Spreading the Gospel through light bulbs
By Allison Sebolt
April 19, 2005
YPSILANTI, Mich. — “Have a light bulb! It’s a free gift to brighten your day!”
Those unusual words were echoed countless times by 35 students from the Baptist Student Union at the University of Missouri during the week March 19-25. Despite the cold and snow, these students sacrificed their Spring Break to travel to Ypsilanti, Mich., to reach the lost with the Gospel. Not only that, but they did it in part by handing out about 1,500 free light bulbs.
“People just need so many touches of the Gospel before they are ready to accept it,” senior Becca Brauer said. “I think we did a great job of getting that started and I think there will be a harvest sooner or later up there.”
The specific mission of the students was to help advertise a new church starting in Ypsilanti called Celebration Church. In order to accomplish this goal, they ministered through a canned food drive. In addition, the purpose of the servant evangelism project involving the light bulbs was to demonstrate the light Jesus shines in the world and the free gift that He offers.
“I just really wanted to spread the Gospel because with 80 percent being lost (in Michigan) there is a lot of opportunity to share Christ with people who haven’t heard of Him before,” Brauer said.
In the process, the students collected 3,337 pounds of non-perishable food and handed out approximately 1,200 pocket testaments. The group worked under the direction of Brauer and Bobby Gilstrap, the director of missions for the Huron Baptist Association and the Southeastern Baptist Association.
The students also found that the field they went into is one that has hardly been reached. According to Gilstrap, there are only 26 Southern Baptist churches and one mission church in the tri-county area surrounding Ypsilanti. In addition, he says there is only one Southern Baptist church for every 28,000 lost persons in this particular area of Michigan.
“I think (the group) learned about how hard it is to start a church and how things are different in different areas of the country. It was obvious to us in Michigan, just the more close-mindedness of the people up there,” Brauer said.
Sophomore Lauren Parrent admits that while it was difficult getting doors slammed in her face and dealing with the rejection of the gifts she was giving, she learned the value of obedience.
“We all came away with knowing that we needed to come back here and obey God’s commands for our lives just in terms of walking with Him daily but also in terms of doing servant evangelism on our campus,” Parrent said.
Sophomore Ryan Worley related the trip to the analogy that just because you don’t see waves on the surface of a body of water doesn’t mean that there isn’t anything going on underneath. Similarly, he suggested that while the group might not have seen large-scale results of their efforts, they probably have little idea what God is doing in the private lives of the people they encountered.
The ministry of the group was not strictly confined to unbelievers in the area, however. In the process, the students were able to encourage members of Graceway Baptist Church, their host church and home for the week.
“(The group) reminded me that there is hope from our younger generation…that if we all stick together we can do anything in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” Graceway member Jimmy Smith said.
Dora Phillips, another Graceway member, said that since the church lost their pastor this past year the congregation has become exhausted trying to keep the church running. So when the students came and led Sunday morning worship and Sunday school, offered a meal to the congregation and cleaned the church, they were able to meet an essential need.
When Parrent led a devotion and discussion on the last evening of the trip, it became evident from what everyone said that the lessons the students learned throughout the week could be summed up in one word: obedience.
“We are called to obey Him and that’s what’s going to bring victory,” Parrent said.