Wow. That was crazy.
That was the primary reaction I had to almost everything that passed in front of me. I tried hard not to look offended, because it would have sent the wrong message. But there were times that I failed. Like the time a guy walked by in some goofy outfit (well, more like, next to nothing at all), and I shook my head. I tried to catch myself as I realized that the man walking in the opposite direction was approaching me, but it was too late: he mimicked my head shake as he rejected my tract.
I did get a chance to speak with Eric for some time about Christ and His redemption of us from sin. I talked about how I can't make excuses for my sin, and how God can't let me into Heaven with it, and how Jesus not only cleanses our records, but He cleanses our hearts, so that we no longer desire to do sin (at least, not as much as we used to). I never brought up homosexuality--I didn't have to--but I did point out that one lie qualifies one for Hell, etc.
Sharon tried to be reasonable with a taller lady (yes, a real woman) who insisted that the Bible was a joke, that it was unscientific, that it put people down. She didn't listen to anything Sharon tried to tell her, but Sharon and Carol just pressed on until the lady finally walked away. She passed by again later shouting something at me about Jesus. I forget what she said, and what I said in reply. It was corrective, but it wasn't mean.
Of course, there was also the guy who dropped a tract on the ground and then, as he picked it up, said, "Jesus Christ!" I said, "Hey, please don't take the name of the Lord in vain."
He said, "I'm sorry, does that offend you?"
"You shouldn't worry about it offending me, because it offends Him," I responded, which is the truth: he shouldn't fear me, he should fear God.
Josh Page was asked to lead the outreach, and he was such a blessing (not that everyone else wasn't a blessing, but he just gets a special mention: the team consisted of Mike, Kim, Josh, John, me, and Sharon and Carol from Calvary Chapel Bradenton). I remember looking up at a group that was passing by while I was reloading on tracts, wishing that I had time to reach them, and there he was gently offering the message of reconciliation while this lady just wished she could bite his head off. It saddened me to watch, because of her soul, but it was kind of funny hearing the gentleness of Josh and the absolute wrath of the lady he was trying to minister to with kindness.
We ran out of tracts this year around 3 PM, so we called it quits at that point. We actually had more tracts this year than last, I think, but we did not recycle as many this year. Last year, people actually stopped to read the Cyanide Tract before throwing it down in disgust. People weren't as "caught" with the assortment of tracts that we had this year (mostly Living Waters and Custom Tract Source, including the Team Hope tract), except maybe the Good News tract that David Guild made (it's all Scripture), and, once they realized that it was about Jesus, they just threw it away, unless they were so impressed that we weren't yelling at them (yes, those guys were back) that they took it out of good will. I wish they had read it more quickly, but God knows how to work things out.
When we ran out of ordinary tracts, we started handing out bottles of water and everything else we had. We had some Gospels of John, some leaflets that help a person read Through the Bible in One Year, and some DVD's called "Stop and Think" (I haven't watched it yet, but I hear it's really good). The bottles of water at the hottest part of the day really did soften people up, for the most part, but there was one lady who insisted on hating us even when we were being so kind. We tried to reason with her, but she threw away the Gospel of John (fortunately, it was sitting on top of some paper trash, so I recycled it). I called her out on it, asking why she was throwing away the expression of God's love. She just continued to trash us.
She was so mean that her partner said she felt guilty for taking the water. We told her she had no obligation to us. It was a free gift, as Jesus gives us breath. Her daughter (I think it was her daughter) kept trying to make her be nicer, but she wouldn't have it, and she certainly didn't feel guilty in the least for taking the water we offered while calling us evil-spirited. Oh well.
Ha. Before that, one lady commented as she received the water from Kim, "Free water and religion," to which I replied, "Right: Jesus freely gives us living water!" She was surprised by the analogy and had to laugh.
I did not like to do it, but we were out of tracts and almost out of water, so I went and got the bus. We had not had any one to pray for at all (did have several people comment about the "Prayer Changes Things" slogan on our smocks, but no takers) until we were loading the bus. A man had lost his keys and was with his kids (yes, I know; we saw a lot of that down there), and he asked Josh to pray that he could find the keys. Josh did, and prayed for a little bit more, but not overmuch, and then we handed him a tract in the Love of Christ before he left. He was very grateful. I think that he and Eric were the only two truly knowledgeably kind encounters that we had that day.
There was another, but I want to talk to Gabe about it before I tell everyone else. Please pray fervently for the salvation of these souls. If James is right that our fervent prayers move God, then that is the only hope for the participants in this years celebration of sin (James 5:16). Thanks again.