To the average TV viewer, it looks like pageant contestants
have it all together.
But that is not necessarily so, according to the current Miss Oklahoma,
"Once you get to know the contestants, you realize we all have needs and
painful relationships we have gone through," noted Payne.
The veteran pageant winner said getting to know the contestants during the
downtime of rehearsals gives her an opportunity to share what Christ has done
in her life.
"During both the Miss Oklahoma and Miss America pageants, the contestants
spend a lot of time together," Payne said. "After sitting around talking for a
while, some of them begin to open up, and it gives me a chance to share my
Payne said a lot of the girls noted that she wasn't as nervous and stressed
out as some of the others.
"When they asked me about that, I told them about the peace God has given
me," she said. "I always pray God will make me sensitive to those opportunities
Payne's lifestyle witnessing came to the forefront when she was
in college at Oklahoma State University, (OSU), in Stillwater, although she
says she has always tried to live her life in such a way that people could see
Christ in her.
"While I was at OSU, I was in a study group with another math major, Jason,
who was a really neat Christian example," she revealed. "I realized the real
reason behind the study group was so Jason could minister to others."
She explained he had an incredible gift of seeking out those people who were
"No matter how busy he was or how late it was, Jason always took time to
help the person, met the physical needs and then shared what God had done in
his life," said Payne. "I saw how God used Jason, and I began doing the same
Payne said when she started graduate school at the University of Central
Oklahoma in Edmond, she had a lot of opportunities to share with international
"My math classes in graduate work were primarily with international
students, and most of them had problems with the language and needed someone to
explain the math problems," Payne said. "We studied together, and I helped them
with English. When you spend time like that with people, eventually you find
out about their needs and once you take time to help them, they are willing to
listen to what you have to say and you can tell them what Christ has done in
Payne said that during the Miss America pageant in Atlantic City, she and
Miss Maryland agreed to pray for the new Miss America. Shortly after Nicole
Johnson, Miss Virginia, was crowned, the two joined hands in prayer for
Johnson, whom Payne said is also a committed Christian.
Payne won the Miss Oklahoma pageant, and was among the top finalists in the
Miss America contest, winning the talent portion of the competition. She said
being Miss Oklahoma will enable her to speak to youth across the state.
She said she will be expected to speak on her platform--birth defects
prevention--but will also have opportunities to share her Christian testimony.
In a typical week, she is on the road five days and speaks to three to five
school assemblies a day.
"When speaking in schools I hope there will be times when I can share
one-on-one with the students."
She said she will have opportunities she hasn't had before to speak to youth
groups and church functions.
"Several churches have invited me to youth rallies or want me to come and
share my testimony," Payne said.
Payne is praying that God will make her sensitive to the needs of those she
comes in contact with because "there are always people around you who are
hurting and who need Christ.
"I really don't know what God has in store for me. But I'm sure when I'm on
the road, He'll make me sensitive to those who have needs."
Rob Burns had a dream to use his soccer skills to tell kids about Jesus. And
he did. Fusing soccer and the gospel together scored big points with fans and
offered many children the opportunity to hear about Christ for the first
Then out of the blue, he was taken out of the game. In February 1995, Youth
Soccer International, the Houston-based training organization he'd founded in
1990, was banned from using the city park where Burns had been teaching both
sporting skills and repentance.
"We weren't doing anything we hadn't done before," Burns told The Baptist
Standard. "One official finally admitted, 'You preach that Jesus is the only
way--that's our problem.' "
Accepting the ban as God's will was one of the hardest things Burns and his
wife, Jenny, ever had to do. But moving on, he learned, put them exactly where
God wanted them--Fort Worth.
In August 1995, with a little help from Al Meredith, pastor of
Wedgwood Baptist in Fort Worth, Burns began a new evangelistic soccer program.
In the first month, registration jumped to almost 100 kids. Now, the average is
around 200, each one a child who may never have heard about Christ.
"We assume that the kids are hearing the gospel for the first time, so we
come up with ways to make the gospel relate to what they've learned on the
field. We often use aspects of the game. For example, turning--turning to
Jesus. Passing--passing on the faith. And crossing--the cross of Jesus Christ,"
For Burns, telling people about Christ is more likely to happen on the
soccer field than in churches on Sundays and Wednesday nights.
"Whether the Christian likes it or not," he says, "people have something
else to do on Sundays. It seems like the world has plenty of things it's doing
on Wednesday evenings too. And what many are doing is worshiping their
god--sports. The unique gift God has given me is soccer, and I can go out to
the people worshiping their god--soccer--and take the real God, the Lord Jesus
Christ, out to them and meet them where they are."
Taking Christ where the people are is working. Since 1989, more than 1,500
kids have become Christians through Burns' soccer programs.
In part, Burns believes that his soccer background provides a common ground
that affords him the right to speak to the kids who come. They initially respect him as a
soccer coach and later as a friend. Then they are able to see him live out on
the field what he talks about during the devotions.
Although his own sports ministry is officially structured and on a large
scale, it's not the only available option, he and Jenny are quick to add.
"Sports ministry," says Jenny, "can be as simple as taking four or five kids
from church downtown to the inner city and getting together a basketball
To contact Rob Burns, call 817-263-9574 or e-mail email@example.com.
By the time I was 24 the only thing I had was a heroin habit
and a long police record," says Ron Climer. "I'd tried everything but God and
suicide, and I figured I should try God first."
A drug user since the age of 12, he used heroin the first time when he was
15. But at age 24, on January 27, 1973, he became a Christian. "When I found
Jesus, I found everything that I'd ever been looking for," says the North
Amercian Mission Board missionary. "That night, I believe I was called to
ministry, and the very next day I began sharing Christ with my friends."
Now 50, Climer stays busy as a licensed clinical psychotherapist with the
California Board of Behavioral Sciences. In that role, he provides low-cost
counseling for people who have needs but no insurance or financial means to pay
for it. His counsel comes from a heart that knows the root problem for his
clients goes deeper than just marital problems and drug and alcohol
addictions--they need a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
"I developed a philosophy of ministry that if what we had to say about Jesus
was going to be heard by anybody, it would only be because we took the time to
become involved with them at the point of their need. Traditional evangelism
won't reach these people because their physical or emotional needs are so great
that they get in the way of them becoming aware of their spiritual need. But if
you can help them to minimize those needs, then you can build relationships.
The greatest evangelistic tool we have available to us is a relationship.
Because they see that you care, they're open to hearing about that spiritual
need that they have," he says.
Before people can see that he cares, however, Climer must convince them to
see past his "look"--an appearance that hardly invites comparison to a
professional counselor or minister.
"I've got all my plaques hanging on the wall," he says. "The reason I do is
I've got a lot of tattoos and I don't look like a preacher or a counselor.
People come in and they're already distraught. I can tell by the look on their
faces they're thinking, 'Don't say anything. This is not the real counselor.
The real counselor is tied up in the back room, so don't get this guy
Climer's appearance and "been-there-done-that-then-got-out-clean" lifestyle
comes in handy though, as he also works as head chaplain for the Juvenile
Division of the Fresno County Probation Department in a 300-bed maximum
security facility for kids who have committed crimes from theft to murder.
Often there are more kids locked up in the county for murder than adults.
"In our county," Climer says, "we see 14,000 kids a year go through the
facility and we have an opportunity to share the gospel with all of them. We
see literally hundreds of kids come to know Christ every year."
Last year, he personally led 608 people to faith in Christ.
He credits his evangelistic zeal all the way back to the day of his own
conversion. "I realized that day that everybody on the face of the earth, no
matter where they are or what they're doing or who they are, they're looking
for God," he says. "They just don't realize it's God they're looking for. If I
could become a friend to them so that I could share with them what they were
looking for, that was the easiest form of evangelism."
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