Published July 17, 2008
CLEVELAND (BP) — Every crisis creates opportunities, even for missions. For three hours on a hot summer afternoon in the Georgia mountains, residents recently caught a short break from America’s gasoline crisis.
They received a free gallon of gas, compliments of the Georgia Mountain Resort Ministries (GMRM), the North American Mission Board’s Families on Mission, and First Baptist Church, Cleveland, which provided funding for the giveaway.
NAMB missionary Keith Ivey, GMRM director, created the gas buy-down initiative in cooperation with Families on Mission and First Baptist Cleveland. With about 80 Families on Mission participants and GMRM summer missionaries working at a partnering local convenience store, more than 120 Cleveland residents received their free gallon of gas while also getting a full-service fill-up, their windows cleaned, and tires’ pressure checked.
Ivey organized the project after reading an article about a church that sponsored a similar, successful gas buy-down. 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, an adult participant greeted them and gathered information via a registration card about local church membership and participation. This also allowed Families on Mission participants to provide the gas customers with tracts and talk to them 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.
For many customers, the gas buy-down was also their first-ever opportunity to hear the gospel.
The Georgia Mountain Resort Ministries missionaries will follow up with the registered gasoline customers and give their names to nearby Georgia 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 unique ways to share with people in their home communities. Before the gas buy-down, many families had expressed how they longed for 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 missions 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 White County, Notla River, and Hiawassee Baptist associations, the Georgia Baptist Convention, and NAMB.
Kristen Marsh is a student at the University of South Carolina at Sumter and is serving this summer with Families on Mission as a mission communications specialist.
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