As I sit here on my smartphone at 7:40 am, I realize that I don't have a smart introduction to this post. I think I may need to get some coffee which, as we all know, is the source of all wacky, jacked up inspiration.
Thursday nights here in Perth are dedicated to evangelism. Work duties are rearranged so that by the time 3:30 pm rolls around, the base is ready to be completely shut down.
This week was very tiring, for reasons I'll get into in another post, so by the time 6:00 rolled around and it was time for evangelism, I was feeling almost disassociated from my own body. You know that feeling that you're experiencing everything from the other side of a thick glass wall? That was me on Thursday night.
My school's assigned area is in a part of town called Northbridge. Northbridge is full of ways to distract oneself - gentleman's clubs are right next to nice Asian diners and fancy clothing boutiques. Bars and arcade centers jostle for attention with art galleries, backpacker's travel agencies and hostels and a university. In short, Northbridge is the place to go if you are looking to fulfill any number of lusts.
Going on in Northbridge right now is the Fringe Festival. If you were to take Seattle's Folklife Festival and add theater, art showcases, freak shows, and institutionalize the alternative lifestyles present there, you would have the Fringe Festival. There is, no kidding, a tank of water with people dressed as mermaids inside it.
When we got into the festival on Thursday night, a group of film students had set up a green screen and were airing a number of short films on a giant film screen in the centre of an amphitheayre . They would walk through the crowds and get innocent passersby to step in front of the green screen and act the main roles of the short. When one of the students approached our group, my friend Azera jokingly volunteered my services.
She didn't expect me to actually do it.
There are pictures and someone recorded part of it, but I haven't gotten copies yet. When I do, I'll be sure to post some here for your entertainment.
But in all seriousness, being totally ridiculous on a giant screen helped me get in the evangelism mood. That night, we were supposed to hold up "free prayer" signs in an attempt to attract the attention of the denizens of the festival.
That begs the question - is there a time when it isn't free?
But I digress. I was standing in an area near one of the beer gardens. Of course, they aren't "beer gardens" at Fringe, they're "the fountain of Acquarius" and yes, there is a literal fountain involved. Inside the area was a good old fashioned band playing music that was a mix of big band swing, klezmer, and all-Americana folk. Nothing sounds quite like it, especially when they started playing that song from the Aristicats.
Erinne and I were bravely holding our sign, and there were no takers. I approached one man who was standing nearby and asked if he'd like prayer. He said yes, that he was alone that night, and wanted to go to a Chinese art film that was showing for free, and would I go with him? I told him no, but that I'd pray he'd find someone. :P it was hard to pray for him after that, but I did soldier through it.
After that uncomfortable incident, Erinne and I decided to apply teaching from that day and surrender our right to reputation. To translate, we started signing and dancing to the kelzmer/swing/folk band's music. It was incredible to see the total change. As soon as we started actually being fools for Christ, people started coming up to us! There were also a couple of videos taken as well... :P
In addition to a couple of people who just wanted a good life, we got to pray for an ethnically Asian Jew and his well-mannered atheistic friend who told us that he applauded our guts for offering prayer, but wouldn't tell us anything we could pray for lest he mock our convictions (!).
However interesting that experience was, I think my favorite interaction was with a man named Mark who was obviously tripping on something. He ran up to us and without any introduction, laid hands on us and started praying hedges of protection around Erinne and I, and to send angels with us, and to walk with us, among other things. After he finished praying, we started talking with him about what we could pray for him about. Because of the lighting and noise, Erinne and I have slightly different intepretations of what he meant, but the gist was that he and his girlfriend had split up, and that he had "lost" his two - year - old daughter in the process. This could either have been through death or from the girlfriend taking the daughter - it was hard to tell. Mark wanted prayer to find his daughter and to get off drugs, and I was so glad we had just finished the father heart of God week. When he left, he asked us to continue praying for him and his daughter.
You may be wondering why I liked this interaction. You may not, but I'm going to tell you anyways. The experience with Mark was *real* in a way that many conversations can only aspire to be. So many times, Christians get caught up in the desire to be good witnesses for Christ to the extent that they dive into religiousity. We ty to sell Jesus by saying that He solves our problems, so if we have issues, we conceal them to make Christ look more appealing to outsiders. Or if we do allow that we have a problem, it's the carefully cultivated prayer group problem. The one that lets others know that "I'm being honest with you" but in actuality simply blocks others off from the internal life that is desparately in need of grace.
Mark identified as a Christian, but he was frank and honest and didn't beat around the bush with his problem. He didn't say "I'm really struggling with this issue, and would like prayer for continued strength in dealing with it." He said " I've lost my little girl and cannot find her. And I need prayer to get off marijuana and cocaine."
That is integrity if I've ever seen it.