Let me just recap the last couple weeks' events, climaxing at today's:
Fri., Oct. 23: I'm sitting at the conference for my church's denomination thinking about how we need to do more outreach, and this thought comes to me out of nowhere: "Why don't I go to Long Beach City College and set up a table with a sign that says 'Free Prayer' and see if we can meet people, pray for them, and tell them about the glory and love of Jesus?"
Sun., Oct. 25: I get to church and see Justin Botz, who is also excited about outreach/evangelism these days. I say to Botz: "Here's what we're gonna do: we're gonna go to LBCC on a Thursday and set up a table that says 'Free Prayer' and see what happens." Botz responds: "Holy crap. I was thinking basically the same thing the last couple days. Not necessarily about LBCC, but that we should do a free prayer thing." Weird.
Most of the week passes without my having the time to make things happen, until I start making calls on Fri., Oct. 30 to see if we can come to campus the following Thursday. We wanted to get all the right permissions and not infringe on LBCC policies.
Tues., Nov. 3: After talking to one Christian in the LBCC AS offices the previous week, I get directed to a woman named Jaymarie, who informs me that the place that they would allow us to go on Thursday is full for that day, but that we could come on Monday. I politely responded, "Well, we'd really like to come on Thursday: is there any way we can do that?" Jaymarie responded, "Let me ask the lady who would know." Jaymarie connects me to Beverly.
Beverly, of all of the faculty and staff at LBCC, is the faculty/staff sponsor of their Campus Crusade chapter. Plus, she's the secretary for the Dean in charge of this sort of thing. So she's excited about us coming and can help us out. She says that we could come Thursday over at one area, but that it wouldn't be as good. We agree to wait 'til Monday.
Thurs., Nov. 5: Justin and I go to LBCC anyway, not to set up the table, but just to get some face time with any requisite administration, make sure we're keeping up good relationships, and get ahold of any paperwork we need to get ahold of. So we go up to Beverly's office. When we get there, Beverly says, "It's great that you're coming on Monday, because the Pagan Club (yes, you read that correctly) is sponsoring a panel discussion in the room right next to where your table would be during the time you'd be here."
The flier she hands us says that there will be representatives of Sufism, Catholicism, Asatru, and Wicca for two hours discussing their religious views. Justin and I are elated at what is looking more and more providential all the time- how are all these details working themselves out like that?
Various Days between Thursday and Sun., Nov. 7: Justin and I, and later Kyle Lundquist, get together to pray about our time at LBCC. One thing keeps coming up: "Lord, somehow or another, get me on that panel so I can represent Christianity and share the gospel at this meeting."
Mon., Nov. 8 (today): Justin and I arrive at LBCC at about 9:45 a.m. and set up our table. A few people come by and we get to pray for them and hand them pamphlets that explain the gospel (kind of like tracts, but not crappy). Kyle and Dave Krall come join us at about 10:30.
10:45 rolls around, and the panel discussion starts at 11:00. Thanks to some encouragement from Dave and despite my faithless doubting, I walk into the room where the panel discussion will take place. There I meet Lisi, a member of the Pagan Club, and a nice young lady who will be hosting the event. I tell her I'm a pastor at a Baptist church just down the street and ask if I can get on the panel. She says "Probably not, but you can ask Dr. Novotny (the Pagan Club staff sponsor and an anthropology professor at LBCC) when he gets here. We only have four panelists at a time, and we do this every semester."
I leave, tell the guys it doesn't look good, and ten minutes later go back in. As I'm walking in, Lisi says to Dr. Novotny, "That guy" and points to me. I walk up to Dr. Novotny, tell him who I am, and he says, "Well actually, the Sufi Muslim no-showed, so it'd be really great if you could take his place."
I start to shake some as Kyle leans over to me and says, "How's that for providential?" I grab my Bible, my journal, and a pen, and take my place on stage. I am told that the format will include each of us getting fifteen minutes uninterrupted to explain our views.
The Pagan Club might as well have said: "Hey Andrew, would you mind coming and preaching the gospel to us? We're going to have all these competing religions here, and we just want to make sure that Jesus is proclaimed as the only source of real spiritual life, just so no one gets the wrong idea."
Of course, that's not what they said, but I nonetheless stood up and explained the story of the Bible with conviction after each of the other three folks talked about their rituals and festivals with minimal joy and no central message. I preached the gospel to 60+ students. It was amazing, and I cannot get over how much of God's providence I saw in all this. I talked to the Pagan Club folks afterward at lunch, and I also was able to hand out some pamphlets to a few students.
It was definitely one of the coolest things that I've seen happen in my life, and one of the clearest works of God's providence for His purposes. Remarkably, He also taught me some humility in all this as I sat down and thought, "I should've said this and this and this and this," as if God was saying, "I set this up for you, so you need to remember that it was I who worked, not you. You're not sufficient on your own."
No Lord, I'm not. But I pray that you will show Your perfect, complete sufficiency to sinners who need the grace of Jesus through my life more every day.