By Brian Atwood, Campground Baptist Church
In the spring of 2004 during a morning commute to Southeastern Baptist College in Laurel, Mississippi, God impressed upon my heart in a great way that it is not enough to simply curse or complain about the darkness; we must be agents of light in the darkness. As the drive progressed, the burden grew more intense with the realization that on the Mississippi Gulf Coast there was about to be the largest gathering of lost people in one place at one time along the streets of our cities during Mardi Gras season. It was that prompting by the Spirit and the burden for lost souls that began what has been a fruitful, engaging, and eye-opening ministry.
After arriving at Southeastern, I began sharing this burden with fellow students and brothers in Christ. I must confess that it was a little unnerving as I understood the attitude concerning Mardi Gras: God’s people are to abstain from such pagan events. To my surprise, however, there was an immediate response by many desiring to join the effort of sharing the gospel of Jesus on the streets of the Gulf Coast during Mardi Gras. By the end of the day there were twenty-two preachers who had committed to help, and 1,000 Bibles donated to give away as part of the outreach effort. And so, it began.
Unsure of how God was going to use the effort and how people were going to respond, we proceeded in faith but with caution. After checking with local authorities and receiving proper permits, plans were ready to be put into motion. RVs were set up in strategic locations. Grills filled with hamburgers and hot dogs were fired up. Teams were trained and assembled. Bibles were filled with tracts and church information. Sound systems were hooked up to facilitate the playing of loud Christian music and the preaching of the gospel. The light was ready to shine. The teams were excited to be on mission and there was great expectation that God was going to bless in a great way.
The first encounter on the streets of Gulfport, as parade goers began to gather, was with three teenage boys on bicycles. The gift of a new Bible was offered to each of the boys, which they gladly received. This led to an open opportunity to present the gospel, and these three boys were gloriously saved right there on the street corner. What happened with those three boys was immediate confirmation that God was going to bless this effort in a great way. Imagine that, God blessing outreach and missions! By the end of the day there were eleven people saved, over 1,000 Bibles distributed, God’s people greatly encouraged, and the Word of God being read in the streets. It was an amazing time.
From that time in 2004 until the present there have been teams of missionaries on the streets of the Gulf Coast during Mardi Gras sharing the gospel, food, and copies of the Word of God with strangers gathered awaiting the start of parades. This has been a cooperative effort from the very beginning as pastors and churches have rallied together providing both people and resources to make the outreach possible. There have been literally thousands of Bibles distributed, hundreds of gospel conversations, many souls won for Christ, and many Christians set ablaze by this mission effort. It is our desire to reach the coast for Christ, and it is his desire as well. Will you come join the effort?
If you are searching for a mission opportunity that is close to home, inexpensive, and fruitful, I urge you to consider bringing a team to help with this evangelistic outreach. Each year this proves to be a time where the church is ignited as it finds itself on mission, fulfilling the purpose for which it exists. It is our goal to equip teams for outreach, build new relationships, and win the coast for Christ. We would love for you to come join the fun.