Monday, August 27, 2007

Friday Night at Five Points

Friday night I had the wonderful and exciting privilege of joining 16 undergraduates (and one alum) in obedience to our Lord Jesus Christ in evangelism. We met about 6:45 for some introductions, encouragements, Prayer and Worship. By 8:45 or so, we piled into cars and caravanned our way to 5-Points here in Columbia.

5-Points is a cross-roads near downtown Columbia, just off the USC Campus. Here College students (and partiers in general) meet, eat, drink and commit lewd debaucheries in public. A beautiful fountain forms the central meeting place, surrounded by restaurants, bars, coffee shops and stores peddling wares I am not brilliant enough to think of. We parked in a grocery store lot, paired off experienced evangelizers with new-comers and hit the streets. The coordinator of the event and myself tried to equip everyone with as much literature as we possibly could. I took two students with me, and we made our way down the sidewalk.

The first guy we met was Clarence, a Rastafarian. When I first approached him, I saw he was carrying a walking stick, but did not identify the Rasta carvings immediately. We got to talking and right away noticed his slight inebriation—which meant the conversation 1) would not go far; 2) however far it went, it would be lively. And lively it was. We learned the man was not only keen on his liquor, but stuck by his struggles for freedom. When I addressed his conscience with the 10 Commandments, he admitted his guilt before God, but was eager to rationalize his way out of condemnation—he’s done more good things since he stopped doing bad things (claims to have been on death row).

I tried very hard to impress his guilt before God and need for repentance, but he kept shaking his painted stick at me. Once he cursed and while I reflexively cautioned him to watch his language (as a young lady was present), he was already apologizing—and got quite upset that I admonished him. The students stood, watching and listened patiently and I think were perhaps a little scared. I don’t blame them. I thought I was going to cracked in the head with that stick.

I finally was able to impress upon him that he could talk himself out of his troubles all day long, but time never erases the crime. When I asked him what he thought of James Seale and whether he received justice. Clarence got quiet and listened and thought, but could not accept the love that God was extending to him through the cross. We finally had to part ways (he wanted to go drink) and I gave him a tract to read for later on.

Further down the street at the Fountain, I met up with a couple of brothers from another church who bring their camera for interviewing Way of the Master style. We had a great visit and encouraged each other on.

My two companions wandered over to Starbucks with some “Coffee Trivia” tracks and tried to strike up a conversation with the employees. They did a good job in friendly dialogue and got the workers to read the tract.

Back outside, I returned to the fountain and talked some more with our friends, watching the sidewalks as people began to arrive (it’s about 10:30 or so) by the droves. We were able to pass out some Million Dollar Bills to passers-by, but could get nobody to stop for an interview or to talk. Guys were interested in the ladies and the ladies were “fishing” and it was all gross.

Guys wearing bling are suckers to stop and talk, especially when I give them Million Dollar Bills and compliment them on their grills. Two guys stopped and I took them through the “Good Person” test, and began the details of the 10 commandments. One guy got upset (laughingly, mind you) when I got the 7th commandment about adultery. When I asked if he’d lusted, he confessed that was why he was out there that night. Both the guys were. But while the first guy was telling me how much the conviction was ruining his evening (he left, chosing to lust than hear the gospel) the other guy stayed, his face as determined as chiseled in stone. We talked for a while about sin, the guilt and condemnation of sin, and just as I was talking about the substitutionary death of Christ, two lesbians came right up behind me and . . .

I turned and heard myself say, “Aw, c’mon. Go away. Take that stuff outta here.” I was mad. Then I turned back to the guy I was talking to and he did not know what to do with himself. He wanted to laugh and found he could not. I stepped closely in front of him and told him, “look, that did not happen by accident. Satan does not want you to repent and begin a sin-free life. You need to choose right now what you are going to do: die in sin and chase after ‘that’ (motioning the direction the girls went) or forgiveness in Christ Jesus.” He could not speak. I told him he needed to make a decision. He shook my hand, thanked me for talking to him, took a tract and left.

I don’t really know much about what other team-mates were doing, but I did notice they were trying to strike up conversations with folks nearby. I did notice three Eastern Indian fellows that sat at the fountain and watched us. After a while, I took my bag over by one and asked if I could sit down. He said, “yes,” then asked (nicely) what we were doing out there. I told him we were sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. I asked if he went to USC (he did) and discovered which program he was in. He was getting his Master’s in Geology. I then asked what his religion was, or what worldview he held. He was a non-practicing Hindu.

We enjoyed a good conversation, “thinking” through tough questions together: did the Universe always exist, or have a definite beginning; what that beginning cause or uncaused; was the cause personal or impersonal; the reality of the God of the Bible, the historicity of the person and work of Jesus. I addressed his conscience without naming the 10 commandments, and he agreed that his conscience told him of his guilt. I pressed the incarnation and substitutionary death of Christ and he listened and thought with me. Surprisingly, he said that guilt and shame are dealt with not by someone outside ourselves, as in Jesus, but through the spark of divinity that is found in everything. I discussed the need to know the God of the Bible and the necessity of becoming the child of God by virtue of redemption and he listened carefully.

Finally, we had to stop as our team had to make way back to the rendezvous. As I had been talking to my Indian friend, my other two teammates had started conversations with the other two gentlemen and they waited patiently for me to finish talking with my new friend. Surprisingly, one of the students found his conversationalist had actually been thinking about becoming converted—someone had planted a seed! More excitingly, all three of us knew who that seed-planter was! Someone right here at the University!

Praise the LORD!

The teams all reconnoitered about midnight, we debriefed and each had a wonderful story to tell. I encouraged each to journal and/or blog their experience, so keep your eyes and ears open!

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