When we moved to Loudon, New Hampshire six years ago, we purchased a home so close to New Hampshire Motor Speedway (NHMS) that when we watch NASCAR races on TV we turn the volume down and open the windows!
I sensed God encouraging me to offer pastoral care to the racers, workers, and guests. However, the owner did not feel that was necessary. A year later the track was sold and I made the same offer to the incoming general manager. He enthusiastically accepted and I began to minister to the racing community at NHMS in 2007.
The racing is primarily from April through early October. I am there from time-to-time during the motorcycle, sports car, and vintage racing, but it is for the NASCAR and Indy Car series that I spend 12 to 14 hours there daily. During those weeks I find opportunity to minister to the 100,000 guests who come for the race and to track employees (I covet those moments as they are local residents, people I have an ongoing opportunity to connect with).
Simultaneous to speaking to the general manager I was put in contact with Motor Racing Outreach (MRO) by one of the men in our church. That has been a wonderful relationship! MRO has a long and positive connection with NASCAR and with the ownership of this track. They have opened many doors for our local church to minister. During the NASCAR weeks we have 20 to 25 men and women driving golf carts to assist the handicapped guests from the camping and parking areas to the track. It is an incredible opportunity to witness for Jesus Christ!
The thousands of people we ferry about during the week so often say something like: "This is great the track pays you to do this." That opens the door so wonderfully for us as we do not receive anything for this service. When we tell them that, they ask, "Why not?" You can only guess the opportunities that open for us to tell of the Christ who came saying, "I am among you as one who serves" (Luke 22:27).
The golf cart drivers continually return with stories of being able to witness to and to pray with their riders.
In partnering with MRO, I have a chapel service with the vendors which includes great singing and a gospel presentation. That happens at 6:15A.M. on Sunday morning outdoors at a vendor's trailer on the midway! Not only do we minister to the vendors, many of whom are Christians, but to the hundreds already strolling by. I also participate in the drivers' chapel prior to the race.
Two years ago I went to the Security Office at 6:00 A.M. Sunday to pray with the 45-50 security personnel since the unchurched director of security asked if I would come and pray with them as one of their own had recently passed away. Later that day he told a crowd of 300 or more waiting for a tram that I was his "spiritual advisor." That made me smile!
I spend most of my day with the medics in the First Aid building. When the track is sold out, there are 100,000 people there: a good-sized city. On a hot summer day that often means dehydration, and more often than not, heart issues.
As the First Aid building is small, I try to comfort the patient while the EMT's deal with the presenting issue and almost always try to assist the family or friends who are with the patient. When an ambulance trip is necessary I arrange for the family/friends to get to the hospital. That means getting them to their cars or campers - no small task with thousands of pedestrians in your path!
Last year during the first of the two annual NASCAR races at this track, a young woman went into premature labor with their first child. She and her husband were in First Aid for more than three hours. She lost the baby. The medics were wonderful! I had the opportunity to pray and try to bring God's peace in their turmoil and hurt. At the next race the husband came back to tell us of the pain of their loss and to thank us for helping during the most devastating moment of their marriage.
JR was 11 and alone in the grandstand when his dad went into full cardiac arrest in one of the men's rooms. His dad came around long enough to communicate he had a son in the stands. He was able to give one identifying description. With security, ushers, and EMTs we fanned out. We located JR almost immediately - a miracle in the sea of people with the roar of a race going on.
For the next two hours I kept JR at my side because the medics really needed to have JR away from his dad as they attempted to stabilize him prior to being transported to the hospital. I tried to take his mind off what was going on in First Aid by taking him to the owners' suite. He couldn't believe the view! He had some food and cold soda. JR was living large! It is wonderful that I am given the freedom to do this.
I care for lost children. I pray with people in First Aid. I have the privilege of bringing the invocation before a TV audience of millions. I do my best to be Jesus to my community. I hardly ever see a lap of a race!
John White is pastor of New Beginnings Church of the Nazarene in Loudon, New Hampshire.
Holiness Today, May/June 2012