HOUSTON – As a group of 10 men and women dressed in brightly colored robes and dresses performed a tradition Korean dance to the rhythms of drum music, more than 500 people at Lansdale Park participated in the International Festival hosted by 19 Asian Baptist churches representing the Cambodian, Chinese, Filipino, Korean, Laotian, Malaysian and Vietnamese population in the area.
The day was a celebration of Asian culture and a chance for the international churches to minister to their own people in the Houston area. The goal was to show that God loves all people and cultures and to build relationships, preparing for more ministry opportunities in the future.
“We are excited that we can come together and work for one cause and that is to share the gospel, to make known the claims of Christ here in Houston,” said Ernest Dagohoy, pastor of First Filipino Baptist Church in Houston. “It’s just amazing that when we work together that we can do more things together. And the seeds that we plant will come out of this to reach the city of Houston.”
The festival was part of City Reach, a series of more than 20 outreach and evangelistic events in the greater Houston area attempting to share the gospel with the hurting and hopeless before the Annual Meeting of Texas Baptists on Nov. 16-17 in the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston. To date, more than 1,900 people have made professions of faith through City Reach efforts. More than 25 people began relationships with Christ during the festival.
“Thirty percent of Houstonians were born outside of the United States,” said Scott Willingham, Texas Baptists director of church evangelism and project leader for City Reach Houston.” These churches are reaching the lost in their community as they came together for the first time to work cooperatively as internationals.”
The event included ethnic food tasting, cultural activities like Chinese calligraphy, artistic displays through colorful native dress and traditional music and dancing by several church groups, one including a group of more than 10 Korean Christians all older than 70.
Children’s activities were hosted by Star Family Ministries and complete with music and puppet shows, Hula-Hoop contests, face painting and caricatures by a local artist.
Each person who attended the festival was asked to complete a registration card requesting contact information and ethnicity. The cards were then sorted and the prospective groups were given to the appropriate international church for follow-up efforts.
Each participant was entered into a drawing for items such as a volleyball, bicycle, calculator, Bissell vacuum and a grand prize of a 32-inch flat screen television.
“We came together because the Bible included all the diversity of different races,” said Ricky Leung, pastor of Chinese Baptist Church in Houston and an organizer for the event. “I think it is a blessing to come together and serve and show the power of the gospel. It is one body and one people of God. It’s a blessing to be one body.”
The group of churches began planning more than four months ago, asking Scott Willingham with Texas Baptists evangelism and Jason Kym, the coordinator for multi-ethnic people at the Southern Baptist Convention North American Mission Board, to help arrange the endeavor.
“There are many ways to share the gospel with the lost world,” said Kym said. “The reason we have international festivals here together [with people] coming from many different ethnic groups is to let other people know who we are and where we come from , rather than just seeing people as different from you and me.”
The effort is also a part of Texas Hope 2010, an effort by Texas Baptists to share the hope of Christ with every Texan by Easter 2010 in ways where each can respond in his or her own way or language.
To do this, Texas Baptists are attempting to place scripture in all 8.8 million homes in Texas, mainly through gospel presentation compact disc sharing the gospel of John and an option to download the New Testament in more than 300 languages. More than 500 CDs were handed out at the festival.
Cultural efforts like the International festival help make the goal of sharing Christ with all Texans possible, Willingham said.
“We are just trying to share the gospel through expressing the cultural backgrounds of these churches, presenting the gospel through the Texas Hope CDs and other gospel tracts that are in the appropriate languages and expressing the love of Jesus Christ in this neighborhood,” Willingham said.
By Kaitlin Chapman, Texas Baptists Communications