Iowa State Fair Report and Invitation!

I was backlogged on blogging last summer and so I never shared a report of what God did at the Iowa State Fair. That was too bad, because it was an amazing time. I’ve helped with a lot of gospel outreaches, but this was, perhaps, the pinnacle of them all so far. 🙂

First, I’ll share about the Answers in Genesis gospel outreach at the fair.
Second, I’ll share about the witnessing training camp which we helped to run to coincide with the outreach.

Answers in Genesis was asked to “take over” a Creation gospel booth (pictured above), previously run by an association of Baptist churches. Ken Ham placed our friend Tony Ramsek in charge of this outreach, and we were thrilled to jump on board with this opportunity–grateful it was so close to home.

Pictured above is Kaylee (in black shirt), passing out Noah’s Ark Gospel Tract to the swarms passing by the booth.

It was amazing to see SO. MANY. PEOPLE. swarming past the booth every day! About a million people come to the fair each year, and our booth was in the main building. Sometimes the flow streaming past our booth was so thick that one person could distribute 100 gospel tracts in 10-30 minutes! Praise God, over the course of ten days we passed out over 75,000 gospel tracts. (That’s 750 shrink wrapped packs we had to open. I mastered the art of tearing them open quickly with my teeth. Haha.)

Good thing the Lord provided some enthusiastic little workers!

We had volunteers from young kids, to a couple in their seventies. Some volunteered for just one morning, some for all ten days of the fair. Many came just during the four days of our witnessing training camp.

The flat screen TVs on either side of the booth displayed impressive drone flyover footage from the Ark Encounter, showing the majestic size and appearance of the Ark. People would stop, stare at the TV screen for a while, and then turn to us and ask a question.

After explaining about the new Ark Encounter in Kentucky, we’d then use the Ark as a springboard into the gospel. This wasn’t difficult because Noah’s Ark is a clear picture of Jesus and salvation from coming judgment.

As you can see in this picture, our booth also had a scale model Noah’s Ark, and kids LOVED the trains that ran underneath it. So while the children were infatuated with the trains, we’d give their parents a gospel tract and explain to them about the Ark. Oftentimes a longer discussion emerged. Most people at the Iowa State Fair aren’t in a big hurry.

Our goal was never to be pushy with our views or make “converts” (only God can do that), but simply to have friendly discussions. Many expressed spiritual questions and appreciated the cordial discussions. Over the course of the ten days, we had hundreds of discussions with people about Jesus.

It was encouraging to see so many youth soaking up the message of the gospel with seriousness and interest.

Sarah told us of three teen guys she talked to who were especially interested.
“Is there anything keeping you guys from trusting Christ?” she asked them, after explaining the gospel.
“No, nothing,” they said.
“Well when are you going to make that decision?” she asked.
The indicated that they wanted to get right with the Lord right away, and Sarah encouraged them to get alone and talk to the Lord, and ask Him to save them. They showed clear agreement with this advice, and one of them said his name was Noah and he knew it wasn’t a coincidence that he was at our booth. 🙂

We could tell story after story of all the encounters God coordinated. Some people came back multiple times to our booth, wanting to talk more. One teenager, who claimed to be gay, emailed Tony a week after the fair with these words:

“Hello. It’s [name withheld] from the state fair. I just want to say thank you for sharing the light on me. I wasn’t ever accepted until I met all of you great people. I decided to go to church this morning and I’ve never been so happy. My eyes water when I think about how much I missed out on out of fear, but I learned to accept Jesus and myself and to take your advice to repent and make peace with the Lord.”

Praise the Lord with us for all the lives that HE touched.

CREATION EVANGELISM TRAINING CAMP

Just ten minutes from the fair grounds, about forty campers enjoyed a haven of fellowship, witnessing training, and rest at Willow Brook Bible Camp. This camp took place during four days of the fair.

Each morning, we had times of witnessing training and prayer before going over to the fair to put into practice what we were learning.

It’s not very often that you’re with a whole group of people who are all eager to grow in witnessing.

Here’s just one example of the type of interaction we appreciated: During dinner one night, Seth mentioned to Craig a little tip he likes to use in helping people understand the severity of their sin. That night, Craig used that very tip in two different witnessing conversations! What a blessing to be able to sharpen each other as we work together.

Because not all forty campers could witness from the booth at the same time, we had 1/3 of the campers praying, 1/3 eating + witnessing outside, and 1/3 witnessing from the gospel booth. Then every two hours, we’d rotate. It worked beautifully. Praise the Lord. We were in awe of what He did.

This was an interactive Bible study on Romans 3, led by Tony

Because there were people literally EVERYWHERE at the fair, the best place we could find to pray was in this air conditioned hallway. It was exciting to pray, knowing that at that moment there were about 20-30 people in the vicinity sharing the gospel. And it was encouraging to be witnessing, knowing that there was a group at that moment upholding you in prayer.

Maddie Crawford (in picture above with striped skirt) told us that she shared with two 15-year-old girls who thought they were saved by Christ + good works. One girl seemed especially troubled by her sin. When Maddie explained that we are saved by Christ ONLY, a look of realization came across her face. “No one’s explained it like that before,” she told Maddie enthusiastically.

Seeing people have those “light bulb moments” about the gospel is priceless.

Addie (left) had several good conversations with girls who came to the booth, praise the Lord.

Seth (teal shirt), from India, was an inspiration to all of us. He was witnessing to people until the minute we had to get into the van to go back to the camp!

While Seth was sharing the Noah’s Ark Million Dollar Bill tract with a few teen guys, their mom came up, asking, “Who are you?!”
“I’m sharing about the million dollar question,” Seth said.
“What’s this million dollar question?” she asked.
“If you stand before God on judgment day, will you be innocent or guilty?” Seth replied.
“Oh I know that. I’m innocent,” the mom replied. “I have the sinner’s prayer in my bag, so I pray it all the time.”
(She must have been referring to a little card or something!)
By her words, “I pray it all the time,” Seth perceived that she didn’t actually understand the gospel.
“Do you mind if I tell you one thing about the sinner’s prayer?” Seth asked politely.
“Yes, go ahead,” she said.
“Ma’am, the sinner’s prayer cannot take you to Heaven.”
“It can’t? I didn’t know that!” she said, “My pastor never told me that.”
Praise God that Seth was able to explain that it is by faith in God by His grace that we go to Heaven (Ephesians 2:8-9).

[Note: I’m not saying that people never get saved at the time they prayed a sinner’s prayer. Many do! But it wasn’t the specific words they said to God that saved them, but their faith in Jesus Christ and what He did for them on the cross. Ephesians 2:8 says, “it is by grace you have been saved through faith” not, “it is by grace you have been saved through prayer.”]

Nicole (beige) had a good conversation with this guy. He seemed to really appreciate the discussion and shook her hand warmly as he left.

I’m sure you can imagine that there were many, many stories to be told during the campfires at the end of each day. We were blown away by all the Lord did. I can’t wait for the 2017 Iowa State Fair! The camp dates will be August 10-14, 2017. Please mark your calendars!

Note: Prior training or experience in witnessing is not required for this camp. We have teaching times with practical instruction, and when we go to the fair those with less experience can team up with those with more experience. Many told us that their favorite part of the camp was the coaching in real life situations that they received from those more experienced.

If you’d like to listen to the sessions that Tony Ramsek taught at the camp last year, Tony put all of his up on his vimeo channel here. Here is one of them:

Witnessing Workshop, Dallas

IMG_7259
Attending a “witnessing workshop” is not in most people’s comfort zone. And attending a witnessing workshop where everyone goes out witnessing at local “modern-day market places” that afternoon is about a mile out of most people’s comfort zone.

Evangelism is not a topic that appeals to our flesh. Far from a “clean family comedy” event, this event was more like planning “war strategies” – (war against lies and deception) … planning strategies that scare us because we know WE are the ones to be carrying them out… that very day.

Therefore, it’s a miracle from beginning to end for this conference to be a success.

We prayed that the Lord would bring those He wanted. Registrations were coming in very slowly. But they did come in, and the little church was filled with an energetic joy. Some emphasized to me, “We knew God wanted us here.” One family from Florida heard about the conference, found a great airline deal, and had their airline tickets bought–all in a 3-hour time frame. Wow – praise the Lord!

IMG_7262 We were extremely encouraged by how we saw the Lord at work. We were thrilled that Dr. Jason Lisle was available to come and share two sessions. His talks on apologetics were fantastic. It was fun to see the audience captivated: laughing, learning, and asking questions.

DSC00551 I’ve heard Dr. Martin speak many, many times, but I think this was my very favorite. He shared practical advice on using tools (such as “Creation cards”) to engage the lost in conversation, and how to rejoice in rejection (Luke 6:22-23). He also shared a wealth of Biblical teaching on evangelism. Dr Martin speaks from much experience. Any who know the Martin family know that their whole lives are spent talking to people about the Lord Jesus!

DSC00620Questions and Answers with Dr. Jason Lisle and Dr. Jobe Martin

IMG_7278 One pressure that was weighing on me as we were planning the conference was Where are we going to send everyone to witness when we go out Saturday afternoon? Since I’m not from Dallas, I wasn’t sure which locations were best. But the Lord provided in a wonderful way: Mr. Noland, not knowing about this need, came over to the church a day before the conference (while Sarah was teaching the Bright Lights Leader’s Training that his daughter was attending). When he learned of this need, he offered to help, and he picked out five good locations for witnessing. Not only that, he also printed maps to each location. What a relief this was to me and my dad as we were using every minute we could to finish planning everything else!

IMG_7287 Around 4pm Saturday afternoon we divided into about 5 father-led teams of about 20 per team.

DSC00643 After a couple of hours we came back to the church to share stories of what we saw God do!

Often we’re afraid to witness because we leave God out of the equation. We forget that the miracle-working God is alive and strong! But when we step out in obedience to tell people about Jesus, asking Him to give opportunities, what do you think He does? He answers those prayers big time! That doesn’t mean everyone we share with falls on their knees repenting (He’s already told us that won’t be the case). But we see HIM blessing our efforts, arranging conversations, and working in lives…

Many who attended the witnessing conference had not done evangelism in this form before (in public places, shopping areas, etc.) and I was praying they’d have a good first experience. Praise God, we heard story after story of wonderful conversations that the Lord arranged.

We had over 100 people out there sharing the gospel! Who knows how many unbelievers had a positive face-to-face loving encounter with a Christian about spiritual matters that afternoon?! What an encouraging thought that is. Just two hours with a group of 100 believers scattered around Dallas and so much can be accomplished!

IMG_7309 I believe hearing these stories was a highlight for everyone.

When young people get on fire for witnessing, what an awesome path they have ahead. As they use their youth to do the most important work in the universe, they actually have more fulfillment and more excitement than all others. It’s a much richer life living for the One who died for us. And they’re an example to the believers (1 Tim 4:12). One friend of mine, Charis, 14, told me of a conversation she had with some other junior high girls about “what happens when we die.” Charis’ dad told me he was shocked by her boldness. I was so encouraged by her courage and growth!

IMG_7366 As stories were told, Sarah and I wrote down a summary of each story shared on the whiteboard so we could remember to keep praying for those we talked to.

IMG_7329 Abby sharing about a witnessing conversation

IMG_7255 We’re extremely grateful to Lalo for all he arranged to make this conference happen. He has been a wonderful friend to our family, along with Dara and their adorable children.

Witnessing Conference Report

20140607_120457_27036 Last weekend my dad and I ran our first-ever witnessing workshop in the St Paul, MN area. We were very encouraged by how things went. Here was our approximate schedule:

9:00 “God’s Gift to Believers (Ephesians 3:8)”
10:15 Coffee Break
10:30 “Boldness”
11:45 Lunch
12:45 “Hard Questions and Answers”
1:45 Break
2:00 “Plan and Press On”
3:15 Leave for witnessing
5:30 Pizza and Sharing

The Lord brought a great group of serious-minded believers with a heart to grow in the area of witnessing. The only sad part was how fast the time went. I felt like we just were getting acquainted with everyone, and then everyone had to leave. I’m sure we could have had many more hours of great fellowship and learning from each other. [smile]

It was a pretty busy week of preparation for us, but I feel that the Lord answered prayer in helping my dad and I organize the content of the sessions. Basically, my dad did the teaching, and I supplemented it with stories and practical ideas.

One theme we wanted to thread through the conference was the greatness of God. When we are reminded of the Lord’s character and mighty power, we become excited about the privilege of working with Him and being His representatives. As Hebrews 11 reminds us, the Lord wants servants with great faith–servants who see their Lord as awesome in power and trust HIM as their only source of success.

Not only does speaking of the greatness of God strengthen believers, it convicts unbelievers. It is when we speak of God’s greatness and holiness that unbelievers begin to understand their sin and great need for a Savior. Many don’t see themselves as bad as they really are because they don’t see God as good as He really is.

With these thoughts in mind, I especially appreciated the banner hanging on the wall (in above picture)!

I also appreciated the verse Sarah sent me on a little note as I was leaving (not knowing quite how fitting it would be):

“Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable. One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate. They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds, and I will declare your greatness. (Psalm 145:3-6)

…as well as the verse Nickie texted me:

“My mouth shall tell of Your righteousness and of Your salvation all day long; For I do not know the sum of them (Psalm 71:15).”

20140607_112118_27024 Fellowship over lunch. We were very grateful for the initiative and vision of Pastor Mike Lerud and Redeemer Baptist Church, who asked us to come (and also provided, snacks, lunch and dinner for everyone)!

20140607_155213_27045 About forty of us went out witnessing from 3:30-5:00 pm. The girl on left had never done this kind of witnessing before, but when we bumped into her, she had her own little questionnaire sheet all marked up and told us about the six conversations she had just had! Praise the Lord!!

20140607_170045_27050 We heard some encouraging stories over pizza afterwards. Here are two of them:

Karen shared about a truck-driver they had spoken with. The truck driver expressed how amazed he was that they were talking with him. He said, “I’m not even from here, I just stopped in to sit down for a little while.” He continued, “I was just looking through ebay on my phone and then something about the Bible popped up…. and then you guys come and start talking to me about God’s salvation!” Praise the Lord for how He arranged circumstances to give this man a receptive heart to the gospel message!

Kelly spoke with a lady who was hurting in many areas of life. After she explained the gospel, the lady said, “I was just praying and crying out to God to help me!” The lady saw this conversation as an answer to her prayers!

Here is a little taste of Karen and Kelley’s stories:

20140607_180424_27061 This family works with native Americans in Canada, and it was encouraging to hear about how the Lord is using them there. The father shared with me about the darkness and great need in his community, but he also explained about the exciting open doors the Lord has given him. He said that men invite him into their homes and say, “Come teach the Bible to us!”

Thank you very much to everyone who prayed for our conference last weekend. I believe the Lord answered those prayers! Let’s continue to pray that the Lord works in a mighty way in our land, raising up laborers to the harvest.

“…therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest (Matthew 9:38).”