Photo story by Jon Durr; story by Scott Serio
When Chris Wong was struggling to find a direction in his own life, it was through religion he found a purpose. Now a third-year seminarian at Louisville’s Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wong is bringing the gospel to backside workers at Churchill Downs as an assistant to Rev. Ken Boehm and the Kentucky Racetrack Chaplaincy.
After looking for a little bit of salvation in his own life, Wong now considers the opportunity in front of him at Churchill to be part of a higher plan.
“The beauty, strength and poise of the horse really connects me to the workers,” said Wong, “The very fact that God created these creatures brings me at awe at God’s amazing artistry and design.”
Home to more than 900 workers and 27 nations, the backside at Churchill has many residents whose native language is not English. Wong’s fluency in Spanish makes him a valuable asset for Rev. Boehm in the chaplaincy’s mission to minister to and assist backside workers.
EXPANDING THE OUTREACH
The racetrack chaplaincy is a direct lifeline for many of those who care for horses as a living. Whether it is simple services of faith, a wedding, a funeral, a new mattress a hotwalker can’t afford or an emergency flight home to South America to care for an ailing relative, Rev. Boehm’s ministry has been there to help.
With the arrival of Wong, the outreach has been extended even further.
It might seem the Miami-native would be out of place in Louisville, but it is a journey Wong freely chose. When he deciding on a seminary, Wong says chose Southern Baptist because he felt it would best prepare him for his future as a minister. That decision and a little bit of chance led him to Churchill Downs and Rev. Boehm.
“While learning about this job, I thought, ‘Wow this fits me as a person and what I like to do,’ ” said Wong, “I’m still getting my feet wet and learning the ropes. I am just working toward helping build up this ministry.”