Sunday, April 18, 2010

Weekend at River Cities

For the first time in many years, Carol and I attended the Miami Springs' River Cities Festival this weekend. This has definitely not been a must-see event for us, mainly because we are so stuck-up. But also because the event is so very well lubricated with outdoor bars set up for the occasion and plenty of beer. We let that more or less characterize the event for us, which probably was to our detriment.

But this year, our pastor thought our church should use the occasion for evangelism. So after talking about what to do for several months, we decided not to have a booth, as the rest of the churches do, but to conduct a survey. A group of us, then, with clip-boards in hand, invaded the festival with a survey about religious attitudes, a paper thin pretext for talking to people about Christ. It turned out to be much more fun that I thought it would be and made the festival itself very enjoyable.

The main thing about doing the survey is that it required me to focus on the people, rather than the context. Our targets were people who, at least momentarily, seemed to be just standing around deciding what to do next and were not in a hurry to get anywhere. Everyone I approached was polite, although some of them declined the survey. Many of those who took it turned out to be professing Christians, and it was encouraging to them and to me to discover that. One man, although polite, thought churches were full of hypocrites; others, once we got started asked if they really had to complete the survey and were relieved when I said, "Of course not." One fellow chased me down and wanted actually to take the survey, and then proceeded to tell me his views on the age of the earth and how Noah's sons each fathered a sort of proto-race with implications to this day and time, giving me book titles and authors. Having conversations with these strangers this way was a special and surprising pleasure.

I also had a good look at all the booths this year, and I discovered that Miami Springs has a new church, the King of Glory Anglican Church. It meets at Grace Lutheran, and is one of those break-off groups of Episcopalians that is part of the Anglican Mission in the Americas (AMIA), under the Archbishop Kolini of Rwanda. They were passing out leaflets from the Miami Rescue Mission and Food for the Poor, and were selling Rwandan coffee with the label The Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee. This is a fund raiser for a development in Rwanda that addresses the awful damage of the genocide in that country. The church's website has a statement of beliefs.

I ran into people I had not seen or talked to for years as well. I think the fact that I was trying to connect with people anyway facilitated these link-ups. One couple graduated with me from Hialeah High School. I had not seen them since 1964! Another man had grown up in my neighborhood on Falcon Avenue and I had not seen him in decades. And there were others I simply had not visited with for a few years. I saw the Curtis' kids (now young men), for example. Brad is working for Curtis Publishing, Matthew lives in Delray and has a business there, Atypical Rim & Tire.

I met two cousins who have gone into the "mobile barbecue" business, and had a most impressive rig from which wafted a most delicious aroma. They are from Port Charlotte and are known as Smokey Trails BBQ. They were attracted to my Despair "knock knock" shirt, which I suppose is a pretty good evangelism tool, when you think about it.

I don't know if anyone "got saved" as a result of our efforts. But the nice thing about being Reformed is that it's really not up to me, so I'm not worrying about it. And why wouldn't anyone be interested to find out that God took on the form of a man to reconcile us to himself? That's pretty interesting, I think.


Macon said...

I've done some of those kinds of surveys and found then to be as fun and interesting as you say. I think it's because it gives you a pretex, not necessarily for evangelism, but for a conversation with a human being. And I find those to be fun and interesting, in general. :-) And, talking about spiritual realities in a way that isn't an attempt to shoehorn someone into the Romans Road is also quite interesting.

One of these days, I'm actually going to make a trip down just for the Festival. Many of my friends are now combining it as a kind of High School Homecoming / Class Reunion.

Paul Stokes said...

You should definitely do it. We'll try to be in town when you come. :)

Paul Stokes said...

Let me add that the people in my experience who are the most effective lay evangelists are those who bring their neighbors' children to church and, then, their parents. That's how to grow the kingdom, it seems to me. Walking up to strangers is a pretty narrow piece of the Spirit's evangelical program, I think. Of course, the particular church has to have something important to bring to the table once the neighbors arrive, it has to be ready for those visits.