Saturday October 2 – 1100 missionaries from 80 Arkansas Baptist Churches joined together in Russellville and the surrounding areas for the annual One Day Acts 1:8 Missions Experience (One Day). This experience was two years in the making as COVID-19 forced the event’s cancellation in 2020.
Despite the ongoing threat of rainstorms throughout the day, One Day 2021 provided an experience that those involved won’t soon forget. Participants took part in many different ministries which included block parties, medical and dental clinics, prayer walking, no sale yard sales, food distribution and much more, resulting in 112 salvation decisions.
Several churches from the Arkansas River Valley Baptist Association (ARVBA), under the leadership of Associational Missionary Danny Green, spent two years preparing for this missions and ministry opportunity. Pastors, staff and church leaders worked together along with Arkansas Baptist State Convention staff to plan out all the details. Ultimately praying that God would call out missionaries to serve and lives would be changed by the power of the Gospel as they ministered to their communities.
First Baptist Church of Dover was just one of the many ARVBA churches to provide ministry sites for One Day 2021. Sandy Taylor, Administration and Outreach Pastor, helped to organize a block party and a no sale yard sale. He says the idea originally was to do the free yard sale at the church and hold the block party at the city park. However, the threat of rain forced them to alter their plans. They decided to combine both events and hold them together in the Family Life Center. Taylor says they used half of the gym for the block party and the other half for the yard sale. So many items were donated by church members that they ended up also using Sunday School rooms to hold the overflow of items like clothing, Christmas decorations and stuffed animals.
The original plan was to assign one of the church members to each of the visitors to serve as hosts as they shopped and to share the Gospel by using the witnessing bracelets. Plans changed literally the night before the event when Taylor and Pastor Jeff Paxton visited with Chris Russell (Second Baptist Russellville) and heard what his church had done for a similar event. “It was literally the 11th hour and we set up the lobby of our sanctuary to be able to accommodate a bunch of people coming in, register them quickly, and get them into the sanctuary where we would present the Gospel.”
Kickoff was scheduled for 10:00 am on Saturday. Taylor says no one really knew what to expect. But when they returned from the kickoff rally that morning about 9:30, there were over 100 people waiting in line. The first group was registered and ushered into the sanctuary where Taylor shared the Gospel, prayed with the group and asked for anyone who had responded to the Gospel to put a star at the top of their registration card. From there, a church member would gather the registration cards and take everyone to the Family Life Center, walking them through their building and showing them where different ministries and classes took place each week.
At least 50 volunteers from FBC Dover were joined by volunteers from First Baptist Marianna as well as First Baptist Lambrook. These two churches helped run the block party, manning many of the games and activities. Taylor said the partnership with Marianna and Lambrook was invaluable as he and others at FBC Dover were given more opportunities to minister as they walked around and met people
Taylor said this was a unique opportunity to introduce people to the Gospel and to introduce them to the church. He notes that this was the first time that the sanctuary had ever been used as part of one of their outreach events. “You know, it’s either in our Life Center or it’s outside or somewhere else. This really gave them an opportunity to see our church. And I think because of that, and the way we combined the two events, we had one of the best outreach efforts or outreach results that we’ve ever had,” Taylor said. In total between 300 and 400 people came through the doors and heard the Gospel which resulted in 35 decisions.
Taylor also served as the consultant for the ARVBA follow up team. He says the team sent out letters early on to all of the ARVBA churches asking them to send a representative to the association office at 5:00 pm on Saturday. The team divided up the response cards by site to help identify them with a specific area. Each of the 40 people who attended the follow up meeting received a stack of decision cards. They were told to contact each person that same day and invite them to church the next morning so that they would know that they had a place to go on Sunday. This emphasis on follow-up had a positive impact as multiple churches reported groups of first-time visitors and salvations during their morning service the next day.
Although FBC Dover had been involved in community ministries before, this was their first time to participate in a One Day event. Taylor shared that the church was excited and that they will certainly make plans in the future to partner with One Day. “I can certainly see us taking a group to Hot Springs next year to do the same thing and to reciprocate what’s happened here in the River Valley to us,” he said.
After experiencing One Day for himself, Taylor now encourages all Arkansas Baptist churches to get involved when they can. “I would certainly tell you that you’re going to be blessed by it. It’s so neat to think that the River Valley had over a thousand missionaries on Saturday sharing and letting people see Jesus through them. And that is just tremendous blessing.”
Arkansas Baptists are invited to participate in two different One Day events in 2022. One Day: Serve Local will take place on Saturday April 9. One Day Acts 1:8 Missions Experience is planned for Hot Springs on Saturday October 2. Be sure to visit absc.org/servelocal and absc.org/oneday for more information.