14,547 honored guests attend Convoy of Hope outreach in
(April 22, 2001)
As a result of bridging political and religious boundaries in Dallas,
Convoy of Hope conducted its largest domestic outreach in the ministrys
history last month. Relations have been cemented to the point where
local churches have agreed to establish long-lasting compassion ministries
to reach the community
Karen Cervantes gives
bags containing 14 items at the Convoy.
A divergent mixture of churches, social offices, civic groups, and
city and state government agencies came together to make the March 10
event in Fair Park a reality. In all, 14,547 "honored guests" attended,
with 3,170 deciding to make Jesus Christ their Savior. Previously the
largest outreach was to 7,500 guests in Detroit in 1999.
This may be the largest of the 30 COH events this year, with distribution
of 200,000 pounds of food. In addition to obtaining 14 nonperishable
items, families also could partake of lunch, concerts, debt counseling,
medical screening, a job fair and a childrens carnival
all for free. But, most important, before they returned home they heard
a message of hope.
"Were not just about groceries," says Mike Ennis, COH executive
vice president. "Groceries arent going to change a single life
for eternity. But the love of Jesus will."
Scot Cockroft, associate pastor of the A/G church in the suburb of
Sachse, coordinated the event in conjunction with the national COH staff
from Springfield, Mo.
Cockroft solicited the participation of leaders in the predominantly
African-American and Hispanic neighborhood. Rick DuBose, senior pastor
at Sachse A/G, says Cockroft showed perseverance. "At first the religious
relationships came a little slow," DuBose says. "Some churches hesitated
because they wanted to know why a church in the suburbs cared about
Ultimately, 1,860 volunteers from 106 churches and 46 organizations
participated, doing everything from presenting puppet shows to extracting
teeth in the dental area.
J. Lee Slater, pastor of New Millennium Bible Fellowship near Fair
Park, responded with enthusiasm. "Its a blessing to minister to
souls who have been broken and hurting," says Slater, who preached in
a tent throughout the day. "Even though people are here primarily for
physical needs, we had an opportunity to bless them spiritually."
Patrick Martin, director of a street ministry for the homeless at the
Potters House nearby, found the COH to be a natural evangelism
setting. "If you follow Jesus, you fish for men," Martin says. "When
you offer help and food, it is a way of touching the poor."
The daylong outreach is designed to allow families to have fun and
togetherness. It resembles a state fair more than a crusade, with balloons,
clowns, face painting and pony rides surrounded by medical and job placement
tents. Dozens of health professionals volunteered their services, including
physicians, dentists, chiropractors and pharmacists. One business owner
closed her hair salon and had her employees at the Convoy cutting hair
and giving manicures all day.
Michael Johnson, now homeless, came from an A/G family. He abandoned
his upbringing and became enmeshed in satanism before returning to the
Lord. Lately he has been living in shelters with his wife. The compassion
of COH impressed Johnson. "Were being treated as humans, not homeless,"
he says, as volunteer Robin Bryant trims his hair. "A lot of churches
and ministries look down their noses at homeless people and try to yank
us around by the arm." Today, he says, he was treated with love and
Bryant served as one of around 325 volunteers from the 700-member Sachse
A/G. "A lot of people want to know what the catch is," Bryant says.
"There is no catch. Were just saying Jesus loves you."
Richard Plunk, pastor of Grace Community A/G in Flower Mound, also
caught the vision, along with 155 of his 600 congregants. "Convoy of
Hope got into our hearts," says Plunk, who served as a security guard
for the day.
The goal, Ennis says, is for the recipients to eventually become the
givers. Such is the case with volunteer barber Wayne Williams, one of
65 from Dallas Life Challenge. "Ive never had a chance to show
love like this to people before," says Williams, who twice served prison
terms. "I used to live for drugs and alcohol before I was saved. Now
Im trying to have a godly attitude."
Convoy erected a separate tent to minister to Spanish-speaking guests,
who enjoyed Latin rhythm music. In all, 3,500 Spanish-speaking visitors
Gerald Jimenez of Sachse A/G headed up the Spanish tent. "This really
connected because we had seasoned preachers speaking Spanish to people
who dont know English," Jimenez says. "People came up to me with
tears in their eyes and asked Where can I go to church tomorrow?
That evening, following the Convoy, persons who signed salvation cards
received a call inviting them to a participating church closest to their
The COH gathering is not an end in itself. "Ive met great pastors
who have such a heart to serve God," Cockroft says. Out of this cooperative
effort, local congregations plan to start neighborhood Centers of Hope,
which will distribute food and clothing to the needy, provide after-school
programs and job assistance, and preach the gospel. Jimenez will oversee
the first one and six more are planned.
Victor Smith, president of the Dallas branch of the National Association
for the Advancement of Colored People, lauded COH at a rally attended
by 2,000 people the night before the outreach. "You have proven that
you are your brothers keeper," Smith said.
At the rally, organizers received a formal proclamation from the mayors
office and state senate declaring March 10 Convoy of Hope Day in Texas.
In addition, the city has requested that Convoy of Hope Day be an annual
A/G North Texas District Superintendent Derwood DuBose says the COH
demonstrated the church in action. "From filling grocery sacks to administering
medical care, from cutting hair to serving hot dogs, from clowns touching
the lives of young people to uniformed officers providing security it