JEFFERSON CITY – One day after Lincoln University’s (LU) football team defeated Oklahoma’s Northeastern State University, 42-33, some team members scored a greater win when they professed faith in Christ after watching My Hope America with Billy Graham here during a service at Calvary Baptist Church. During the Nov. 10 service, 30 people surrendered their lives to Christ, including seven family members of deceased LU football player Gabriel Soto.
Additionally, during this service, 14 other people rededicated their lives to Christ, eight people expressed interest in finding a church family and four others wanted to speak with a pastor. During a previous showing of My Hope America with Billy Graham at the Baptist Student Union at LU, seven people responded positively to the gospel.
“This didn’t happen overnight,” Calvin Brown, Director of Missions for the Concord Baptist Association, said. Baptist Student University director and LU campus pastor David Phelps added that, although My Hope America with Billy Graham “was the sickle for the harvesting” of souls, Baptists throughout Jefferson City have consistently supported and ministered to the LU campus and football team. Phelps also serves as team chaplain.
“Being a football team chaplain, you’re basically a pastor. So you’re there for the good, the bad and the ugly,” Phelps said, explaining that freshman football player Gabriel Soto, 21, was killed last May after being hit by stray gunfire during a drive-by shooting that occurred near his home in Los Angeles, Calif.
As a result of this tragedy, Baptists in the area pulled together to minister to students and staff at LU. On Aug. 14, Phelps and Jon Nelson, assistant pastor at Jefferson City’s Concord Baptist Church, comforted family, friends and teammates during a memorial service for Soto. Head football coach Mike Jones has brought his entire team to special Sunday morning worship services at Concord at the beginning of each of the last two seasons.
“Jon Nelson did a wonderful job and delivered a very good message that was quite Christocentric and gospel oriented,” Phelps said. “As I listened, … I sensed that this was a sowing of seed and that God could bring something good out of this tragedy.”
Phelps had the opportunity once again to minister to Soto’s family when LU invited them to Jefferson City during the first week of November. He shared with them how Christ Jesus also grieved the loss of a loved one, Lazarus. But, afterward, Christ raised Lazarus from the grave and showed that “death is not the final answer. He has overcome death.” Then, Phelps invited them to the special service at Calvary Baptist Church, followed by a dinner for visitors from LU, where some of them surrendered their lives to Christ.
The Nov. 10 service at Calvary Baptist “was very powerful,” Pastor Kevin Kohler said. He expressed his excitement that the church has a connection to LU through Phelps, who is a member at Calvary.
“It is extraordinary that we have that kind of commitment,” Kohler said. He added that his church will partner with Phelps, Brown and others from the Concord Baptist Association to follow up with those who made decisions for the gospel after watching My Hope America with Billy Graham.