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Hoover’s Green Valley Baptist races to share gospelcomment (0)

May 10, 2007

By Erin W. Tunnell

The intermittent whine of engines racing down the backstretch of the Talladega Superspeedway lent an authentic air to the musical "Race to Win" as it was presented at the track’s Family Park campground area April 27.

The musical — presented by the children’s ministry of Green Valley Baptist Church, Hoover, in Birmingham Baptist Association — was a hit.

And it fulfilled a dream for the children’s ministry, a dream that began just a month prior.

In March, about 70 members of the church’s first through fourth grade children’s choirs and the fifth and sixth grade Studio 56 singers presented the musical during a Sunday evening worship service.

The musical is the story of two drivers racing in the Freedom 400 and fighting for the lead in the NASCAR championship points race. When one of the drivers, Hotrod Hanson, needs a new engine, his rival, Speedy Cheney, freely offers her backup engine for his use and tells him the real meaning of being on God’s team.

During the invitation, Rhonda Freeman, children’s ministry director, felt God tugging on her heart. "[I]t was as if God was saying, ‘Rhonda, you need to go to Talladega,’" she said.

Freeman contacted Bill Carpenter, the national outreach coordinator for Motor Racing Outreach (MRO), a nonprofit organization that was founded to introduce the NASCAR community to a personal faith in Christ. He helped Green Valley Baptist get permission from the superspeedway to present the musical at the Family campground.

Before and after the presentation at Talladega, volunteers passed out about 200 bags with gospel materials to those attending as well as passers-by, said Kay Owens, the children’s ministry assistant at Green Valley.

She had been praying that the musical would reach just one person with the message of God’s free love and forgiveness.

And Green Valley Pastor Jeff Vanlandingham had the opportunity to meet a family that was touched by the musical.

Jesse, a 12-year-old boy from Indiana, stopped Vanlandingham and told him how much the play had meant to him and how it had touched him.

His father then told Vanlandingham that he had not planned for his family of four to attend because he had a headache.

But the family went and the father told Vanlandingham, "We’ve been wrong. We haven’t been going to church. We’ve got to get in church when we get back."

An added bonus — the father’s headache was gone.

Green Valley plans to reach still more with the musical. Freeman has already begun making plans with MRO to present it during the superspeedway’s next race weekend in October.

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