Not just business as usual

Anthony and Missy McElroy relocated to East Texas and wanted to make an impact for youth. With help from New Beginnings Baptist Church, the inaugural IMPACT in July 2023 saw more than 75 students make decisions to follow Christ. SUBMITTED PHOTOS
Entrepreneurial couple’s new beginning in East Texas paves way for massive evangelistic event

The pandemic propelled Anthony and Missy McElroy to change states—and focus—as they found ways to use their business skills to win teens to Christ with the help of New Beginnings Baptist Church.

Anthony, formerly an account manager in recruiting, and his wife, Missy, owner of an events company involved in the Nashville music industry, found an unexpected opportunity during COVID. With Anthony working remotely and the performances upon which Missy’s business depended shut down, the couple decided to relocate from Tennessee to East Texas, where they would be closer to Missy’s family.

The McElroys, with their two young sons, settled in Missy’s hometown of Hallsville, near Longview, in July 2020. 

“It’s good to have roots back home,” Missy said. Even so, it wasn’t fun “church hopping” with young children. Eventually they began to hear about a nearby church, New Beginnings.

“We heard about miraculous things the Lord was doing at New Beginnings and visited,” Anthony said. “The sermon was fantastic.” 

People they barely knew invited them to lunch. “If people are reaching out to the community like they are to us, this is the place we want to be,” Anthony recalled thinking.

They soon joined New Beginnings. Other changes followed. Anthony accepted a job with a national insurance company, while Missy began exploring ways to resume creating events.

“With my music industry background, I was itching to do something. But we couldn’t do a lot. It was the middle of COVID,” she said.

After talking to city and county officials in their area, Missy approached the Rhett Walker Band to do an outdoor Christmas concert in Hallsville produced by Stories and Songs, the limited liability corporation the McElroys founded after arriving in East Texas. With some corporate assistance, the event was a success, encouraging the community in a time of uncertainty.

Stories and Songs continued to produce regional concerts and benefits, but the McElroys longed to do more by creating events geared toward helping kids in the community. They wanted to make an impact, and in 2023 the IMPACT event—an evangelistic outreach to teens—was born.

At IMPACT, New Beginnings Lead Pastor Todd Kaunitz interviewed Dan Orlovsky, the ESPN NFL analyst who prayed live on national television for the recovery of Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin last year.

Dreaming big

The McElroys found the featured speaker for the first IMPACT event when ESPN’s Dan Orlovsky prayed live on national television, interceding for Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin, on Jan. 3, 2023. The previous evening, during a Monday Night Football NFL game, Hamlin suffered a major on-field cardiac event and collapsed.

“He could have lost his job,” Anthony said of Orlovsky. “The circumstances gave Orlovsky an opportunity he took. What a lesson to be learned.”

Anthony attempted to contact Orlovsky, finally sending a general email to the sportscaster’s agency. Within a week, the agent responded and Orlovsky agreed to come to Longview.

“The evidence where God showed Himself through this process is undeniable,” Anthony said.

“I dream big. Anthony keeps me realistic,” Missy said, “In this instance, the roles felt reversed. I wondered how we were going to get this guy [Orlovsky], but if you feel like the Lord is calling you, who are we not to try?”

Not only did Orlovsky agree immediately to come, but sponsors fell into place as 14 of 15 approached said yes, easing the financial burden Stories and Songs had assumed from the start. New Beginnings offered use of its staff, volunteers, and worship center.

Anthony followed the advice of his dad, who suggested contacting local football coaches to help determine the date of the free event, settling on July 26, 2023. With publicity help from the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and coaches, area teams committed to come. Soon, all spots were filled. 

“It was yes after yes,” Anthony recalled. Thirteen schools agreed to bring football teams—around 750-800 kids and coaches.

Teams from Longview, Lindale, Carthage, Marshall, and other towns arrived in buses and received boxed meals and drinks provided by local restaurants. One coach called the return trip the “best bus ride” his team had ever had, noting that some players became believers that evening.

“He could have lost his job. The circumstances gave Orlovsky an opportunity he took. What a lesson to be learned.”

The main event began with regional sportscasters Harlen the Sports Guy and Pigskin Bob from KKYX’s Friday Night Scoreboard doing a routine and emceeing a game of “Football Jeopardy,” pitting three coaches against one another. These coaches were then honored with an IMPACT award for their contributions.

New Beginnings Lead Pastor Todd Kaunitz conducted an onstage interview with Orlovsky, who gave his testimony.

“Making Jesus the center of my life made me so much less aware of worrying about what other people thought about me and so much more aware of what Jesus thought of me,” the NFL analyst said.

Kaunitz followed with a presentation of the gospel. Ten percent of the athletes stood to indicate they had responded in faith.

“Seats hitting the seatbacks [as the athletes stood] … sounded like a helicopter over us. It was a sound I will never forget,” Anthony said.

Encouragers from the church were available to counsel kids and a 50-person team prayed throughout the evening in a separate area. Follow-up has occurred with the coaches and local churches, including New Beginnings.

Members of the 2023 4A Division 2 state champion Gilmer Buckeyes football team pose with coach Alan Metzel and Orlovsky at IMPACT.

“It was amazing to see this family leverage their influence, gifts, and resources to bring students to Jesus.”

“Without New Beginnings, this doesn’t happen,” Anthony said. “The sponsors, the volunteers, the Lord. The infrastructure of the event is relatively simple. I felt even in January that it was already going to happen, and we just needed to be part of it. I felt like God asked for my attendance.”

The McElroys hope to expand the outreach, with Orlovsky speaking at future IMPACT events across the state and even nationwide. 

“The McElroys’ vision for IMPACT was a huge blessing to New Beginnings and Northeast Texas,” Kaunitz said. “It was amazing to see this family leverage their influence, gifts, and resources to bring students to Jesus. … I am convinced that the next big movement of God in our country is going to be through people like the McElroys, who recognize their calling and use their skill sets in practical ways for evangelism.”

For more information, email the McElroys at StoriesandSongsEvents@gmail.com.

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