I got up around 6:45 today to give myself plenty of time to shower, eat, and have plenty of quiet time. There is some common food for the summer students, and with so much time I had a very chill, relaxing morning. After this we returned to the meeting room, where we received a crash course on the power of the Holy Spirit (old, but crucial) and using the KGP (Knowing God Personally) evangelism tools. I was kind of troubled during this part; using the booklets seems kind of preachy and impersonal to me, like you're just running through a checklist of things to say. I was unsure about this and pretty nervous in general; I've never been good at sharing my faith partly due to lack of experience.
We ate a tasty Chinese lunch and had another session on sharing our faith. This was very relevant because we were going to do just that on the Lake Michigan beach that afternoon, followed by a barbecue. We loaded stuff up and drove through the city to the beach. On the way I was struck by how the quality/rundown-ness of the neighborhoods changed, and by how many high-rise buildings there were; in Minneapolis they were mostly concentrated downtown, but here they were everywhere.
We parked near a park by the beach, and after setting some stuff up for the picnic we paired up and went out to the beach. I got paired with Dave the staffer, which was reassuring; I told him about my problems with evangelism and we figured that we could try to complement each other nicely. The beach was packed due to the promise of a Blue Angels show, and there was no shortage of people ot talk to.
The first ones we talked to were a father and son hoping to see the show. Immediately something really cool happened; they noticed my shirt from my job as a math TA, which features a Sierpinski triangle on it. Apparently both of them were fairly mathy, which gave us an instant point on which to connect and talk. Dave did most of the talking in itially, with me adding thoughts in whenever I could. He didn't proceed robotically through the KGP like I'd feared; he initially just started a fairly conversation; my shirt made it easy. We tried to be upfront and introduced ourself as partners with Campus Crusade. We asked them if they wanted to so a quick survey about spiritual views, which was much more open-ended and discussion-based, which I enjoyed. Then we got into other questions and asked if we could go through the KGP.
The father-son duo was from a Lutheran background, and were pretty open to what we had to say. Some tragedy came when the Blue Angels were cancelled due to excessive cloud cover; they had traveled for an hour and waited for five hours all for nothing. We tried to sympathize as best we could. After this conversation ended fairly well, we had much less of a choice of people as everyone was leaving. We headed over to the actual beach, where we met a guy with a dog tied to his bike. We had a pretty long conversation with him, often getting into the issue of sin and how it affects urban blight and the inner city. Dave, with a history of inner-city service, did most of the talking this time. This guy was from a Catholic background and was again pretty open to what we had to say, though we weren't sure how much he was living out his faith.
Then came my turn to start the conversation. I went up to two guys a few years younger than me, which helped us connect pretty well. Going through the survey it became clear that they had some very interesting things on their minds, and I ended up listening to one of them most of the time. They expressed disinterest in being "preached to" and were kind of nervous that we would whip out some hidden agenda, so we were afraid to give them the KGP until the very end as a take-home. Still, it was a fascinating, fairly meandering conversatio that had to be cut short due to returning for debriefing and dinner. Before I couldn't wait for sharing time to be over; now I wished we could prolong it to continue such an excellent, deep conversation!
On the way back I told Dave a quote he enjoyed quite a bit: that my view of evangelism had gone from "terrifying" to "intimidating". We'll apparently be doing this almost weekly, and I'm not nearly as nervous for next time. Still, we didn't have any dramatic on-the-spot conversions, emphasizing how we need to trust God to do the real work of drawing people to Him when we've done all we can.
After returning to the park we talked about our experiences, which was pretty cool (I shared the story of my shirt starting a conversation), and then dug into dinner. Afterwards we hung out, got to know each other better, played games, and helped pack the picnic up. My techie experience came in slightly handy packing up the canopy we'd put up, and I discovered another summer projector had done set work; we swapped theater stories as techies do. After that we drove back to the ministry center and settled in for the night; nights here are fairly quiet with no central place to hang out and an 11:00 PM curfew. Today was a great day of seeing God break down the barriers to sharing faith that I had, and it's only the second day of project! Stay tuned for more awesome.
Composed ~8:30 PM, Saturday, June 12th