Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Evangecamp #1--Buffalo/Niagara (Part 1--Wednesday)

So the day begins with me trying to finish what last minute things I have to do before abandoning my apartment and vehicle for the weekend. I have to clean out my car, get a nail-clipper, and finish packing my clothes.

So I clean out my car with no problem. Finished doing my laundry and packing my clothes. I need to get a nail-clipper, so I'm off to Walgreen's for a quick look at the cosmetic section. The section I dread.

I don't see what I'm looking for right away, and, being nervous in that section of the store, especially in my "Jesus for Jews" polo shirt, I quickly skirt the section and go elsewhere. I then see a sale: "3 for $3!" It's apricots, raisins, and...prunes. Well, as long as I go easy on the prunes...

So I go to purchase the items, and a man behind me comments on my shirt. We start talking after I pay up, and I go out and trade some tracts with him, and get his contact info. His name is Mario, and he seems sound. I'm going to give his tracts a read before I start trying to talk to him about getting some more. But I was blessed by the interaction. I thought that that was the only reason for the venture into Walgreen's. But, if you keep reading, you'll find out otherwise.

So then Jason was a bit late picking me up, but I wasn't fully ready, either. Oh well. We had a sweet ride down to Sarasota, the place where priceline had gotten me a cheaper flight. We did get lost, but the Lord corrected all that. And we weren't really lost--that road, as we found out later, would have lead us right back to the same place. I certainly did not regret asking him to do this.

I do think my shirt got some stares, but only one person in the airport said anything to me about it: "Is it Jews for Jesus or Jesus for Jews?" It's both: Jews for Jesus designed this shirt so that people in New York who are accustomed to their presence would be forced to look twice. I didn't take any tracts with me, because nothing I had was good for the Niagara Falls area (no beaches there), and I was relying on the shirt to do the job for me, unless I was able to engage in conversation. Otherwise, my shirt was the moving tract--that people couldn't throw away.

I sat down in the gate area and was able to witness to the older man that I was seated near. He was congenial, and, though Catholic, he wasn't offended by anything I said. Then his plane departed to Washington, D.C., and I waited for the next one, going to Charlotte, N.C., my second leg of this three leg trip (one by car, two by air).

And who should sit next to me but Darius Songaila. Yeah, the Washington Wizards' forward. I didn't recognize him, because I don't watch basketball much anymore, but we had a good conversation. He had his family with him, but I didn't witness to him when his wife was sitting there, because I was trying to build into the transition. But then his wife went to the restroom, and I waited for her to return, instead of taking him on alone. I wanted both of them to hear the Good News. But then he was on the phone when his wife returned and she got on the phone, too, and someone else was sitting by me. I turned to talk to her while they were on the phone, gave her the Good Person Test, which she failed (obviously), and then tried to reason with her to humble herself before it was too late. By the time I finished talking to her, it was time to board the plane, and I wasn't able to talk to Darius and his wife anymore.

Now, perhaps they saw the back of my shirt when I went to the restroom earlier. But that was a flat-out failure of a golden opportunity. He has family in Lithuania--who knows how far that Gospel presentation would have reached! But I will have no hand in any of that glory, if it happens. Because I turned down the opportunity, trying to line things up my own way. More pride. Stupid me.

I made sure not to miss the opportunity to talk to Laura. We were actually sitting right behind the lady I had just talked to. I only found this out when she turned around to ask if I was giving Laura "the test." But it didn't stop Laura from finishing the test. I don't know if she had had something to drink or what, but she was laughing all the way through, even as the guilt began to sink in.

Now, early in the conversation, she asked me, "Did you talk to my mom or something?"

Wow! How would you like to know that God is using you to answer someone's prayers? Makes me wonder who was praying for Darius. Christian, whenever someone crosses your path and the Holy Spirit is telling you strongly that you need to speak up now, remember that someone else is praying for you to witness to this beloved friend or relative of theirs. Man, that is so convicting. I know that God forgives, but I don't ever want to do that again.

There was also a young lady behind us who was listening when the conversation began. I don't know if she got to hear the Gospel presentation, but I know that she definitely heard the Law and definitely saw my shirt. Her name is Katie. Pray for her, too.

Laura had some great questions during the flight (during which Katie was listening to her iPod). I answered the ones I could, but I always pointed her back to her own repentance. Amazing how people open up to total strangers once their consciences start working: she told me about how her marriage had just been destroyed, but not with infidelity. I told her what Jesus said about that in Matthew 19. She mused that it seemed that the pressure had come off after the divorce was finalized, such that she and her husband still lived together. (Yeah, blew my mind, too.) I had to pray about that one.

The answer the Lord gave me to give to her was this: the devil hates marriage with a passion because it is supposed to be a picture of Christ's relationship with the Church. Therefore, the reason the pressure was off was that the devil had just succeeded in destroying their vision of what God wants, leaving a bad taste in their mouths for obedience to God. She was floored by that explanation, but it really made sense to her. Made sense to me, too.

So I left her in those thoughts as we disembarked from the plane.

As I walked over to my next gate in Charlotte, I saw these extremely expensive ink pens. I mean like $500 and up expensive. I would never pay so much for suit (yeah, I know), much less an ink pen--that sits around as a trophy!!! Good grief! But I could witness to the lady behind the counter. And I did. I told her that I only really wanted to talk to her about that, and that I had simply used the ink pens as a way to start the conversation. I told her I just felt it was too important to let her go to Hell. I hope she appreciated that. I guess I'll find out in Heaven.

At the Quizno's nearby, I endeavored to purchase some grub while talking to Henry. I say, "endeavored," because my debit card rejected the transaction, saying that I had insufficient funds. How? I had just checked and had a little more than $15 yesterday....Yesterday. What happened? I thought I had accounted for all the outstanding things...well, I was going to have to resolve this! That means that I wasn't going to have any extra food money for the weekend. Which was fine, because I usually don't eat lunch on boot camps anyway. But what about Sunday?

And how much was I in the hole? Would I be able to recover in time to get to St Louis for that family reunion that I know that God ordered me to go to? What could I do about that now? Nothing? Oh, well, I guess then it was time to worry about the next person to talk to. And Henry was saved, anyway, which was cool (but you can still pray for him).

Now when I got to the gate, it seemed that people were using my shirt as a reason not to talk to me. Oops. Oh well. I just made sure that I approached people who hadn't seen it yet. Well, I tried to.

It worked with the car crew I talked to, Scott, Tim, and the gang. They mostly turned out to be Christians, though. I don't remember which ones of them were not saved, actually. At least, they all knew the Gospel message, anyway.

As our zones for boarding were called, they walked away, and I looked for other fish. Melissa was not as open as the others, especially once she found out that she was a murderer by God's standard. She didn't want to talk anymore, before I even got to the Gospel. I left her with, "Well, the only reason I'm talking to you about this is that I don't want you to go to Hell." Please pray for her, too.

Then there was a British lady and another lady from the states in front of me, and we began chatting, and then I asked the British lady if she had ever taken the Good Person Test. She hadn't, so I asked her the questions, and, as I did, I noted some men ahead, one of whom said, "He asks the same questions all the time!" The American lady didn't seem too interested in hearing the rest of it, but the British lady simply couldn't get away: she was right in front of me as we passed the counter to board. So I finished the presentation with her, no conversation ensuing, as we boarded the plane. Actually, right in front of my seat mates. Which may explain their reluctance to talk to me. Well, they also got to see my shirt, too. =)

I landed in Buffalo later than I wanted to, but it was only 20 minutes late as far as scheduling was concerned. I did make it to the briefing, did get to eat some food (there was plenty of pizza left and also a few wings). I got to meet some new faces (Mark Mews, Rachael's husband; Ron; Ken; Hans; Tim Crawford, whom I had spoken to on the phone before with GNN for the first boot camp, but had never met; Mike and Amelia, who were engaged and part of Rachael and Elaine's evangelism team; and Tom and Cathy, married); and I got to rekindle some old friendships: dArrell wArren (who spells his name that way to remind him that Christ is first and not he), whom I met in Phoenix this past SuperBowl boot camp (GNN's Reignite 3); Jon Speed, the co-leader of my team on my first boot camp, in Miami, where I met Gabe Graham, my current evangelism team leader, who was the other co-leader of that team; Rachael and her mom Elaine, whom I met in Arizona when I met dArrell.

I was told that dArrell had brought his wife Bernice for her first boot camp, and I was eager to meet her, but that she had had a medical emergency on the flight and was in the hospital for treatment. I found out later that their flight had been scheduled to land in Boston and then they were to catch a connecting flight to Buffalo. But her emergency forced the pilots to look for a landing sooner, and that landing was in Buffalo. The merciful hand of God? No doubt.

So why make her sick? atheists would ask. Christians would answer: there is someone who needs to receive the Lord in that hospital. And that was the answer we clung to as we prayed for her healing.

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