[b]Open Air in New Orleans[/b]
[i]November 19th - 20th[/i]
New Orleans, a place were evil can almost be felt in the air and wickedness can be clearly seen by any eye. Where is there a place more sinful then New Orleans? And where is there a place that has had more street preachers? The most enlightened area seems to have the most evil people. Well I had an attempt at reaching these people who are sleep walking into hell. The challenge was great, but our God is greater. This is the story of our adventure in New Orleans.
It had been two long years since I had last been to New Orleans. It was in New Orleans where I first saw an open-air preacher. I remember two years ago eating in a restaurant and talking to other Christians about these "hell-fire preachers" that we kept seeing around the area. One said "I don't think God would call anyone to ever do that" while someone else said "I think God may call some people to do that". I remember during the conversation thinking in the back of my mind that some day I will probably be one of them, and being a little scared at the thought. Well now two years later I was sitting in a restaurant with some new friends discussing and planning two days of open air preaching.
It was both exciting to go back as well as emotional. I was excited to preach at such a sinful place, as well as to see the same corner I first heard an open air preacher, however it was emotional because I was angered at such sin! I can't even express how appalled I was when I saw all the types of sexual sins and sexual perversions on Bourbon Street. I can't even begin to tell you how angered I was to try to talk to people only to hear "get away from me with that. We don't want to hear any of that."
After walking all over Friday night to find a place to preach, I found what I thought would be a good spot. There were thousands upon thousands of people walking by. We couldn't have (randomly) picked a better time to go because there was some type of sports event going on and also a battle of the bands which flooded the streets with college students. There was a nice bench to stand on where all these people walked by. I started by trying to give out money, but it simply wouldn't work. Either nobody would answer, or they couldn't even give the right answer. So I tried asking questions they might know like "what was Tupacs last name?", but even then people simply weren't interested. They were so busy looking at women and admiring nice cars, as well as thinking about getting to the bar and clubs, that a guy asking trivia questions and handing out a few dollars simply didn't interest them. So I preached a short message as the people would walked by. I figured that if I say "Why, why are you all out here tonight? What did you come out here to do? The bible says 'the wages of sin is death' so if you want to go and die, all you have to do is go and sin. So why then did you come out here tonight?" I believe that might be all somebody needed to hear.
We planned on connecting with another friend of ours, Brad Lanphear, who was going to be in the area. He is a great friend of mine who loves street preaching. However, with all of the thousands of people who were out, and none of us having cell phones, it didn't look like he would be able to find us. But while I was standing up on the bench I heard one of the cars start yelling at me. I looked at it, but didn't recognize them so I turned away. Then I heard them call me by name and I recognized Brad. What are the odds that they would drive by that street while I was standing up there? If it wasn't for that, they would have never, ever, seen us.
Some of the girls who were in the group questioned how effective street preaching is. However I'm not discouraged by some of the things they said. I am convinced that as they continue reading the scriptures and listening to the Holy Spirit they will realize how biblical it is and how God uses it mightily.
After a while I gave up trying to preach on that bench because nobody would stop and listen. Thats why I took another guy and went to Bourbon Street. Amazingly I found an area in front of a store/building that wasn't open and wasn't too crowded. I thought, maybe if I just approach a small group of people and say "Hey, you guys want a chance to win some free cash, all you got to do is answer a few questions?" that it would work better then it did in the open air. But I was wrong again. Some people wouldn't even respond. Thats why I simply lifted up my voice like a trumpet and declared to these people their sins. I attacked adultery and drunkenness the most since it was the most blatant and obvious sin. I tried to be animated, like Whitefield is said to have been, which definitely helped. Some people would listen for a little while and then keep moving on which was better then before.
My text was from Psalms 7:14-15 which says "Behold, the wicked brings forth iniquity; Yes, he conceives trouble and brings forth falsehood. He made a pit and dug it out, and has fallen into the ditch which he made." While paraphrasing this verse I acted as though I was digging out a hole and then I jumped into it. I also lifted up my bible and waved it around a little bit. These helped as attention getters and got me a crowd that would listen for at least a little while before they once again sleep walk into hell. Guys up on the balconies noticed me and started trying to hit me with beads. I should have kept them as souvenirs.
There was a store owner in his door way that I approached to witness to. I asked him what he thought about everything that was going on. He didn't like it much himself. He said he was from India and has only been here about a year. He also said that it is not like this at all in his country. I apologized that part of America is like this and said "not all of my country is this way." He said he knew that people come here to do the things that they can't do in their own states. Then I changed the focus from them, to him. He said that he believes in life after death and that God is keep track of everything we do. He knew that God will require an account from him one day and also that there is a hell full of fire for those who live wickedly on this earth. He is much better off then the rest of them that were there. I shared Christ Crucified with him and he listened. Although He said he has heard it before and no light seemed to go off in his head, I believe that God is working on that man and that this was just another step.
Then when we walked around some more we ran into some Christian brothers. A man named Paul and Frank was out there with a big wooded cross in the middle of it all. The cross had a digital message board on it that was scrolling different scriptures. They also had sandwich boards they were wearing of the Ten Commandments and were giving out tracts. We spoke with them and found out that Paul has been going out there since 1981 and has been street preaching for even longer then that. We encouraged them, they encouraged us, and then we prayed for each other.
The trip was both good and bad. It was bad that we were not able to attract large crowds, maybe I'll bring my sound box next time, and I wish that everyone in New Orleans was born again. But it was good because the word was preached and we learned from the experience. I would like to take a team there sometime soon and look forward to that.