Racetrack Chaplaincy

The backside of a hose racing track is a community to themselves. People who work, and often live on the backside itself. Their work schedules don’t allow them to go to church, so many tracks have brought Chaplaincy and faith to them! Ministering for over 50 years, the results have been amazing!

Taking Christ into the Hardest Places

Joseph Del Rosario: Heavenly Father, thank you for this day and for the blessings that we have in Christ. Lord, I want to lift up to you the backside of Churchill, that you would draw people onto yourself to know that you are the ultimate prize. That there is no better place to stand than in the winner circle of heaven. Not because of our own merit or the good things that we've done, but because Christ has run the race for us. So the Lord, may your Holy Spirit go forth and open eyes and may you bless this day. I pray this in Jesus' name. Amen.

Elliot Walden: The backside's a very demanding place. You get up at five in the morning, you work until sundown. You've got your horses you take care of, they become your gods.

Joseph Del Rosario: The population is dense. They're all packed into a small area and everybody knows each other.

Pat Day: They're not able to get off the track and to go to a church of their choice given their scheduling, given the fact that many of the people that we're ministering to don't have transportation.

Elliot Walden: And that's what the chaplaincy vision is, to bring Jesus and God to the racetrack.

Pat Day: The racetrack chaplaincy started 50 some years ago actually. There was an individual, his name was Salty Roberts. He realized that it's seven days a week that they they couldn't get off the track and to go to a church of their choice. And so he had a real burden on his heart for those people. Salty's vision then and was until the day the Lord called him home was that there would be a chaplain ministering to the people that make up the great sport of horse racing all over the world.

Be a Friend to Those in Need

Joseph Del Rosario: One of the ways that we like to put it is that we like to be a friend to them, try to be a friend to them, making sure that the horsemen know that there's somebody they could always come talk to. Come see that there's someone here for them. We call it a ministry of presence.

Dan Waits: Christ said to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself, and we try to live that out. Our mission is pretty simple: to be able to take the gospel to the horse racing industry. We're the ambassadors for Christ to the horse racing industry.

Pat Day: Well, obviously hearts are being won and lives are being changed. People are being set free from the bondage of drugs and alcohol. The backside of Churchill Downs and any racetrack has all the problems that are prevalent in society. It's kind of a cross-section of society. You have the very, very wealthy and the very, very poor and all the problems that society experiences we have back there.

Dan Waits: And I think that the great thing about it is I've seen a lot of life change. I became a pastor to see that life change, to see those lives change, to see new creations in Christ. And we see that all the time in the racetrack chaplaincy. You can't help but be impacted when you see somebody getting baptized in a horse trough and then they become a new creation or they understand the gospel for the first time.

Employee: Just to be honest with you, when I come here, I feel like family.

Employee: I love this church because it's small. I was raised in a small church, so it's my place where I can come and I can know everybody's name.

Pat Day: Souls are being saved, lives are being changed. I think that the secular world could look in and see that God's moving.

Employee: I've been in and out of the drug scene now causing, and it means the world I mean it really means the world to me.

Chaplaincy Makes an Impact

Dan Waits: So right now we have about 36 senior chaplains across the country covering by 49 different facilities, both in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico. We also have some international chaplains that we support.

Pat Day: And what we've discovered over the years is that the demographics of our workforce have changed dramatically over the last 30 years. That level of worker used to be black. Today it's Hispanic and Spanish-speaking. So all of our chaplains are bilingual.

Joseph Del Rosario: Anything that we do, we want to do it to the glory of God. And that in itself is fulfilling because that is the purpose of every single person to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.

Pat Day: Where the chaplain is in place doing the work the Lord has called him to do, bringing hope through the cross of Christ endeavoring to meet some of the physical and material needs, being a visible presence on the backside, cultivating relationships, and ultimately sharing the gospel message with them. All of those negatives are significantly less.

Dan Waits: We know that we're going to, that a chaplain's presence on the racetrack is going to exponentially make the environment better. The horse racing industry looks upon us as a very valuable resource and asset to them.

Pat Day: When we raise up the quality of the life of the worker by meeting some of their needs, by sharing a gospel message with them, by being there to listen and to hear, and to help and to assist, it raises up the quality of that workforce. And subsequently, it raises up the quality of the product.

Dan Waits: We all know the mission. We all know exactly what our calling is, and we try to complete it each and every day.

Elliot Walden: We're in a climate in America and around the world where it's not in favor to be a Christian anymore. And that's sad, but it's also an opportunity. And I think that there's a spiritual awakening happening.

Pat Day: It's an exciting time. I think it's an exciting time to be a Christian. I know times are turbulent, times are difficult, but I believe there's no greater time in the history of mankind to be alive, to know and love and trust in the Lord, and to be a tool in the hand of the Lord as he goes about bringing in the harvest. Yes, one day we will die and yes, one day we will go to heaven. But the Lord has things for us to do in between and it's in doing what the Lord would have us to do that we really experience the joy of the Lord. I had heard a song one time that it simply said, "Don't tell them Jesus loves them till you're ready to love them yourself." And that's what our chaplains and the chaplain see is all about. Loving the people right where they're at with the love of the Lord.

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