After a few moments of awkward silence, Jami stepped up to a karaoke microphone to sing in the parking lot of Friendship Baptist Church in Yorba Linda, California.
The daughter of a former Hell’s Angel, her father was incarcerated during her childhood. The young woman began to tear up as she sang about God’s grace to a crowd of locals who had gathered today (June 11) for a Crossover evangelism event, one of many being held throughout the Anaheim area. As a mentor for a ministry that set up a booth to reach out to children with incarcerated parents, Jami was among the crowd of Southern Californians who gathered for the outreach event.
Crossover is an annual event that precedes the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting, which is being held this year in Anaheim June 14–15.
While Crossover is full of block parties and a variety of fun outreach activities, Jami’s story revealed a deeper undercurrent at an event that seeks to share the hope only the gospel can offer. Jami recalled how God delivered her from a life of pain, heartache and confusion.
God redeems our broken stories
“I felt that abandonment, not being enough, dealt with a lot of pain and insecurity from a young age,” said the young woman who has eight children from a blended family. She has survived an abusive marriage and divorce and has seen her ex-husband imprisoned. She is now remarried to a man who also was once incarcerated but is now a follower of Christ. He works alongside her with Agape Camp California for children with stories like hers.
“It is healing to help others even when you don’t think you’re ready,” she said. “God equips you. He calls you and equips you.”
Pastor Kenneth Curry Jr. said Crossover is an opportunity to hear testimonies like Jami’s that point to the gospel. It’s what Crossover is all about.
“I want to see people who have not been in relationship with Jesus to come to know Jesus,” Curry said. “This is a real targeted effort post-pandemic [focused on] individuals who don’t go to church currently.”
For one church volunteer, Rikki Taylor, it’s as simple as sharing Bible stories with children.
“Today I’m Rikki Taylor, the evangelistic story time reader,” said Taylor, who is on staff at the church. “We pick some really basic books for children to explain what God’s like. A lot of times children have questions about God, and [we help] not just answer that [question] but provoke other questions in their mind to plant that seed with them.”
Needs below the surface
While Yorba Linda, a suburban city of about 70,000, is known for the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, well-kept homes, luxury cars and flourishing businesses, Curry explained, there’s many living out a façade, on the cusp of poverty.
“Food insecurity is a big deal because it costs so much to live here,” he said, noting that gas prices are up to $6.50 a gallon in the area.
“A lot of times people here are just barely paying their rent,” he noted.
“I generally volunteer [at the food bank] on Tuesdays, and I’ve seen Teslas, Mercedes — nice cars coming through. And whether they’re helping other people or helping themselves, people have some food insecurity in North Orange County.”
Felton Christian, who is on staff and helped organize the event at Friendship Baptist in partnership with the Orange County Southern Baptist Association during Crossover, said he hopes that something as simple as a block party with bounce houses, karaoke and hot dogs can lead to a transformed life for Christ.
“I think as the day goes on,” he noted, “it will become quite apparent that there are a lot of people here who do not know Jesus.”
“Our commission is to reach out and serve them in the love that we received when we came to Christ.”
For more stories from the 2022 Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting, visit thebaptistpaper.org/sbc2022.