Super Bowl assignment follows Gen-Xer's surrender to God
For sure he'll be meeting all the NFL team owners.
That's his job.
Ruptak started in early October working 30 hours a week as an intern under the VIP hospitality program supervised by the Super Bowl '98 Host Committee's business manager.
Tapped by the Southern Baptist Convention's North American Mission Board for the assignment, the rest of Ruptak's time will be spent as a missions volunteer helping coordinate Super Bowl evangelistic events through San Diego-area churches.
Ruptak got his job by taking the initiative to become an effective witness for Christ, said Adrian Hall, Northwest Baptist Convention evangelism strategist.
One of the youngest consistent participants in NAMB's national schools of evangelism, Ruptak caught the attention this year of Tim Knopps, who works as a volunteer in NAMB's evangelism events unit. One of Knopps' responsibilities is finding Southern Baptists to work as volunteers for big sporting events such as the Super Bowl.
The Super Bowl Organizing Committee recognizes Southern Baptists send people of the highest caliber who can do their assignment, are morally qualified and aren't going to embarrass the Super Bowl with their lifestyle, Hall said, noting Ruptak was in the right place at the right time in his life.
But Ruptak acknowledged that hasn't always been the case.
He started drinking while a freshman in high school; smoking soon followed. "Sex and drugs are about the only things I haven't done," Ruptak said in an interview after a post-church brunch at Hall Boulevard Baptist Church, Tigard, Ore., where his father, Mike, is pastor.
What he has done includes being convicted of grand theft auto at the age of 12. He and a friend towed a junked riding lawn mower home from what they thought was a city dump. It turned out to be a man's yard. He objected to what he said was a theft of his vehicle. The penalty: a $30 fine and 100 hours of community service.
As to his teen drinking, "I took the first drink to go along with the crowd, seeing what it would be like," Ruptak acknowledged.
"After that, I remembered how much fun it had been. I'd gotten horribly sick, but you forget about how bad you felt when you get to talking about how much fun you had."
Then, he said, drinking "lost its pizazz, it lost its glamour. I was building up a tolerance for it and that scared me, so I stopped."
Nowadays, however, he said his friends "keep remembering me how I was, a blundering idiot, and that hurts me because I see what I did wasn't helping my relationship with them."
Three NAMB schools of evangelism have nurtured Ruptak's witness.
He led his first person to the Lord when he was 8 years old; he's led 18 in the years since his father has been pastor at Hall Boulevard. But he credits a change in his heart with the Super Bowl assignment.
"I sat down to witness to one kid (at a block party in Portland) who was just like I was in high school -- theater, wrestling, everything was just the same," Ruptak said, except: "He seemed to have a genuine faith."
Moved by the youth's faith, Ruptak said he "prayed and prayed and walked around, and it just triggered, 'God's glory, God's true glory.'
"My job is not to witness, my job is not to be there for people, but for God," Ruptak reflected. "My job is to keep my relationship with God intimate."
Within minutes of that revelation, Knopps came up to Ruptak to ask if he would be interested in the Super Bowl volunteer missions assignment.
"I thought I'd be running errands, making copies, that type of thing," Ruptak said. "Finally I told Tim I'd do it, and then I got this fax that completely floored me. ... that the duties would include hosting NFL owners."
As a high school sophomore attending his first national school of evangelism, he recounted that he gave control of his life to God, sort of.
"Being in that atmosphere, I felt whole and happy and at peace," Ruptak said. "It made me feel warm. I asked God to take over and do with me as he wanted. However, I fought with him every step of the way."
In high school he was a varsity wrestler and received the best actor award his junior year for his role as the king of thieves in "Aladdin." He also drank and smoked with his friends, and lied about it to his parents. At the same time, he was active in his youth group at church, often attending soul-winning events with his father, who is Interstate (Oregon) Baptist Association's evangelism director.
"I got tired of living two different lives and for seven months I had the biggest fight ever with God," Ruptak said. "I totally lived the life I wanted to. I was mad all the time, depressed, and finally I realized it was better giving in to God than fighting him."
Not long after, he attended a Promise Keepers rally at the Kingdome in Seattle as one of 40 men from Hall Boulevard church and the Filipino church that also uses its building.
"We were all broken," Ruptak said. "Guys in tears, holding onto each other, telling God, 'Fine, I give up. Do with me as you want.' Now I'm at peace. I'm filled up and happy.
"It's hard to explain what God has done," Ruptak continued. "A lot of the world is the same around me, but it feels different now."
Not knowing what direction his life will take after the Super Bowl nor how he'll provide for his personal expenses while in San Diego as a volunteer doesn't pose great concern to Ruptak, who said his life and everything in it is under God's control.