Syrup in the Swamp
Last weekend JSAW had the opportunity to partner with our friends at Steiger Ministries to serve riders at Swampfest in Wildwood, FL. This event, which has been going since 2016, brings together some of the gnarliest riders from around the country (and some from outside of it). It's notorious for being crazy, chaotic, and jam-packed with sketchy obstacles and dangerous stunts. Needless to say, I was pretty excited at the prospect of witnessing this all up close.
To serve these riders in practical ways, we planned to do the following three things: hand out water bottles throughout the day, make pancakes each morning, and provide first aid care to those who were injured. Thanks to a generous donation from the Palmwood Church in Oviedo Florida, we were able to secure the materials needed to accomplish the first two goals. As for the third, we brought a first aid kit and we had someone on our team that knew First Aid, which was fortunate considering that there were a few times it was needed.
It was a bit daunting to enter this event with a mission-focused mindset, considering that we didn't really know anyone. However, we trusted the words of Mark 11:24, "Whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours" (ESV). We prayed for God to give us opportunities to reach riders, build relationships with them, and to proclaim the name of Jesus to them. The Lord answered answered each of these prayers over the course of the weekend.
Each of us were presented with opportunities to interact with a variety of people each morning while handing out free pancakes. These breakfast conversations helped us establish trust with the riders, and we were able to share our testimonies, Bible verses, and even the gospel itself.
Eventually, the events came to a close with a grand finale unlike anything else I'd ever seen: the whole place (the rideable features) was burnt to the ground. On Sunday morning, we reconnected with some familiar faces, fed some new ones, and started looking for rides back to the airport. The three of us who were relying on God to provide us with a way back to Orlando to catch our flights on time, had our requests fulfilled. We were all given rides by strangers, which got us to the gates with plenty of time to spare.
Overall, this was a great experience that gave us an opportunity to bless the riders at Swampfest, build relationships with many of them, and to have our own faith be strengthened. If you'd like to help fulfill the great commission in interesting ways like this, you can get involved by visiting JSAW.org/volunteer