Pike Road family lives life ministering on the roadcomment (0)
January 17, 2008
By Greg Heyman
On the Road Again” might be a song for Willie Nelson, but for Alabama Baptist evangelists Dean and Gayna Forrest, along with 15-year-old son Geoffrey, it’s a way of life.
And when the Forrests hit the road, it’s not about going where they’ve never been before but about spreading the Word of God.
Dean said the family has ministered to individuals in more than 700 communities in 28 states as far north as New York state and as far west as Colorado. Under the umbrella of Forrest Ministries, the Forrests have led areawide evangelistic events, rallies and conferences for children and youth and women’s conferences.
Since the mid-1990s, the family has traveled first in an RV and, since January 2007, in a personally customized Prevost bus. The 40-foot bus — which includes two bedrooms, a bathroom, a full kitchen, office space and an electric fireplace — serves as home, even when the Forrests are home in Pike Road, near Montgomery.
“It’s everything you need; it’s just on a smaller scale,” Dean said.
The family usually stays in the parking lot of churches it visits, where water and power can be hooked up, or at a campground near the church. For transportation around the different cities, the Forrests use a car that Gayna sometimes drives behind the bus or a van provided by the host church.
“Sometimes we may have to look outside the window to remember where we are parked, but we are always at home,” Dean said.
Traveling to different cities takes coordination, both before and after trips. “We have to plan ahead,” Gayna said, adding that involves buying groceries and doing laundry before leaving on the next trip. But when you live on a bus, where do you do laundry?
At Pike Road Baptist Church in Montgomery Baptist Association, of course.
The church has sponsored the Forrests’ ministry almost since it began.
In 1992, Dean and Gayna were attending revival services at their home church in South Carolina. During the message, the speaker made a statement that changed their lives: “Any security outside Jesus is idolatry.”
After growing up as a preacher’s kid, Dean had vowed he would never be in the ministry but felt God was speaking directly to him.
“I was the first one to the altar that night, and on my knees, I simply said, ‘God, whatever You want me to do, I’ll do it, and wherever You want me to go, I’ll go.’ God called me to be an evangelist that night,” Dean said.
The couple had just built a new house and Geoffrey was less than a year old, but the next morning, Dean went to work and turned in his resignation at Mark Five Records.
By the end of 1994, the Forrests were on the road approximately 26 weeks out of the year. And in April 1995, the family sold its house, purchased a new RV and moved into it.
The first engagement in the RV was at Pike Road Baptist, which called Dean and Gayna to be staff evangelists a few months later.
“Their ministry, both inside and outside our church, is very much a ministry about seeing people come into a relationship with Jesus Christ,” said Pastor Tim Dilbeck.
Along with prayer, Pike Road Baptist provides the Forrests with office space and health insurance in addition to a 40-foot-by-20-foot concrete pad complete with all the necessary RV hookups.
Not having a house means the family doesn’t have space for the clutter and junk that can accumulate in the homes of those who have basements or attics. Gayna solved that dilemma when the house was sold by packing keepsakes and selling everything not needed for daily living.
“When we bring something new on the bus, we take something off,” she said. “I keep what I really need and what I don’t need, I don’t buy.”
Geoffrey, who is home-schooled, said he doesn’t find the life of trusting in God rather than material possessions challenging.
Instead Geoffrey describes traveling with his parents as “really fun.” Going different places means there are people he knows all over the United States.
“I have friends about everywhere,” Geoffrey said.
He also sings with his parents and plays drums. Geoffrey has been a part of their ministry since he was around 3, when he debuted in his cowboy boots and a vest that he called his “singing clothes.”
Gayna said Geoffrey can barely remember the house they lived in.
Despite the challenges, Dean knows if they had an opportunity to do it all over again, then they would do things the same way, selling their house to work as traveling evangelists.
“There is no greater feeling or satisfaction than to know you are exactly where God wants you to be, doing exactly what He has called you to do,” he said.
For more information about the Forrests’ ministry, visit www.ForrestMinistries.org, call 334-272-3748 or e-mail ForrestMin@aol.com.