Traveling by RV with her husband had been a long-time dream for Karla Rossi-Gonzalez. When her dream came true a year ago, she discovered something surprising about RV campgrounds.
“[RV campers] are very open, much more so than in the secular world … People are just willing to talk,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez is a Caskey Center for Church Excellence scholarship recipient and a Leavell College student in women’s ministry. She and her husband Henry Gonzalez, a New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary graduate and pastor of a Hispanic church at home in Lafayette, Louisiana, have shared the gospel and ministered to many in RV camps as they travel.
As a Caskey student, Gonzalez is required to share the gospel weekly. At the campground, meeting that requirement is easy, she said.
“There’s something different about being in the RV park,” Gonzalez said. “They’re friendly. It’s easier to open yourself and they open themselves and allow you to talk.”
The full-tuition Caskey scholarship for qualifying NOBTS and Leavell College students provides financial assistance allowing students to serve on church staffs and engage in weekly evangelism while earning their degrees.
Recently, Gonzalez saw a woman camper come to faith in Christ who feared her marriage was ending.
Gonzalez recounted the woman’s story that as newlyweds the husband had been faithful to church but gradually stopped going as he adopted his wife’s secular, party-centered lifestyle.
“She felt guilty,” Gonzalez explained, and recounted that the wife regretted how their lifestyle had “disintegrated” their marriage.
“I told her how God heals our hearts and that He’s the one who can do the true transformation of a person’s heart,” Gonzalez said. “You can’t do that, but when you give your life to Christ, He does the transformation.”
Gonzalez credited the book “Making Friends for Christ” by Wayne McDill, required in one of her Caskey classes, for helping her see how friendship can open doors for the gospel.
“I took that to heart,” she said. “I need to be friends with them so that they can see Christ in me.”
Blake Newsom, Caskey Center director, said believers often are fearful about starting gospel conversations and that seminary students feel the same way.
For Caskey students, fear and inexperience is the typical starting point.
“We assume that they’re afraid. We assume that they’re less bold than they need to be,” Newsom said. “And we want to help them in that.”
Practice and accountability
Most students coming into the Caskey program want to be better at sharing the gospel, Newsom explained, adding that practice and accountability are key to gaining confidence.
“More often than not, we see them realizing the benefit of sharing weekly and growing more comfortable in sharing the gospel,” Newsom said.
Whenever Gonzalez and her husband now travel with their RV, doors open where they can minister, counsel, encourage and lead others to faith in Christ.
As campers realize the couple is willing to listen, their “hearts open like layers they are peeling away,” Gonzalez said.
“God has used us while we’re in this little RV,” Gonzalez said, adding that she is humbled at “the magnitude of the fact that God uses you no matter where you are.”
EDITOR’S NOTE — This story was written by Marilyn Stewart and originally published by New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.