So I went out Friday with Team Hope to do our usual Friday Night Downtown St Petersburg evangelism thing.
Well, actually, I drove the Calvary Chapel St Pete Silent Drama Team down there, so they could perform at the Rock, since the gothic/satanic kids seem to like it when they do. Seems to open them up to more conversations than normal.
We got there about 8:30 or so. After each performance, Gabe would preach. Well, I was just milling around, trying to find someone to talk to. I ran into Gabby, who said that she actually had been happy during the past couple of weeks. Mind you, this has been her excuse for not "believing in God." So I reminded her that she had her part of the bargain to fulfill. She wasn't too excited about it.
Then I saw Niki (I didn't know that they were friends), and a bunch of other kids, including some girl with a weird name and another named Crystal. What surprised me about this group is that all of them seemed to think that I was cool--unlike the rest of the preachers. Huh?
I think this stems from the fact that the first time I met Gabby, I told her I just wanted to let her vent. I didn't have to preach--Gabe had done a pretty good job of that--so I just listened. But I did tell her that Gabe and I are on the same side, I agree with everything he preaches, and that Gabe is just an all around good-hearted guy and a personal friend--one who helped me out immeasurably when I moved here in November. I even reiterated some things that Gabe had said while I answered her questions that night.
Ever since then, Gabby has always drawn a distinction between me and the rest of Team Hope. She'll verbally abuse them, but she'll gently ask me to go away when she's tired of talking. And she's been telling everyone how much cooler I am than the others.
Well, I don't believe a word of it (and, no, I don't think any of the preachers read this blog, either), but I decided to take advantage of it by preaching after the next skit. That was a good idea.
I got three hecklers, but I was able to control them well. The first guy wanted to know why we keep going to the Rock when "nobody" wants us there. I simply replied that they know we come here every Friday, and they are always right here. To which he stated that they only come here because the mall doesn't allow people wearing all black to hang around. I laughed. I've never been kicked out of a mall for wearing all black. He said that that is because I don't conform (interesting choice of words, mind you) to the Gothic lifestyle. I said, "You're right, I'm a non-conformist!" And, in case some of you don't know Church history, the non-conformists were those who disagreed with the official teachings of the Church of England. Obviously, he didn't know that, because he then went on a tirade about how we were part of an organization--Christianity--to which I was indeed conforming. I asked how that could be, since there are over 30,000 different denominations (according to what some Catholic told me--I haven't verified this number, but I don't doubt it).
When we got back to the topic--why are we there all the time--he said that people make their own choices. True, I replied, but some things people should just be warned about, like wearing seat belts when driving, and life-preservers when out to sea (something that Gabe had mentioned while preaching). He said, "Yeah, but you only get a ticket for that." A light bulb went off in my head. "Well, we're God's ticket to you, telling you to repent. And if you don't pay your tickets, well, you're gonna end up in God's slammer--and you're not getting out. That's why we're here....And we're just gonna keep on giving you tickets."
It was an amazing illustration which I altered for my open-air preaching the next night (Saturday) in Ybor City. Nadia is out there by herself all the time, and she's been asking for help lately. So four of us from Team Hope (including me, Nadia, Jason, and Josh--yes, another Josh) joined two more of her friends (Sam (?) and Mia) in Ybor for a night on the party-town. We started with some conversations, and we started to move toward the "gay" club, passing out tracts as we approached. But it was closed.
Then we spread out to start praying for the entire place, just covering it in prayer. Then, I ran into Miguel, whom I handed a tract. I started to walk away, but the Lord told me to stay (I had been asking for someone to talk to), and I don't regret it. Miguel and I separated and met again three times that night. He didn't repent in from of me, but I have hope that he will, in due time.
In the meantime, covered by prayer from Nadia, I started off the preaching in front of Centro Ybor by reading loudly from the Book of John. Nadia told me later that she thought it was odd that I should do so--but then she felt the spiritual oppression just lift off. I didn't know what else to do, and that is what I usually do when I open-air. It does cut through the spiritual darkness in the area, and it makes everything else a lot easier. Even reading the parts where you think, "Boy, they are gonna make fun of this," such as a miracle or something. But God has said that His Word will never come back to Him "void, but it will accomplish that which I please, and it shall proper in the thing whereto I sent it" (Isaiah 55:11), and God is not a liar.
Then I got down and prayed for Nadia and she went up and preached. In the meantime, Josh and Jason were tag-teaming passersby, letting the curious know what was going on, and so were Sam and Mia, with Nadia joining the latter when she was waiting for me. While she was preaching, some potential hecklers came and stood close by. This is an intimidation tactic, intended by Satan to silence the preacher by engaging them in a conversation with someone who is too close to shout at. When the first one succeeded, I stepped in and lit into him as he had dodged her questions with some weird theology. But then came a second set. They, too, were successful at bring her volume down. And then the security guard for Centro Ybor told us to move to the edge of the sidewalk--because the hexagons are Centro Ybor property and we weren't allowed there.
We alternated again, Nadia bursting into tears as she tried to plead with people to listen, me flame-throwing with no compassion at all. Well, I did preach mercy and grace, but you didn't hear any tears in my voice.
Soon the crown passing us by dwindled. We let the "sweepers" as I called them, continue their conversations and we moved down the block to a more populated spot. There I once again blasted away, even singling out the dancing girl who was trying to draw people into her club with her body. I warned her that she would be held responsible for every soul that went to hell watching her instead of repenting. She simply danced in mockery, and I told her that her blood would be upon her own head.
When I came back from getting more water (the people at the Starbucks were very nice--even though I told them that I was preaching on my very first visit; and I got to hand them tracts, too), Nadia wanted to get closer to a bigger crowd, so we did. We had some positioning to do, but we got a good spot, and we prayed for each other, and blasted away for a final round. I don't know what happened with Nadia while I was preaching, but, when she was preaching, some guy named Saggius came around. I think he started to stop her from preaching, but then he realized that that was why I had my back to her with a Big Bible in my hand. So he talked to me instead.
Saggius was weird. He had fangs in his mouth, red marks drawn around his eyes, long hair (yes, that's weird--sorry Big Josh!), some satanic this and that, three rings in his bottom lip, and was wearing all black, except for the satanic decals (of course, they weren't black--you wouldn't be able to see them on his clothing!). And he had some weird doctrine, too. I don't even dare try to remember it--my brain has had enough junk to churn through in one day! Eventually, after Nadia had been down for about five minutes, I realized that he would keep me there arguing with him all night if he could. I tried once more to bring him to his senses and, upon failure, dismissed him with the wave of my hand and got back up to preach.
I hammered all night long with an alteration of the Ticket Illustration and with Jesus' words, "What shall it profit a man if he should gain the whole world and yet lose his own soul? Or what shall a man trade for his soul?" followed by the question, "Is it worth going to hell for?" I know I had three young ladies practically pinned against the wall on my right, but I didn't direct my attention to them--they were immodestly dressed, and I was preaching against looking with lust! No time to be a hypocrite!
I didn't know that Nadia was ready to go, and I had a bit more fire left in me. But then I realized that she had to drive us all the way back to the south side of St Pete, and then drive herself all the way back up to Ybor! So I called for Jason and Josh, who were behind me talking (Sam and Mia had left while I was preaching at the dancing girl), and we joined Nadia in her car.
That's when I found out that three people had gotten saved! I didn't know anything about it, but Jason and Josh had prayed with two and Nadia with another. That was so awesome! I wish we had been able to plug them into a good church, but, you know what? That's God's job. They are His children, now, so He will direct them.
Thank you, Lord, for the harvest. May it continue.