Monday, June 30, 2008

St Pete Pride Fest 2008

Short version: the Lord showed up and showed out!

A bit longer version:

We arrived later than I wanted to, but the Lord was watching over us anyway. We couldn't find a parking spot near where we wanted to be, so we went about three blocks over and three blocks up. Instead of retreating to where we wanted to be, I decided to anchor there until and unless someone told us to move. So we set up, prayed for about three or four people, and then, sure enough, someone from the Festival told us that, since we hadn't paid for the spot, we had to leave.

"Where can we set up?" I asked.

"That alley back there," came the hostile reply.

"No, where are the festival limits--what part is yours?" I pressed.

"Well, we have from 21st St to 28th St," was the reluctant answer.

"So, if we go past 21st St, we're okay?"

"That would be for the police to decide."

"Very well, we will move."

So we started tearing down, and, suddenly, I changed my plans: I decided that I wanted to be going where all the parade was coming from--which meant the 28th St direction, instead of 21st. Well, we were on 22nd. Yeah. And I had forgotten how long six blocks is with heavy coolers and a prayer station and four boxes of books with bags of snacks to boot!

We gladly gave away waters and gatorades as we walked down--it not only showed that we really do love the people, but it lightened our load! It truly is more blessed to give than to receive!

As we arrived at 28th St, those who hate homosexuals were standing on the corner. Now I did not want to be associated with them, so I said that we should go to 29th, one more block away. But, as God always blesses women with a bit more wisdom than most men, Sharon found a good spot on the block between 28th and 29th, and we anchored there.

Immediately after set up, we had a confrontation: "You have two minutes to tear that down and get out of here, or I'm calling the cops! That's against city code!""Call the cops! I want to talk to the cops!" was my angry reply. I knew he was wrong--the city code didn't apply to a street that had been closed for a parade!

So we stayed there and tried to show God's love while still calling on people to repent of all sin. No, we did not say that homosexuality is not a sin--that would be lying and lying is not loving--but we did say, "God bless you," as we handed out each tract.We did pray with a few more people the parade continued. We had plenty of time to pray for a lot more people, because no one was very willing to stop and talk to us. We did manage to hand out some tracts, especially the Million Dollar Bill, but one lady flat out rejected the tract I had made, saying, "I love to sin." Sad, but true. And that's why she's on her way to Hell, if she doesn't repent.

We also continued to give out waters as we stood there. We thought that it was important for people to know that God does love us just the way we are. But, as I told one lady that day, "He loves you too much to leave you that way!"--and that is the message of Christ. During the parade, though, one man was so angry about our tract, that he angrily threw the bottle of water back into the cooler, muttering, "You guys are sick!" Well, at least he didn't throw it at us. And he was the only one who refused charity simply because he found the message offensive. No one else said, "I don't even want a drink of water from you bigots!" or anything like that.

At the end of the parade, we finally did see the cops: they just wanted to know if we were tearing down, so that they could reopen the street. Hahaha! Once again, the Lord protected our rights!

Sharon and Carol went home after that, but Taner, Mike, Kim, and I stayed to continue passing out tracts to those who would pass by. We kept ourselves from being discouraged by remembering what Mark Cahill told us about the young people who rang up their rewards in Heaven every time they were rejected for sharing the Gospel (they based this activity on Luke 6:22-23), by saying, "Cha-ching!" in imitation of the sound that a cash register makes when it opens. It kept us laughing and smiling, which made passersby more curious about what we were handing out. =)

However, once they read it, it became clear that most of them did not like our message. We had trails on both sides of us from people who just discarded them after reading very far, or even reading the front (which read "Sin is Cyanide"). Some people did give them back to us politely, which we appreciated, especially since they weren't littering. We did pick up many of the tracts and "recycle" the ones that hadn't been trampled too badly.

Stuart and Crystal came out for about an hour or so, and Art Dykstra brought the Guatemala Mission Trip College Team out to help us for as long as they could stay. Also, Jason, Orlando, and Jacob showed up to do some open-air preaching inside the festival. I didn't get a chance to ask them how that went, but they looked plenty happy when they left. It was a blessed relief to us to see so many reinforcements coming out. And we felt the prayers of all who knew we were out there and were backing us up that way.

We weren't the only group out there. There was a group of preachers that has made a name for itself by holding out these huge signs that condemn just about anybody to hell. One sign even reads, "Ask Me Why YOU Deserve HELL." Do the people reading that sign deserve Hell? Yep. Do the people holding that sign deserve Hell? Yep. So, why doesn't the sign reflect that? Ask them.

People told us that they would gladly take our tracts, which condemned their sins, just because we were nicer than the other guys. We smiled, partly because we were rejoicing that our love was showing through and partly because we knew they hadn't read the tracts yet. Sure enough, about thirty yards down, our tracts would be disowned. Some people did keep them, though. And many people picked up tracts that were on the ground to read for themselves. One group was actually talking all about it (loudly, too) as they walked by us.

There was a church that had made up these T-shirts with the website address, "would Jesus discriminate.com" to which I replied (out of their hearing), "No, He won't, and that's exactly your problem." You see, God won't discriminate on Judgment Day: He won't let any sin into Heaven. He will not make a special exception for homosexuality, and that is the problem that that church and those who listen to their lies will face on the Day of Judgment. I pray that they will be disabused of their false notions about love and holiness.

One funny story that happened: a group of girls rejected our tracts as they left their car, one girl insisting that she was Jewish. (And?) A couple hours later, they returned to their car to find us still there. They were shocked: "Don't you guys ever tire?"I laughed, "That's why we have Gatorade: Rehydrate, replenish, refuel!!! Hahaha!" And then I remembered the real reason that we had so much energy six hours into our day: the Holy Spirit! Boy, was I convicted!

The festival closed at 5 PM, and our stream of people had nearly dwindled to nothing by 4:45. So I had everyone else pick up the trash and take a break while I went to retrieve the bus that got us here.

That's when I saw Gabe on his bicycle as I was tracting my way back to the short bus. Gabe is the leader of our evangelism team (but this was my project). He asked about our day, then waited with me while I got rebuked by a lesbian I had given a tract to on my way to this spot. Then he locked up his bike and went with me to the bus. The Lord had told me to grab more tracts, but I didn't, thinking that I was going to be the only one passing them out and that I would not run out of what I had. But the Lord knew, and I didn't, that Gabe was coming, and that he would want to participate with me. So I ended up short on tracts. My fault entirely.

I did pray for the last person I gave a tract to, though. Her name is Dana, and her partner in fornication is Amie. Dana's mother is ill, and so we prayed for her, and I prayed for her salvation, the salvation of her daughter, and the salvation of her daughter's "friend." Dana wasn't too pleased with the tract, but she couldn't argue with the love that I showed her right then. And that was a summary of the day in itself.

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