I.C.E., Missourians put Satan in deep freeze
Major evangelistic effort sees 331 decisions in ‘Bootheel’
By Bob Baysinger
August 17, 2004
KENNETT – It was an eye-opening weekend for Missouri Baptists and others who carried the Gospel of Jesus Christ into the “Bootheel” area of the state Aug. 5-7.
Maybe the biggest revelation for the soul-winning Baptists was that there are thousands of people in the state – including hundreds in the “Bootheel” — who do not have a Bible and have never heard the Gospel. That changed with the evangelistic effort some people have unofficially dubbed “the Bootheel Blitz.”
The unofficial count at the end of the effort was 331 decisions for Christ. Workers collected names and addresses of all who made decisions and shared the information with Missouri Baptist churches in the area for follow-up work.
“The I.C.E. Team (Inner City Evangelism) literally attacked the Wal-Mart parking lot in Kennett,” said Keith Rickman, the St. Louis Heartland Baptist Church member who helped organize the effort in Kennett. “The I.C.E. Team was responsible for many of the decision cards that were turned in.
“People from the churches in Kennett partnered with the team and learned how to be a bold witness. I think we were a blessing to the people in Kennett and a blessing to the local churches. We were also blessed by the local church hospitality. They supported us and helped in untold ways.”
The I.C.E. team was led by R.A. Sharp and his Living Hope Ministries workers from Chattanooga, Tenn.
“It was a fantastic success,” Sharp said. “On Wednesday evening we went over to Wal-Mart. We were there about an hour and a half and 24 came to Christ after we confronted them on the parking lot. There were people of all races.
“We had 62 come to Christ Thursday morning at Wal-Mart. That evening we went to a small town north of Kennett, showed the Jesus film and had 40 come to Christ.”
Sharp was invited to participate in the Kennett “Cotton Bowl Crusade” because of his previous evangelistic efforts in St. Louis and at First Baptist Church, Arnold.
“I found a lot of people who hadn’t heard the Gospel story in and around Kennett,” Sharp said. “We found a tremendous amount of people who didn’t even have a Bible. I carry 350 Bibles with me, and we gave them away quickly.
“I do this all over the country as well as here at home. I even do it in other countries, and I found more hunger for the Gospel in the Kennett area than any place I have been. They wanted to hear the Word and receive the Word. It was wide open.
“They’re begging for somebody to come and tell them. That is what our churches have got to do. We’ve got to wake up and get outside if our churches are to come alive. If we stay inside, we will die.”
Missouri Baptist Convention involvement in the crusade included Kenny Qualls, associate executive director, preaching, while Bill Shiflett, MBC worship leader, led the crusade music and Jay Hughes, MBC controller, provided supervision for the three-on-three street basketball games that were played.
Even the basketball games had an evangelistic impact.
“We had about 15 teams total,” Hughes said. “During the games, the I.C.E. team gathered around the youth and shared the Gospel with several of the players. Every player entered into the tourney heard the Gospel and received a Bible. It was a great time.”
Sharp said he stopped one game and asked the players to come listen to him.
“I asked them to come over because I had something I wanted to share with them,” Sharp explained. “I was really thrilled because all of the boys that came over received Christ.”
Qualls said the Kennett effort was an example of what can happen when Baptist people cooperate.
“Some of the old timers said this was the first time in their knowledge that they had seen a crusade like this,” Qualls said. “It was more than preaching at the fair grounds. It was churches coming together, going door-to-door sharing Christ. It shows what the Lord can do through Missouri Baptists when they have a heart for souls and cooperate together.”
Ed Jansson, pastor of First Baptist Church, Kennett, was also excited about the crusade effort.
“I definitely think the crusade was worthwhile,” Jansson said. “The teams that came out did a lot of service to our churches, doing surveys and sharing Christ. It is going to help our churches considerably.”
Jansson said the key to making the crusade a success is “taking what was done and following up on it.”
If everything goes as planned, there will be some quick follow-up efforts. The big Dunklin County Fair will be held at Kennett in September, and tentative plans call for Missouri Baptists to go to the fair with the Gospel.
Shiflett described the effort as the “jump start that was needed for evangelism in that area.”
“We wanted to go in and help the local pastors light a fire for evangelism,” Shiflett said. “We tried to help them mobilize every facet of the church, and I think they learned a great deal about making different environments evangelistic.
“I’m convinced the pastors in the area are not only trying to teach their people how to share their faith but also to share their faith.”