Istrouma takes Christ
into the community
by Lisa Tramontana
Metaphorically, it’s a day when the church “leaves” the building and takes the love of Christ directly into the community. It’s Go Day, a special event organized by Istrouma Baptist Church and now in its seventh year.
Wearing T-shirts that say GO … and make disciples, several teams will fan out across the Baton Rouge area on Sunday, April 21 to clean housing complexes, hand out cold water at bus stops, throw block parties in underserved neighborhoods, conduct sports clinics for children, and wash cars at area police and fire stations. There is even a Laundry Love component, in which volunteers show up at local laundromats with rolls of quarters and offer to pay for customers’ laundry.
Clearly, while all of these projects are taking place, people are connecting … talking … sharing … on many different levels. Each Go Day project provides an opportunity to not just perform an important “service,” but to also share the Gospel and build relationships among the community.
“As the church, it is easy to gather contentedly within our four walls,” said Lead Pastor Jeff Ginn. “There’s certainly a God-given priority for worship and fellowship, but we can never neglect the Lord’s command to ‘go’ into the ‘highways and hedges’ (Luke 14:23). That’s why we have Go Day — to share the love of Christ in practical ways with the people of our community.”
“The Christ-exalting, family-centered approach has led my kids to understand the value of competing with others on the field, while learning discipline, structure, and steadfastness. — Craig Lindsay, coach
One of the busiest Go Day projects is called “A Ball for All,” in which volunteers conduct free children’s sports clinics, including soccer, football and basketball, to name a few. After a morning of sports fun and exercise, each child receives a complimentary lunch and his or her very own piece of sports equipment, usually a ball or glove. The clinics are often led by local coaches and athletes.
“Originally, this part of the program was called Operation First Base and we reached about 125 children,” said Coach M.L. Woodruff, Minister of Sports Outreach. “Our goal at that time was to just focus on baseball, but eventually our vision expanded to include other sports. This year, we may have as many as 1,000 children involved.”
A Ball for All would not be possible, Woodruff said, if not for Istrouma’s partnership with Baton Rouge Recreation (BREC), which provides five locations* for the event. DeVeta Webb, a BREC program coordinator, says she is touched by
“For this one day, these children know that there is one other adult in this world who knows them and cares for them.” — DeVeta Webb
How to help
You don’t have to be a church member to participate in Go Day or A Ball for All. If you’d like to volunteer, (225) 295-0775. You can also visit the website at istrouma.org.
*Locations include: Ben Burge Park (Elvin Drive), Gus Young Park, Hartley/Vey Park at Gardere, Saia Park, and City Brooks Park at McKinley Middle Magnet School.
“We can never forget his command to go into the ‘highways and hedges.” — Pastor Jeff Ginn
Giving Kids a Sporting Chance
Coach M.L. Woodruff remembers when he got the idea for Operation First Base, now called A Ball for All. He was on a plane returning home from a mission trip to the Dominican Republic, where he and his team had conducted free sports clinics for local children and left them with donated balls, gloves and other sports equipment. Jotting down his ideas on a napkin, he wondered if there was a way to do the same for children here in Baton Rouge.
In his seven years at Istrouma Baptist Church, Coach M.L. Woodruff has been instrumental in the growth of the church’s sports program, one of the most dynamic and comprehensive in the city. The Istrouma Sports Organization (ISO) provides year-round opportunities for children in flag football, volleyball, softball, baseball, basketball, soccer, and dance. ISO is focused on quality coaching, an encouraging environment and a Gospel-based mission.
“Sports is the bridge that brings us all together, but the Gospel is the thing that can transform and unify our community,” said Woodruff, who coached high school baseball at Parkview Baptist for 27 years before coming to Istrouma. “We try to teach that sports is a gift given by God, but one that we must give back.”
If your child is interested in joining a team, or if you are interested in volunteering or coaching, contact Woodruff at (225) 295-0775 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Istrouma is also in need of volunteers, greeters, cooks and equipment donations for its upcoming Go Day activities.