block parties -- Ivey decided on the gas buy-down.

Not only was the buy-down an opportunity to make a positive contribution in the Cleveland community, it also provided Families on Mission participants with steady opportunities to share the Gospel.

As drivers pulled their cars up to the pump, Baptist adults greeted them and asked questions about about local church membership and participation, while Families on Mission workers handed out tracts and talked with customers about a relationship with Christ.

In addition, many of the younger Families on Mission participants helped run a face-painting booth for the customers' children. A popcorn machine and balloon animals were also on hand.

Each customer left with a free gallon of gas and an example of Christian service. And for many customers, the gas buy-down was also their first-ever opportunity to hear the good news of Jesus Christ.

The Georgia Mountain Resort Ministries missionaries will follow up with the registered gasoline customers and give their names to nearby Southern Baptist churches.

"We provided Christians who were there to serve others, and the rest was up to the Holy Spirit," Ivey said.

Families on Mission participants from seven states learned there are many unique and new ways to share the Gospel with people in their home communities. Before the gas buy-down, many families had expressed how they longed for unique ways to minister back home. Each family said they walked away from the experience exhausted but still excited about being able to share Christ in a new way.

"As people strive in our communities to make sense of our economy and how we are going to feed our families, the gas buy-down struck a chord with our family," said Susan Long, Woman's Missionary Union director of First Baptist Church in Alabaster, Ala., who attended with husband Scott and their four daughters. "The community saw that God's people still love and care for their fellow man."

Sponsored by NAMB, Families on Mission is a weeklong, pre-packaged mission trip for families whose children have completed kindergarten.

"Families on Mission teaches parents how to participate with their children in relevant ministries that have implications for evangelism and church planting," said Rick Head, NAMB's Families on Mission director. "Our goal is to help families make missions an integral part of their value system and legacy.

"Keith Ivey's creativity was a good match for our families. It's an experience they will long remember," Head said.

Georgia Mountain Resort Ministries is a ministry of the White County, Notla River and Hiawassee Baptist Associations, the Georgia Baptist Convention and NAMB.

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