There’s only one high school in Latta, S.C., where a local pastor serves as an announcer for the football games.
Pastor Rob Pierce heads Latta Baptist Church. He heard about My Hope America last year at a statewide Baptist meeting and got his church involved. My Hope is a simple way for his congregation to share their faith with the help of creative videos that present the Gospel.
“It takes the pressure away from the individual that might be nervous about sharing their faith,” he said.
One night at the end of August, Pierce was volunteering as a football announcer when he decided to promote “Defining Moments,” a My Hope video that features the testimonies of three people, including football player David Tyree.
His church sometimes hosts what it calls “fifth quarter” gatherings where church members serve pizza after a game. Pierce announced the fifth quarter meeting over the PA system at the game that night and mentioned that the church would show a video featuring Tyree.
“I publicized it like crazy,” he said.
Latta is a small town about 60 miles from Myrtle Beach. It has one drugstore, one grocery store and railroad tracks that run through the middle. Residents are young and old, white, black and Hispanic.
“If we don’t know somebody, we know somebody who knows somebody,” Pierce said.
The town is small, but Pierce’s church is growing. It recently expanded to two services and has an active youth ministry.
“We’ve got a lot of kids in church, but a lot of them don’t know Jesus,” he said.
The night of the fifth quarter gathering, students, parents and some local police officers gathered in the fellowship hall to watch “Defining Moments.”
“Their attention was on it big time,” student minister Jeffery Allen said. “No cellphones, no goofing off.”
At the end of the night, one football player from a different church caught Allen in the parking lot. Allen was getting ready to leave.
“He said he wasn’t saved and he wanted to make everything right before he left that night,” Allen said. The youth minister made sure the player understood what it means to have a relationship with Christ and told the young man it’s a serious decision. The student had been struggling with it for a while, but made the commitment that night.
Allen saw the young man, a junior in high school, shortly after that and asked how he was doing. The football player had told his mom about his decision and gotten baptized.
But My Hope isn’t just about watching a video. It’s about building relationships with people who need Christ in their lives. Christians who participate in My Hope are called Matthews after the Apostle Matthew who, in the Bible, invited people over to tell them about Jesus. Matthews keep a list of people to pray for and try to get to know them better. Next month, Matthews will invite these people into their homes to share a Gospel presentation.
Pierce has about 20 people on his Matthew list.
“We get so caught up in praying for people’s ailments and health and physical things,” the pastor said. “We need to be praying for spiritual things as well.”
One man on Pierce’s list is the husband of a church member. Pierce visited him in the hospital about a month ago. The pair talked and joked around for two hours, then Pierce prayed for him. The man started crying and told the pastor about his problems.
“He accepted Jesus as his Savior, and I baptized him this past Sunday,” Pierce said last week. “There wasn’t a video involved, but it’s still part of My Hope.”