Do you want fries with that?
PHOTO BY Claudean Boatman
Three years ago Reuben and Donna Drebenstedt inherited an A&W Family
Restaurant they didnt want. The leaseholder had defaulted on the Frisco,
Colorado, property that had been in the Jewish-turned-Christian couples family
since 1986. Torn between a banks tempting offer to buy the property or adopting
again the burden of the business world, which they had left for Christian
ministry 25 years before, the couple made a prayerful decision.
We heard from God, Reuben says. God spoke to us at the same time to
make this into a mission. So thats what we did.
From the outset, Donna envisioned the marquee displaying a Christian
message. The marquee, with scripture references on both sides, draws some of
Name: Reuben and Donna Drebenstedts
City: Frisco, Colorado
Mission: Mixing fast food and the gospel.
The Christian witness continues inside the restaurant. Bibles and tracts in
several languages are free for the taking at each entrance and near the cash
registers. The music of choice is Christian, some with a distinct Jewish
flavor. Quality customer service and cleanliness are important at this A&W.
Everything here needs to honor God. We want people to see its different, says
What we hope to do, she says, is to provoke questions and conversations
about the gospel.
Their A&W has accomplished that. The couple reports that many have been
saved through the restaurant ministry, including staff and customers.
Perhaps one of their favorite salvation stories is that of Andy Ting,
longtime employee and manager of the A&W. The Drebenstedts built a
relationship with Andy, sharing Christ with him when the opportunity arose.
The Chinese man was a practicing Buddhist. Even so, when he observed a child
crumpling a tract near the cash register he said, This is about God. You dont
crumple things about God. The Drebenstedts went with Andy to a Chinese church
in Denver. One December day, in an A&W booth, Andy asked Jesus into his
The evangelical purpose of the restaurant is explained to prospective
employees, including summer missionaries. Christian employees are encouraged to
share Christ with non-Christian employees and customers any time the door is
open. Employees are given time off to attend Bible study, worship services and
Christian functions. Videos, tracts, books and Bibles are available in several
languages since employees come from all over the worldcountries such as Russia,
Belarus, China and countries in South America.
The Drebenstedts transferred ownership of the restaurant to HaShem, Inc.,
under the umbrella of Menorah Ministries. Reuben directs Menorah Ministries.
Profits go to missions. Menorah partnered with Colorado Southern Baptists to
begin Jewish and Russian congregations in Denver. The Drebenstedts continue the
partneship by donating the use of the restaurant to church planters in the
Hes more than a carpenterDon Knotts is no Barney Fife
but the West Virginia pastor does have big-gun plans for his small-town church.
Now in his fourth year as a bi-vocational pastor (hes also a building
contractor), Don divides his time between building a congregation, constructing
buildings and raising a family.
Don Knotts with his blueprints for work and blueprints for
PHOTO BY dale sparks
We dont sleep, he says, laughing. Sleep is just a waste of time.
The lines between his three careers are increasingly blurred as necessity
calls for his building and ministerial skills to work side by side. For
example, catastrophic floods swept through the state a couple of years ago
destroying the homes of local residents.
Rebuilding homes is a ministry in itself, Don says. I love doing that.
Don began his ministry in local hospitals like United Hospital Center in
Clarksburg, West Virginia, where he would visit patients and hold church
services. From there he moved on to become a fill-in pastor for several
unpastored churches in his area. He did this all while he and his family were
still active members of another church, Fellowship Baptist Church.
Name: Don Knotts
Location: Clarksburg, West Virginia
Mission: Building a strong church.
But then Don was called to work as an interim pastor at Wayside Baptist
Church in Buckhannon, West Virginia. He is now a senior pastor who has seen his
congregation grow from fewer than 30 to nearly 100 attenders. Rather than a
radical move, Don sees pastoring as a natural progression for many serious
Growing and maturing in the church calls for more responsibility, and out of
necessity you begin to do what Gods plan is with your own family in the church
and then spreading out to do other ministry, Don says. God gradually grew me
and matured me and moved me in that direction.
In addition to pastoring and preaching on Sundays, Don still visits
hospitals as well as retirement villages and homebound residents. And because
these people have a hard time making it to church, he has set up a makeshift
video ministry so these special needs people can watch the service at home. His
church also has started outside-the-box ministries such as biker Sundays to
attract local motorcyclists, plus hunter and sportsman Sunday and Superbowl
parties during which Don will show a video of professional athletes sharing
We do these things to reach people where they are, he says. We want to show
them that, yeah, were still a church full of flawed people, but were saved and
Along with the core congregation that has increased during the last few
years, Don inherited a 20,000-square-foot building at the corner of Route 43
and Brushy Fork Road that should provide Wayside Baptist with plenty of growing
In the future he would like to have professional video equipment to record
sermons for hospital and homebound residents. He dreams of some day moving into
full-time ministry. But until God says otherwise, his sermons will play on VHS
tapes and his living will come from Knotts General Contracting, the company he
Were just having a good time, he says. Were just starting. Were like a new
Eliseo Aldape holds a walking stick he made at a camp in
PHOTO BY Richard mccormack
This summer more than 30 people made professions of faith during an
evangelistic service held in conjuntion with the annual meeting of the National
Hispanic Baptist Fellowship and Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis,
Missouri. Fifteen of those new Christians helped form the core group that
started a new Hispanic church in the area.
Name: Eliseo Aldape
City: Arlington, Texas
Mission: Starting Hispanic churches across North
As a national missionary for the North American Mission Board, Eliseo
Aldapes goal is to start more of these Hispanic churches. This new church was
born because of the hard work exhibited by the local people who labored to
bring lost people to Christ, says Eliseo.
Starting Hispanic churches is part of Eliseos heritage. His parents helped
start a Hispanic church in Texas in 1928. Eliseo was born and raised in Crystal
City, Texas. His father, born in Mexico, was a field laborer while his mother,
a native Texan, stayed at home and made sure the family was well fed and taken
care of. As a child Eliseo attended Primera Iglesia Bautista where his parents
were founding members.
During his four years of high school the church didnt have a full-time
pastor, so he and a friend took turns preaching at the church. Thats when
Eliseo started to feel that God was calling him into the ministry. My friend
and I were very active in the youth group and everything else at church, says
Eliseo. Out of that environment I realized that God was calling me into
full-time Christian service. I made my commitment to serve God, wherever he
wanted me, right before I graduated.
Eliseos role as a national missionary is to assist church-planting leaders
across the convention to develop and implement church-planting strategies.
This awesome task is not without its struggles. We have a real need for
qualified, God-called church planters, says Eliseo. We know that God has
prepared many for the harvest, but we need more pastors. We are hoping that
strategies being developed by the North American Mission Board will empower
Hispanic leaders to go beyond themselves and start a movement of church
Surfs up at church
PHOTO BY MORRIS ABERNATHY
If you visit Pacific Beach in mid-morning, you might see Evan Lauer slide
from his 1960 VW mini-bus to check the waves. But the 40-year-old married
father of three is preparing for more than a day of sun bathing and surfing. He
happens to be a Southern Baptist pastor, and to minister to his community he
uses everything. This includes his six surfboards (three of which are on
active duty), his long-term relationship with west coast waves and his mode of
transportation, which has become a sort of icon for the surfing community.
Name: Evan Lauer
City: San Diego, California
Mission: Reaching a beach community for Christ.
Because surfing is the central point of life for many in the San Diego
community, Evan makes it his life to meet surfers, and others, where they
Thats who we know, says Evan. Ive been in the surfing culture 20 years, and
Im able to meet people in this community on their level.
While Coastlands Church appeals to surfers with its surfing pastor, the
informal dress code (many attenders arrive in beachware) and the fact that it
occasionally holds services on the beach, Evan wants people to experience
faith, not fad.
The only thing that makes it a surfer church is that we have a lot of
surfers who attend, says Evan. I dont want people to come because were surfers,
but because God is here. I dont want them to think Oh what a cool church,
because being cool is not whats going to sustain us.
This year the church will celebrate its fifth year in the Pacific Beach
community where it meets in the 500-seat auditorium of a local middle school.
Average attendance is around 100 and much of the churchs interactions take
place in local coffee shops, on the beach, along the road near the beach or
While Evan and his staff do have offices, they try to spend as little time
there as possible. I really try to spend time in our community. I hang out on
the main streets in Pacific Beach.
I make sure Im meeting people on their turf instead of expecting them to
meet me at my church.
7 ways you can be on mission through prayeran essentialingredient of any mission endeavor.
1. Call 800-554-PRAY (7729) for current missionary
2. Visit www.namb.net/ prayerline for a list of missionary birthdays and
3. Subscribe to the North American Missions Prayer-Gram by calling
4. To identify where missionaries are serving and how you can pray
for them visit www.namb.net /missionaries.
5. Subscribe to Missions Mosiac for a list of both North American
and international missionary birthdays by calling 800-968-7301.
6. Adopt and pray for a Strategic Focus City by visiting www.namb.net/prayerline.
7. Call 800-395-PRAY for international missionary
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