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By Jeffrey Swindoll
With the excitement and preparation surrounding Halloween, church groups and Christians alike have a decision to make about participating in the holiday festivities. Several churches in the Waco community see the occasion as an opportunity to evangelize and serve local communities.
“I think it’s important for the local community to see that the church is not just a group people going into one place and not doing anything outside in the community,” Toph Whisnant, University Baptist Church community pastor, said. “God can do amazing things when we’re willing to build relationships with people and be accountable with each other.”
UBC and Highland Baptist Church are two of several churches that choose to serve the community on Halloween night.
“For many years we did an event called Trunk or Treat,” Whisnant said. “We would have around 250 kids come and it drew a great response from the community.”
Whisnant said the event was great for meeting children from the community, but also for showing them the love of Christ. However, UBC is changing from their longstanding Trunk or Treat event, but with a similar focus in mind.
This year, UBC is partnering with South Waco Community Center
“Last year, when the community center did their Fall Festival event. They had over 800 kids come through, using just eight volunteers,” Whisnant said. “So this year we are not doing trunk or treat so that we can help them with our resources and volunteers for that event.”
Highland Baptist Church holds another Halloween event that hundreds of people from the community annually attend.
“If we kept the doors open until 10:30 p.m., I think we would still have people waiting in line out the door,” Kristin Hill, Highland Baptist Church volunteer, said.
Hill and her family play a large role in the Halloween activities at their church. The church opens its doors to all members of the community to pass out candy and cartoon tracts with stories about the Gospel message.
Tracts vary in presentation, but cartoon tracts are usually short comic strips that preach the gospel message in an metaphoric, anecdotal way. At the end of the tracts, there is usually a guide to help nonbelievers accept Jesus into their hearts.
“We make sure the message of the tract is relevant and something the kids and their parents will hopefully remember,” Hill said.
Hill said that she is very specific and selective with which tracts that are handed out, and bases her selections to be centered on the Gospel, the story of Jesus.
“What we do now is make it into an event that everyone can enjoy,” Hill said. “We also want to put something of good quality into the hands of the kids. So we started using tracts.”
Hill said the event began as a simple, family-friendly Halloween party, but now the event has grown so much that people come in large crowds to the door to enjoy Halloween night at the event. Hill said it is an opportunity for the church to hand out even more tracts and encouraging material as well as show others the love of Christ.
“We usually have about 1,000 tracks in English and about 600 in Spanish, and we usually give them all out,” Hill said. “At the end of the day, we hope and pray that the people that come through the doors will somehow hear the message of the Gospel.”
Hill said the event is a fun, completely affordable way for all sorts of families to enjoy a safe Halloween, but most importantly is a great opportunity to be able step out and share the love of Jesus with the community.
“Church inside the building on Sundays is a great way to get encouragement, but it’s really the day-to-day life outside of it that matters,” Hill said.
Hill said she feels Christians need to judge for themselves on what is their area in life and opportunity to serve others with the Gospel, and that this does not only apply to Christians concerning Halloween.
Without regard to Halloween, Hill said that a couple she knows ministers to exotic dancers and men that attend strip clubs.
The wife serves the dancers with makeup and toys for their children, while the husband sits in the club and ministers to the men at the club. Hill added that unique ministries like that are not for everyone and the decision is between the individual and God.
Hill said that this a great example of two Christians being able to go into places that may not hear the Gospel message much and shine the light of Jesus in a dark place.