No, I haven't been traveling (I'm waaaaaaaaaaay too broke for that), but I have recently signed up to volunteer with Friends of International Students, a ministry of Calvary Chapel Saint Petersburg, that reaches out to the world at our front door. A small group of us (I know of six volunteers, including myself, and the leaders, Dave and Trish Stevenson) set up engaging activities to help students from all over the world practice English so that we can share the love of Jesus with them.
This past Saturday, we went to several museums, as they had come together to offer an open house. I joined the group late because a) I didn't check my email until late, and b) I didn't call to see if they could pick me up on the way--I just took a bus downtown, thinking I could just catch up with them, and, if it had not been for the Lord and the kindness He put into the hearts of the helpful ladies at the Florida International Museum of St Petersburg College, I would have been stranded downtown unless I decided to walk home. All wasn't lost, though--I did get to see some of the spiritual meanings behind many artists' work and why art is such a powerful spiritual medium (hence the Commandment not to make graven images--not saying that that's what all art is, just acknowledging the potency of the forbidden). I also got to speak to a Jehovah's Witness who was drawn by my "Jesus Freak" T-shirt.
Funny, she tried to tell me that she was a Christian. "Really?" I said. "Every Jehovah's Witness I know tells me that Jesus isn't God."
And, of course, she used her cherry-picks just as she has been trained, and I returned with Thomas' worship of Jesus and Peter's refusal of worship from Cornelius: "Peter made Cornelius get up, Jesus didn't do that to Thomas." I am really appreciating Bill Perry for introducing the "Simply the Story" method of teaching the Bible--drawing our conclusions from the real life illustrations of biblical principles recorded in the Bible--to us in the Perspectives class. I hope that sticks with her.
I finally did catch up with the rest of the group. There were four students and, with the addition of me, four volunteers, and two tag-a-longs who brightened the experience (one of the volunteers' son and his school friend; they are 12). We went to the Pier and enjoyed the hats in the hat shop, visited the top level and got a nice view, visited the Aquarium, and then the fishing pier. While on the fishing pier/picnic area, I tried to engage one of the students in a spiritual conversation, but his English isn't great, and the conversation stalled several times and then died. I guess I'm going to have to learn Chinese (he is from Taiwan).
Then we went to the Museum of Fine Arts (more bad religion honored), and I got more looks at my shirt. In fact, I was looking over my shoulder (security guard habit), and I saw these ladies reacting to it. For those of you who have never seen it, it is a bright red T-shirt, with what looks like two taped messages on the front and back. The front says, "Yes, I Am A..." and the back says, "Jesus Freak!!!" and in small blue letters "1 Peter 4:16" [which says, "However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name" (NIV)]. The messages aren't taped at all, but whoever designed the artwork for the screen-printing did a phenomenal job. I've had so many people, including one of the Japanese students Saturday, try to pick at the "tape" to see if it was real.
Anyway, one of the ladies, as soon as I had turned my head, clicked a picture of it with her cell phone to send to her son. During the ensuing conversation (in which her friend got offended because those who hate are considered murderers by God; oh well), I found out that she is Jewish, and, actually, she was appalled at the idea that she needs Jesus. So, why she was so excited about the shirt, I'll never know. I just thank God that I got to witness to her. And right in front of the students, no less!
While going through the displays, Dave struck up a conversation with one of the contractors who was helping with the exhibit. The contractor mentioned that the public has to catch up to art, that artists are often far ahead of the curve, so far that they are thought ludicrous. I said, "That's just like science and the Bible. You know, the Bible says something, and then science has to catch up with it years later." He managed an awkward, "Right." I then walked away. I heard him laughing at me as I did, and he couldn't contain the smile every time he saw me thereafter. Dave later told me that he said to the museum worker standing with him, "Whatever!" I don't think he'll forget that soon. I wish I had had the Gospel tract that shows some proof of that, but I probably could not have handed it to him, anyway, so...
There was room in Dave's van to give me a ride home, so I did not end up stranded. And I had a great time. Please pray for the students as we continue to minister to them. You can contact Dave Stevenson about getting involved with this ministry here in St Pete by contacting me via email, and I'll forward your information to him. Thanks for your prayers!