Wow, covering this entire week in one post is going to be difficult, but I can try.
I have endeavored to keep tracts on my person all week long, so that I am able to hand them out whereever I go. This has included the grocery store and one gas station and my neighbor's house thus far (excluding Team Hope, of course).
Actually, tracting so much led to my encounter with Latifah on Tuesday. I was tracting some cars after leaving the grocery store and was walking back to my car, when I saw a woman leaving the house and (what I thought to be a man but actually was) a woman sitting on the porch. I thought, Well, the woman is leaving too quickly, so I'll just get her husband.
Well, the Lord must have been telling the first woman to wait for me, because she kept looking back at me and hesitating to get into her car. Finally, as I came up the driveway, she turned, and I gave her the tract instead. She said, "Hold on," and ducked into the car. I thought for sure that she was leaving and that I had misheard her. But, no, she came back out and we talked for almost two hours.
She has been reading through the Bible, especially John's Gospel and the Book of Revelation, and was asking God to explain things to her. To her amazement, lately, God has been almost audibly whispering to her the truths of His Word as she has been reading. She, in fact, had asked Him for a sign of some sort, and she said that I was it. Wow! What obedience does!
She talked to me about the Ten Commandments and how she had broken most of them (she thinks that she may be not guilty on two of them, but I forget which two). However, she did show that she is still trapped by idolatry: she expressed anger that a Baptist preacher said that Hindu gods were all false. She said that Hindu, Muslim, and Christian dieties are all the same. Wrong.
She actually didn't let me speak much, but that was okay. I did get to pray for her (twice), and she has invited me back for more. I am inclined to take someone with me, because she has shown a weakness for younger men (Romeo is about 12 years younger than she, though about 10 years older than I). I will let the Lord lead, but I don't want to return to her place without some accountability, an alibi, and some back-up.
Next, I played street hockey (on foot--not roller hockey) with some unsaved guys that my missions pastor and a couple other guys from my church play with on Wednesdays. I passed a couple of tracts to one of them after I was finished, and I stopped another guy driving past me on my way out and gave him one, too. I need to take advantage of the goalie time outs to talk to some of them about eternal matters. I think Art has been doing that, and I know that it is time for me to step up to the plate.
Thursday, after I got back from the church following a meeting, I decided that I hadn't been talking enough to Bill, so I went over to his place to see him, since he has given me an open invitation, much like Latifah's after him. But he wasn't there. I found out that he has recently been taking his paycheck and drinking it up. Spring makes enough money to carry the household, so he doesn't really do anything but pay child support with his earnings and drink and party (sometimes with her) on what's left. Spring was fuming with a few friends, a couple of whom left shortly after I arrived (not because I gave the woman a tract or started talking about the Bible within three minutes of my arrival, but because they had work in the morning). So I sat down and listened and talked to her and Rick (Bill's mechanic) for about a half hour or so.
Boy, the consequences of sin catch up with you. Spring never married her children's father, and, eventually, he was so abusive she left him. Then, instead of being godly and holding out on Bill until he showed real love (no, she's not a Christian, but this is what happened), she committed fornication with him for a couple of years and then, at her mother's insistence (I do believe that her mother is saved), she married him. Even though he is paying child-support. Now he is abandoning her because he's bummed out about possibly going to prison for driving while suspended multiple times. He could go for as long as ten years, and it is eating him up. I keep telling him that if he this worried about man's prison, then he should be even more worried about God's, but he has yet to heed that advice.
I told Spring that listening to God wouldn't necessarily make anything easier, but God guarantees eternal life and His own presence in all things. She said that it is easier to continue one's wordly ways rather than obeying God (her words, not mine), but conceded that she's been doing that all along and it has done nothing for her. I pray that God will use this to get her to stop being so non-chalant about righteousness.
And Friday, I went out with Team Hope and got to lead another team again. I don't enjoy this capacity, because it means that I can't go to the Rock, which is where I have made some friends, but it does enable me to hand out more tracts, which is my strong suit. In fact, I ran out of tracts before we reached our destination. I thank God that another team, Isaac's team, came over to help us, because we were all running out, there were so many people.
There is this festival called "Taste of Pinellas," which is just what it sounds like--food, food, everywhere. We were on the outside of it, which was where we belonged, as I found out later by reading the sign prohibiting tracting inside (not specifically, but inclusively), but we had a lot of traffic. I don't think being inside would have gotten us anything better, except maybe a couple of conversations, but we still had some good ones.
I talked to Travis for a short bit before the pressure from his group to leave got to him. I did get to present the Gospel to him, which he said he understood and had partaken of. I told him that the only reason I stopped him was that so many people think that they are in when they are out (Matthew 7:21-23), and he thanked me and departed. Nickel talked to one woman for almost 20 minutes (or 30 but I wasn't keeping too much track: we weren't going anywhere). The woman was obviously homeless and wasn't very coherent, which caused one passerby to snicker, "Sucker!" about Nickel's efforts to minister to her. I wanted to rebuke that woman, but Nickel didn't seem to notice, so I didn't worry about it.
Fred talked to a former Catholic guy, who rather frankly confessed Catholicism to be "user-friendly." Interesting choice of words. I'm glad he said it and not I or Fred. Fred, however, spent so much time pushing meaningless doctrine that I think he left the guy more confused than helped. The guy asked a straight-up question: "I used to walk with the Lord and now I don't: am I saved?"
The answer is, "No, you never were," but Fred spent so much time trying to explain Calvin's perspective as Scripture, that I don't think he ever answered the question. He told me later that he was trying to explain grace to the guy, but he sounded to me like I used to sound before I learned how to use the Law. The Law makes everything simple: "Christ died for sinners, of whom I am chief." "For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God." I don't think that you can preach a clearer message of grace than that, but Fred sure tried. I didn't get the other guy's name, and his girlfriend wanted no part of any of us, but do pray for them, and also for Fred, because he needs to return to the simplicity that is the Gospel before he becomes a flat-out heretic.
Also, Ray talked to a homeless guy who was far more concerned with his plans for building an earthly empire than with pleasing God. Ray was frustrated by it, especially when I walked away to pass out tracts to passersby (because there was no traffic passing me with two conversations taking place around me). He said later that he wished that I had stayed closer by to keep the conversation in check, but there was nothing more I could have done than Ray did: try to make the man see that eternity is far more important than this life and let him make his own decision.
Not everyone totally ran out of tracts, but most were rather low when we returned to the buses. As much as I would rather have been at the Rock, I can't complain about the results. God always knows better than I, and, if He ever feels that the numbers at Team Hope should so drop that I have another opportunity to return to the Rock, then so be it. That being the other option, I don't think too highly of it.
Thanks for your prayers.