Saturday, 24 February 2018

PRAYnksters Group Brings Giving Twist to 'Flash Mobs"

Jan/ Feb 2018

 


 

 

By Gaye Bunderson

Jeff Agosta, left, and Jesse Fadel, right, dressed up like Donkey Kong and Mario and hit the Capital City Public Market in downtown Boise one Saturday. The co­founders of PRAYnksters wanted to try being “courageous and adventurous”together. (Courtesy photo)

Jeff Agosta loves pranks so much his youngest foster daughter's first word was “Boo!”

The 34­-year-­old said he'll go wherever God takes him and use whatever talent he has for Him, even if it's a passion for playing pranks.

“I want to show God's love without shoving it down people's throats. People already see the negative in church and Christians,” he said.

PRAYnksters got off the ground three years ago. It was in an experimental phase, and it needed some tweaking. One day, while Agosta and his wife Tia were out walking in their neighborhood, they ran into Jesse Fadel, associate pastor at Eastwind Community Church in Boise. It was an accidental but pivotal meeting for PRAYnksters. The threesome started talking, and before you know it, they were all fired up about PRAYnksters and the ways it could go and grow.

“PRAYnksters was in a rough form at that point. Jesse was instrumental in helping form PRAYnksters as it is today,” Agosta said.

“Jeff and I discovered we both had an interest in video production, an interest in helping to reshape people's perceptions about Christians, and a desire to make an impact for God in our community,” Fadel said. “I came up with the cheesy but appropriate PRAYnksters name after we did a test­run video together, running around downtown at the Saturday market dressed as Mario and Donkey Kong. We wanted to make sure we could have fun together and do some courageous and adventurous things before jumping into a partnership.”

Agosta and Fadel's complementary personalities intertwine in a way that benefits the group. “He's grounded. I'm eccentric,” said Agosta, who feels he brings talent, passion for God, and a sense of humor to PRAYnksters. He likes goofy videos and having fun.

Fadel said, “I bring my connections as a pastor, my heart for people, and my desire to tell compelling stories to the team. Jeff has marketing genius, an insatiable drive for craziness and an audience, and a similar love for helping people.”

There are other members of PRAYnksters who help comprise “the team,” and more information about them may be found at www.praynksters.com.

Something PRAYnksters is uniquely known for is its “giving mobs,” a term Agosta coined and which is a play on the term “flash mob,” a popular modern phenomenon where people gather to perform what seems like a spontaneous event, but which is usually planned ahead of time.

PRAYnksters members learn of a person in need, then set about raising funds and working out a way to give the money to the individual without his or her knowing and in a surprising and fun way — similar to a flash mob but with a Christian twist. Families can be unsuspecting giving mob recipients also.

One of their most famous giving mob moments was the time PRAYnksters gave $13,000 to aNampa mother diagnosed with cancer. Though mobs are generally thought of as unruly and bent on destruction, the mob that gave money to Amanda Kofoed of Nampa in 2016 surrounded her with support and encouragement. She didn't know almost 200 people were coming to give her a surprise display of love and generosity.

PRAYnksters creates a video each time it holds a giving mob, and posts it online. Some of the videos have gone viral, being viewed in places as far away as China and Ukraine. They've also gotten the attention of local and national news outlets.

“My favorite part of all this is when people replicate what we've done,” said Agosta. In otherwords, people see the video and perform their own giving mob to fill needs. They then post their videos online and the process repeats itself until more and more people are performing acts of kindness.

“This is one idea I wanted to do, and we've done it,” Agosta said. “It's giving in a fun and creative way. Find someone with a tangible need, create an inspirational video that's shareable, and make it something that affects the people that are part of it.”

He said people who've participated in his giving mobs include every walk of life, from believers to atheists. PRAYnksters precedes its mob moments with a prayer; no one is forced toparticipate, but Agosta's hope is that they enjoyed doing good for someone else and can take something from that.

PRAYnksters holds a giving mob about every other month and generally gets help from someone on the inside of a situation — someone who knows the individual or family in need and who can help set up a time and place for the giving mob to show up. It's the element of surprise that is essential to the impact of the event.

“You want that big reaction,” Agosta said.

PRAYnksters uses as its defining scripture Philippians 4:6 — “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” — and boils it down to “Fear Nothing, Pray About Everything.”

Agosta said he isn't a particularly fearful person, but there's always been something about that scripture that spoke to him.

“In my mind,” he said, “we've already won, so we shouldn't have that stress of life,” he said, explaining Christ gained the victory for all of us through His sacrifice on the cross and freely allows everyone to partake in the victorious life through grace.

Agosta has a day job working in the marketing department for Friends of Zoo Boise. He loves that his job allows him to express care for the planet and its animal inhabitants.

“I get to help people and God's green earth,” he said.

He wants to be a filmmaker and, along with his human resources degree from Idaho State University in Pocatello, he earned a digital media certificate from Boise State. Original funding for PRAYnksters came from his video collection, which he sold on eBay. He now buys and re­sells other videos in a program he calls Games 4 God, to get continued funding, and said people also make cash donations to PRAYnksters.

Agosta is sometimes restless about the growth of PRAYnksters, which has gone through growth spurts followed by lulls. He's always raring to go.

“I'm like, 'I want this!' But I always need to ask, 'But what does God want?' I have to wait on His timing,” he said.

“We serve a fun and creative God,” said Fadel. “I think we reflect Him well when we serve others in fun and creative ways. Following Jesus is exciting, and we want people to experience that joy and fulfillment.”

Farrell Ramsey Serving others as a deputy and chaplain

Nov/Dec 2017

 


 

 



Farrell Ramsey is both a law enforcement officer and a chaplain with the Elmore County Sheriff's Office. He leads a “cop church” every Sunday at his home. (Photo by Gaye Bunderson)

By Gaye Bunderson

First responders frequently see the worst of life: car wrecks, suicides, human cruelty. It can affect them at a deep level. Farrell Ramsey is there to make sure they can cope and carry on, with both their careers and their lives. He is a source of warmth in an otherwise frequently cold profession.

Ramsey is a certified law enforcement officer and chaplain with the Elmore County Sheriff's Office. Originally born and raised in North Carolina, his father was pastor at Pleasant Valley Baptist Church in Mars Hill. Ramsey met his wife Janet there — he was 6 and she was 5.

“She's my childhood sweetheart,” he said.

Ramsey followed his father into the ministry, and in the 1990s, when residents of the Pine-Featherville area wanted to start a church in the community and needed a pastor, he took the job. He was married to Janet by then, and two of the couple's children came with them, while their oldest child remained behind in North Carolina.

Ramsey was trained in logging and tree-trimming and worked for the Forest Service as projects came up. He and Janet held church in their house on Sunday and homeschooled their two children on weekdays. The small, home-based church was called Boise River Baptist. There was a one-room schoolhouse in Pine at the time, and the teacher there attended church at the Ramsey home and helped them out with homeschooling.

Ramsey also joined the Pine volunteer EMTs, which led to his becoming a part of the area search and rescue team.

In 1997, Robbin Ellis, then the resident deputy in Pine, needed a reserve deputy and asked Ramsey if he'd fill in. Back then, it was only a part-time volunteer position, but Ramsey stepped up to help Ellis out.

In 2002, he became a full-time deputy “in the hills,” as he refers to the Pine-Featherville area, and continued to pastor the church. He eventually studied at POST, or Police Officers' Standards and Training, in Meridian; in 2007, he started working as a patrol deputy at the sheriff's office in Mountain Home, leaving the hills and taking a job in the 'city.'

“It was pretty quiet when I left up there, but it was getting really busy,” he said, attributing the increase to a heavy influx of tourists.

The church he started remained in Pine and is now known as Mountain View Community Church; Ramsey and his wife brought Boise River Ministries down to Mountain Home. Now 62, Ramsey decided to continue his dual careers in law enforcement and ministry after newly elected Elmore County Sheriff Mike Hollinshead asked him about working as a deputy sheriff-chaplain.

“The two jobs are more similar than you'd think,” Ramsey said. “I love what I do; it's the best job in the world.”

He holds a “cop church” in his Mountain Home house.

“Cops fall between the cracks in church services,” he said.

He explained there are several reasons for this, including: they work odd hours; they carry pagers that may go off during a service; and they tend to have strong personalities. All that makes Ramsey's church perfect for them.

“We can work with their weird schedules, and pagers can go off — even mine,” he said.

As for their so-called strong personalities, Ramsey has nothing but admiration for anyone in the first line of defense when danger arises.

“They're a special breed, and I love them,” he said. “They can't be thin-skinned. They're under extreme stress.”

When he is called out to any sort of crime scene, whether a DUI crash or a homicide, he is also there for crime victims; but, he said, “My first concern is for deputies. Cops are different. They can't come apart at the scene. You have to be a rock.”

He wants to help the people who have to be strong for others' sake.

“They need to deal with the stress or they're going to come apart,” he said.

Out on the street, officers may project an in-control persona, but when they speak to Ramsey in his capacity as chaplain, nothing is off the table.

“As first responders, they have to be objective and thorough, but the emotions are there. I want to be their safety valve. They have to be okay on the scene, but when they come into my office and we close that door, what is said in the office, stays in the office,” Ramsey said.

Even in smaller communities such as Mountain Home these days, heinous crimes are sometimes committed.

“There is no 'Mayberry R.F.D.' anymore,” he said.

The sheriff is fully behind Ramsey's work.

“What Farrell does is very valuable to this agency. He brings an avenue to officers that deal with stress and emotional issues. He gives them an open door that they can go in and deal with it,” Hollinshead said. “He goes to their house and talks to them and helps them start the healingprocess. It helps them deal with the emotions of our day-to-day job that we deal with, the visuals, the things we see.”

Did Ramsey originally picture himself in the role he's now been cast in?

“I'd like to say I planned this cop church,” he said, “but it just happened. It fell into my lap. I believe God designs us for what he wants us to do.”

He admits he deals with the same potential for burnout as any other person in law enforcement, despite the “chaplain” in his title. He said he copes by being a fitness buff and by living with his best friend.

“My wife is my No. 1 go-to person,” he said.

She is involved with outreach as well.

“She counsels with some of the ladies. She's instrumental in working with cops' spouses,” Ramsey said.

He asserts that, despite everything, studies still show the primary reason people choose to work in law enforcement is to help other people. In that way he's right: being a deputy and a chaplain aren't as different as you'd think.

Cowboys for Christ: Gospel in the Rodeo Arena

September/ October 2017

 


 

By Gaye Bunderson

Ridin’, ropin’ and gettin’ right with God: Cowboys for Christ has come to Idaho.

Mike Locknane, chairman of the men’s ministry at Ten Mile Community Church, said he went looking for a ministry targeted toward cowboys when his grandsons decided theywanted to participate in rodeo.

“I had two grandsons who wanted to ride bulls, and I wanted to get them involved in something,” Locknane said, explaining he wanted a faith-based organization that would fit the young men’s interests.

Locknane started looking. And looking. And looking.

“I should have dropped it because it wasn’t going anywhere,” he said.

Every faith-centered cowboy group he tried to connect with ended up getting away from him like a calf slips from a poorly thrown lasso. Still, he kept trying. For 6 to 9 months, he said, he tried to find an organization for his grandsons, one that he could openup for other cowboys as well. He felt spiritually motivated to do so, he said.

Then one day, he experienced one of those coincidences that, in the end, seems a lot more like something divine and a lot less like “just a coincidence” — he invited Pete Blockhan to church, and Blockhan showed up.

Blockhan wears a cowboy hat and boots and fits the mold of the American cowboy to a“T.” Locknane started to tell him how he wanted to start a Christian group based on rodeos and livestock. Something in Blockhan just jumped with excitement — he had personally known Ted Pressley, founder of Cowboys for Christ. Finally, Locknane found his connection.

“It’s incredible. It’s so obvious when it’s a God thing and not a me thing,” Locknane said.

A wrinkle in the plan was that Pressley had passed away. But when Blockhan contactednew Cowboys for Christ president Dave Harvey, the chute opened. A chapter of Cowboysfor Christ launched in September of 2016, with Blockhan attending the District 2 High School Rodeo in Homedale as his first ministry opportunity.

Locknane’s grandsons not only participate in Cowboys for Christ, they are listed as founders of the local chapter, along with a friend. The young men include: Dillon Green, 21; Bryan Green, 18; and Clayton Snow, 19. Rodeo cowboys to the core, they got baptized in a stock tank in a rodeo arena. When Blockhan attends rodeos — and he feels high school rodeo is his main calling —he has a display full of The Christian Ranchman newspapers, as well as Gospel tracts. Hewears a special belt and belt buckle that announce his faith in God. Locknane, who owns Locknane Accounting in Nampa, runs the business end of the organization. Costs for the nonprofit include Bible study materials and travel costs for Blockhan.

Blockhan quotes Matthew 16:15 as the guiding Scripture for what he does: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”

“I want to get God’s word out there and get people saved,” he said.

Through the main branch of Cowboys for Christ, which is headquartered in Fort Worth,Texas, he achieved status as an ordained chaplain. “It’s a regular course of study — nothing too difficult,” he said. “If I can do it, anybody can do it.”

And in fact, he wants more people to do it. He needs more rodeo enthusiasts to get ordained and help him meet needs at rodeos around the state.

“Christianity is moving through rodeo cowboys like it moved through auto racing,” Locknane said.

Membership is open to both men and women and includes anything to do with rodeo and livestock, including cutting and roping events, and 4-H and FFA chapters. Women arealso welcomed to become chaplains. Said Blockhan: “We need ladies ministering to ladies.” There’s plenty of enthusiasm for rodeo among women, who participate in such events as barrel racing and queen competitions. (In fact, there is a Women’s Professional Rodeo Association and all-female rodeos, where women compete in breakaway calf roping, tie-down calf roping, team roping, bareback riding and bull riding, in addition to the barrel races.)

Locknane tells the story of how Blockhan conquered the Riggins Rodeo.

Traditionally the first Idaho rodeo of the year, the Riggins Rodeo has a reputation for being wild and rowdy, with plenty of drinking among the fans. “Pete went up there and asked the announcer if he could pray before the rodeo,” Locknane said. The announcer said he’d have to ask the board chair, but Blockhan eventually got the go-ahead to start the state’s rowdiest rodeo with a moment of prayer.

Both men said that, as far as they know, it was the first time in the 69-year history of the rodeo that a public prayer preceded the rodeo action. Turns out, the rodeo clown was a Christian and kept pointing Pete out during the event and telling the crowd he was holding a Cowboy Church, which Pete actually does. Blockhan never expected the clownat the Riggins Rodeo to show such enthusiasm for the ministry.

“The Lord has blessed this,” he said.

Locknane and Blockhan believe people can and should be reached wherever they’re at.Though church can be a literal structure with pews and pulpits, believers — and potential believers — are all over.

“We go to church to learn to reach people,” Locknane said, pointing out that Jesus preached on hillsides and lakeshores. Everywhere a Christian goes is a place to minister, he said.

Blockhan believes with all his heart that a great revival is coming. When it does, he’ll be doing his part to tell people about Christ in the dust, danger, thrills and excitement of the rodeo grounds.

For more information, contact Mike Locknane at 208-880-5675 or locknane@hotmail.com; or Pete Blockhan at 208-391-8984 or bootheart99@yahoo.com.(Blockhan said it's all right to text him.) The national Cowboys for Christ website is at cowboysforchrist.org.

Christian Living Magazine

Email:

boisechristianliving@gmail.com

Phone: 208-703-7860