Sparta—More than 200 volunteers representing Baptist churches across the commonwealth and the nation came to the Kentucky Speedway July 6-9 not to see a NASCAR race, but to help fuel the gospel. Assisting Kentucky Raceway Ministry, they gave out 6,000 Bibles to race fans from all 50 states and five countries over the three-day weekend.
The raceway ministry that now reaches thousands of people was born about 17 years ago when JT Marsh and a friend started passing out water from the back of an El Camino. “We thought we would just hand out some water and tracts and go to the race, but God just started to laugh at us. He had a bigger plan,” said Marsh.
Since then, the Kentucky Raceway Ministry has branched into different areas of service. “We have the largest race outreach in the country now in terms of raceway ministries and NASCAR tracts,” said Marsh. “We are one of the few ministries allowed to do trauma response in the grandstands. For an event this populated, it’s a blessing to have that amount of saturation.”
Along with distributing Bibles, the ministry hands out approximately 30,000 driver’s cards with gospel tracts on the back, said Marsh.
While volunteer opportunities range from information booths to personal evangelism teams, KRM has the unique opportunity to reach race fans in the center of the speedway, noted Tom Ragland, a chaplain who has served with KRM for seven years. “The races are at night, so during the day and the mornings we get to feed military servicemen, policemen, firefighters, and all of the campers,” he said.
An important part of being in the center of the raceway is praying with anyone they can, Ragland said. “The most prevalent problems here are health issues,” he explained. “When we ask how to pray for people, that opens up a whole new door to talk to about spiritual things,” he said. “We try and meet people where they’re at.”
Another area where volunteers serve is in the kids’ camp, which provides an opportunity to reach children with the gospel. “Everything here is free. That’s a big draw,” said Ray Henaky, the lead volunteer of the kids’ camp. “Tomorrow (Saturday) is our biggest day, it will be shoulder to shoulder.
“Now we have about 20 volunteers; tomorrow we will have close to 50,” said Henaky. “There are people from all walks of life. It’s amazing to see how different people come together to serve and make this a great experience.”
NASCAR reports that 100,000 people come to Sparta annually. With Sparta becoming the third largest city in the state of Kentucky for three days, it is crucial for the Kentucky Raceway Ministry to take advantage of every opportunity they have to reach people, Marsh said.
“God promises that when His word is given out it won’t return void, so there is nothing better that we can do,” said Marsh. “Companies pay thousands of dollars to get their logo on a NASCAR racecar so that it is seen. We are blessed to get to do that for free, and we have a better product,” said Marsh, referring to the gospel. (WR)