FIRST-PERSON: 2 pastors prove recreation can lead people to Christ

YOSEMITE, Calif. (BP)--For some time now I have had a hard time believing that giving one's life completely to God will result in total happiness here on earth. However, God continues to show me that one can actually serve him and be completely happy at the same time.

Individuals like Evan Lauer and Steve Hughes have proven to me that the only road to true happiness is a sincere personal relationship with Jesus Christ. These two men have lived their dreams to the fullest and have been able to lead many to Christ in the process.

Lauer is pastor of Coastlands Church in San Diego, Calif. He looks like anyone else on the boardwalk. He doesn't own a suit and he can usually be seen sporting a bicep tattoo that represents his faith. This allows Lauer to connect with the people he encounters in San Diego without scaring them off.

While he handles all of the usual pastoral responsibilities, Lauer also heads up a surfing ministry at Pacific Beach, an Oceanside suburb of San Diego. This surfing ministry allows surfers from the church to associate with everyday surfer dudes. Surfing helps provide a common ground on which relationships can be built. Once this relationship is established, spiritual conversions are more likely to occur. Many people have been led to Christ through this unique ministry, and I suspect that many more will follow. Lauer has always had a special connection with surfing and with the ocean, and God has allowed him to live his dream on the beach as a servant for Christ.

Hughes is the North American Mission Board's missionary in Yosemite National Park. In the park, Hughes leads worship services at a chapel and organizes outreach for the other employees that work in the park.

Aside from being the pastor of a church, Hughes heads up 52/7 Ministries, an outdoor adventure program that incorporates hiking, backpacking and climbing into an evangelism training course for youth groups and seminary students. Hughes has always enjoyed the outdoors, and he continues to go on backpacking/climbing trips with his two sons today. Apart from being able to work with the sports he loves, Hughes has been placed by God in one of the most beautiful places in the world, Yosemite National Park.

The beauty of Yosemite is breathtaking, with mountainous peaks and towering waterfalls everywhere the eye can see. Hughes is the one and only pastor in this haven -- just one of many examples of God's calling on Hughes' life.

After working with these two men, there is not a doubt in my mind that God will truly give his followers the desires of their hearts. Both Lauer and Hughes live and work in places that they could only wish for had it not been for the God of the universe. Using these two lives as examples, I have learned that following God is the only path to true happiness.


David Hicks, one of 12 teens in the TruthQuest: California initiative of Baptist Press, FamilyNet and LifeWay, is a 2002 graduate of Cleveland High School in Cleveland, Tenn., and a member of First Baptist Church there where he sings in the youth praise band, youth choir, and has participated in numerous mission trips. At school, Hicks was a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. (BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: AT YOSEMITE.

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