Back in 2011, the War of Special Forces team came to Emmanuel Baptist Church with Pastor Matt Booher to conduct their program in their church and school. When I called him about having The War, he had just taken on their new Youth Pastor, Justin Carpenter, and was excited about the evangelistic opportunity.
Our week began with a very enthusiastic youth group that had many ties to the teenagers of the community. Through many of these connections, our team captains were able to make many contacts in the community for the event.
Due to limited space at the church property itself, we were not able to hold our competitions on the church grounds. Instead we registered them at the church and bussed them to a nearby park where the teams competed for an hour. After the competitions, we bussed them back to the church for the food, comedy, points, and preaching. One of the men in the church kindly offered the use of his 7500 watt generator to power our lights and sound system on the field.
The first night of competition was February 14th, Valentines Day, which was a bigger challenge than we had anticipated. During the day, many recruits told our team captains that they could not come because they had a date or because they were going to the movies to watch a new film that was released that night. To summarize, the crowd was much lower than we hoped that it would be. Nevertheless, two young men trusted Christ at the invitation.
The next morning before we prayed together, I challenged our team on the importance of processing disappointment biblically. I warned them of the dangers of blaming God or human circumstances for the previous night’s challenges. I also warned them of the danger of assuming that we did something wrong and that God withheld His blessing because of some “unknown error” on our part. Certainly, all of those excuses could have some basis in reality, but ultimately the correct response to the challenge must be to draw nigh to Him. Moses’ counsel to Aaron after the death of his sons was instructive to us, “I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified” (Lev. 10:3). As we prayed together and drew near to God, He met with us. We rose from our knees knowing that tonight was going to be different.
That night, indeed, was different. At least twice as many teens showed up for the event, there was a spirit of excitement and anticipation in the air, the competitions were fierce and fluid—and then the devil showed up. On the field as I was explaining the rules for Spoke Tackle, the generator backfired, the sound system cut out, and the field plunged into darkness. Thankfully, I had my megaphone on hand and was able to continue somewhat seamlessly, though in darkness. I am pretty sure it was one of the most intense occurrences of Spoke Tackle I have ever led, but I am not sure since I couldn’t really see much of it. We pressed forward in spite of these hindrances, though the battle was keenly felt on all sides.
Back at the church, before the bus arrived, I dropped to my knees and resisted the enemy in my spirit, asking God for deliverance. I sensed a lift and readied the room for the bus full of teens. It took a few minutes for spirit of the group to recover from the challenges on the field, but thankfully by the time the testimony and song had been delivered, God’s presence was in the room. I preached with great liberty and seven young people stepped out to trust Christ. Their decisions were clear, genuine, and rock-solid.
On the parking lot, the Navy team captain began talking to a young man. The teen had no interest in talking about the gospel message or his soul. During the conversation, however, they began talking about wrestling. The young man boasted about how good he was, though he had only wrestled for a short time. The team captain had wrestled for twelve years. The young man challenged the Navy captain to a round on the grass. A few short seconds later, he was sprawled on the grass pinned by the Navy captain. After his embarrassing defeat, they began talking about spiritual things. God had opened his heart and several minutes later he bowed his head and trusted Christ alone to save him!
Overall, thirteen young people trusted Christ during the week. Many relationships began between teenagers and church members that, I trust, will result in long-term relationships and further souls saved. Please pray for the dear people of Emmanuel Baptist Church to invest the time, energy, and prayer required to see these precious young people go on for God in powerful service to Him!