NASCAR, Prayer and The Other 'Man in Black'
Worship Leader Richard Andrew Ministers In and Out of the Pit
May 3, 2012 - It might sound like a massive pile-up, but there is a sweet point where NASCAR, the National Day of Prayer, the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team, and a singer/songwriter who emerged from prison with worship on his heart all intersect. Richard Andrew is the man directing traffic ... and his story is incredible.
I was a runaway, a high school dropout, a homeless person, a drug addict, a drug dealer, a teenage father and finally, a convicted felon.
by Janet Chismar
When they step away from the roar of the engines, the hairpin turns and the adrenaline-fueled competition, you might be surprised at how NASCAR drivers spend their spare time.
Some—like Blake Koch, Trevor Bayne, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Josh Wise and Mike McDowell—pitch in to help those less fortunate—like they did on April 14 in tornado-ravaged Texas.
The five drivers joined Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplains, Samaritan’s Purse volunteers and NASCAR pit crew volunteers in ministering to residents of Arlington, Texas, whose homes and property were damaged by multiple twisters days earlier.
After cutting down trees and hauling away wood, the men attended to the spiritual needs of one 83-year old who accepted Christ as his Savior that afternoon. Each driver signed a Billy Graham Training Center Bible and covered the emotional man in prayer.
"The most gratifying thing I took from it was the homeowner who accepted Christ into his life," driver Michael McDowell told BGEA in April. "I think it's very clear in these situations that God intends to use everything for good and draw people to Him in the process."
McDowell’s faith shines not only on the track and through community outreach efforts, his very car has displayed his commitment to Christ. In 2011, his #55 Toyota Camry featured the National Day of Prayer logo on its hood at the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Richmond International Raceway.
And Furniture Row Racing’s Regan Smith will be driving the #78 National Day of Prayer car at Talladega Superspeedway this coming weekend.
“The Furniture Row racing team has been great in sponsoring a National Day of Prayer car since 2006,” said chairperson Shirley Dobson in a recent interview. “We are grateful to the owner, Barney Visser, his fantastic team and his driver Regan Smith. We hope to continue that relationship through the years.”
“Prayer is always a focus in the drivers’ chapel services, said Richard Andrew, who leads worship for NASCAR in conjunction with the ministry Motor Racing Outreach. “And MRO chaplains will do the opening prayer for each of this weekend's races.”
In & Out of the Pit
Worship and prayer. Prayer and worship. Twin foundations for men who risk death each time they pull onto the track—and Andrew would know. The singer/songwriter who was named the 2010 CMA (Christian Music Awards) Independent Artist of the Year spends a lot of time in and out of the pit stop with NASCAR drivers.
In fact, Andrew teamed up with Koch, Bayne, Stenhouse, Wise and McDowell—and RRT chaplains Ginger and Dennis Sanders—during the Texas tornado outreach.
Sharing his memories of that experience, Andrew said, “My first interaction with the teams from the Rapid Response Team and Samaritan’s Purse was at home base. As they shared why they were there, I could see how kind and generous they were. The volunteers have an obvious passion to help people in need. They walk with people in their darkest hour. They truly are the hands and feet of Jesus.”
When he was working alongside Ginger and Denny Sanders, Andrew met 83-year-old Jay, the man the RRT chaplains had been encouraging for several days.
“On Saturday, when we gave him a Bible with handwritten notes from the volunteers, the RRT chaplains and all the NASCAR drivers, Jay broke down and cried and received Jesus into his life right then.
“Ginger and Denny are so compassionate," Andrew added. “You can just see the love of Jesus in them."
The Other Man in Black
The love of Jesus is one of Andrew’s favorite topics: “It’s at the heart of my story,” he explained.
And what a story it is. In late 1993, Andrew was far from NASCAR and even farther from the Lord as he paced the floor in the chapel of a California State Prison (CMC)—the road to which seemed to be scripted by a Hollywood screenwriter.
“I was a runaway, a high school dropout, a homeless person, a drug addict, a drug dealer, a teenage father and finally, a convicted felon,” said Andrew. “Inside prison walls, I fit right in.”
Not looking to find God, Andrew nonetheless read greeting cards that an unknown Christian sent him over the course of two years—and something sunk in.
When he walked into the prison chapel in 1993, his heart was ready. “They were worshiping God, so I just closed my eyes,” Andrew recalled. “I could see the faces of my two daughters and began to evaluate my own life.”
Within moments, Andrew was weeping. Even stranger, he found his feet taking him forward when a preacher invited those present to accept Christ as their Savior.
After his release in January of 1994, Andrew immersed himself in praying and reading God's word daily. He played the bass guitar as a teen and had strummed a guitar occasionally over the years, so he offered what little he knew on this instrument to the service of his new church.
With a handful of guitar chords and a passion for worship, Andrew joined his church's worship team. The next thing you know, he was asked to sing. Reluctantly agreeing, he sang his way through a worship service for the very first time
Andrew has been singing ever since.
Now an accomplished independent artist, he has taken his live ministry to the main stages of both Spirit West Coast music festivals in 2009, working with artists like Third Day, Barlow Girl, Toby Mac, MercyMe and Kutless. He also shared the Stand & Be Counted Festival stage with Big Daddy Weave, Aaron Shust and KJ52; and co-headlined the I AM LOVE 360 Music Festival with Seventh Day Slumber and Todd Agnew.
And although Andrew now leads worship for Motor Racing Outreach and at The Rivers Edge Church in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., he is also a powerful speaker. Visitors to his website have commented that Andrew’s testimony is compelling and thought-provoking: He “effectively prepares the soil of people's hearts, thus opening the door for the Gospel.”
With the heart of an evangelist, Andrew always extends an altar call after each engagement—which have been filled with people from all walks of life—not just ex-cons or people who have battled addiction.
“At the heart of my story is God's love,” Andrew repeated. “And everybody wants to be loved.”
Learn more about Richard Andrew and sample his music at richardandrewmusic.org.
Be the Hands and Feet of Christ
As the Rapid Response Team ministers in places like Texas and Japan, we need partners like you to support our work. Please give today to help hurting people at home and around the world through any of the BGEA ministries.