Saturday, 21 July 2018

C Columns

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.”

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