ST. LOUIS—The ending of Faith and Family Day Nov. 20 with the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome was a bit unusual in that 1,800 participants got to run around the field until Rams officials said it was time to go.
A 5-minute DVD featuring Christian testimonies of Rams players James Laurinaitis, Josh Brown, and Jason Brown was supposed to be shown on the Dome’s two big screens. For unknown reasons, that did not occur. Rain scrubbed a planned pre-game tailgate party for 550 at-risk youth; the Rams lost to the Seattle Seahawks, 24-7; and organizers were left to talk about achieving a better outcome.
As advertised, Rams officials handed out copies of the testimonial DVD to people as they were leaving the field. Shane Saunders, a member of South County Baptist Church in St. Louis, was included for the first time in founder Judy Boen’s 12-person committee that works under the banner of Christian Family Day. Saunders, who served as church coordinator, said the outreach part of the event was good.
“There were kids here today who had never been to a pro game of any
kind, especially a Rams football game,” Saunders said. “It’s made their day. Hopefully next year it will make it even more. We hope that in them coming that they ask Christ into their hearts, and that their lives will change forever.”
Boen, who is a member of West County Community Church in Wildwood, said the Rams want to sell a lot of tickets. A crowd of 56,400 attended the game, but the number of tickets sold to Christians was not as high as she had hoped. Although the 3:05 p.m. starting time helped in terms of Christians being able to first attend their Sunday morning services, more will be required in 2012.
“I just need pastors’ hearts to see what we’re all about and to give up their evening service in order to make a difference in the lives of their church friends, to come down and reach out to these at-risk kids and love on them,” Boen said. “This is a mission for St. Louis.”
Saunders said that part of the difficulty with the Nov. 20 date was that it fell on the Sunday before Thanksgiving—a big day for church fellowships.
“My church had an event today but my pastor still supported it,” he said. First Baptist Church, O’Fallon, brought a group of about 35-40. A men’s dinner to promote Faith and Family Day drew about 200. Tickets were given away as prizes, and “a lot of the men sponsored children to come from church and our community,” said Lee Sanders, associate pastor of education.
Sanders, dressed for the occasion in Rams gear, gazed across the field at the hundreds of people who were tossing footballs, posing for pictures, listening to Christian music over the loudspeakers, and mingling among friends. He said he saw great potential in this scene if Christians can envision it in the years to come.
“I think this is just scratching the surface as to what could happen down the road,” Sanders said. “This is exactly what we saw happen with the (St. Louis) Cardinals in the early days. The crowd grew every single year.”
Before the game, a total of 300 New Testaments were passed out by the Gideons in the area of 11th Street and St. Charles, which was where the tailgate party was supposed to take place.
The rain may have wiped out the fun activities planned but it did not put a damper on the enthusiasm of the four Gideons who were walking around the parking lot.
“The blessing of it all was we had time to witness,” said John Duncan, who is a member of First Baptist Church, Ellisville.
Most of the people who took the New Testaments were teens, Duncan said.
“There would be groups of them, they would be standing around four or five, and we would be talking to them about the Lord,” Duncan said.
The gospel was presented on the field thanks to one former National Football League player and one current one.
Casey Cramer, a fullback/tight end who played in the league from 2004-2009, signed testimony cards and other items as he shared Christ. And Rams kicker Josh Brown emerged from the locker room on his own to be a spontaneous witness. He attracted a huge circle of fans.
Cramer, 29, who is in St. Louis as a student at Covenant Theological Seminary, felt a strong Holy Spirit presence on the field.
“If you’re not coming from a family of faith, to see all these families together – mothers, fathers, and their children – and for them to say, ‘Yes, I know who Christ is,’ it’s such a blessing,” Cramer said. “It’s such a beautiful thing.”