One of the greatest benefits of being a part of different outreaches and evangelistic communities is the opportunity to meet really great brothers and sisters. So when I saw the Buffalo Bills were traveling to Cleveland for a TNF (Thursday Night Football) game on the NFL Network, I immediately thought of my brother Jon Speed, an avid Buffalo Bills fan. I was pleased when Jon told me he’d be happy to meet me in Cleveland for fellowship, evangelism and a chance to watch a pro football game together.
With the game set for October 3, Jon and I agreed to meet at a restaurant called ABC The Tavern. We are blessed to live in a country with very little persecution for the faith. While this remains true, I enjoy the gifts and blessings of God as he has provided through the opportunity to enjoy a variety of foods!
Note: Clicking the pictures will open larger versions of them in new tabs.
After a time of sweet fellowship, Jon, his wife Kim and I drove to downtown Cleveland for a couple of hours of ministry. We passed out a few hundred tracts, but eventually decided to move closer to the stadium to see if we could get more of a crowded area than the sparsely busy street corner where we started.
One man asked me what the tract was about. I told him it was a little card that explained how to go to Heaven with Jesus. His immediate reply was grave. I don’t recall what he said, just that he was clearly convicted. I asked him if he knew how to go to Heaven and he recited Romans 10:9 to me and followed that up with, “but I ain’t livin’ it.”
I explained to him that according to scripture a person who is born again will “live it.” This frightened him and he agreed to consider these things.
Soon enough, Jon began to preach from the book of Mark. I had never actually gotten to listen to Jon preach in person before. Out of tracts, I stood by and watched as Jon welcomed people to Cleveland!
The night was filled with many stories. We had haters, encouragers, and folks who ignored us as well. I personally believed there was a large amount of Christians who spoke up to encourage us compared to usual. I preached after reading 1 John. I correctly assessed before I preached that my throat was not wet enough, and I had no water, so that only got worse.
I actually lost my voice BEFORE going into the Browns’ game!
We were encouraged by several Christians who thanked us. One man, named Michael asked for a handful of tracts that he could pass out himself! Praise Jesus. Our singular encounter with security was positive as we were asked to leave an are we didn’t realize was private property. Another group of Christians stopped and encouraged us with kind words, loving gestures and words from scritpure.
I can’t even explain how much this fueled me. If you are a Christian reading this and you ever see open air preachers, please stop and thank them. Don’t be miffed if an open air preacher doesn’t stop to talk to you or thank you, just offer your encouragement. Many times, people yell or say gracious things to me and it doesn’t immediately register. I also am not going to stop my open air sermon when I am interrupted – that happens far too often to pause each time, especially due to the frequency of mocking. But I hear every ‘Amen’ and every ‘thank you’ and every ‘good job’ and those words encourage me in Christ to press on.
Jon’s wife stayed with us the entire time. But she wasn’t idle. She spent her time praying! It was a great comfort to be in the presence of someone praying for our ministry. I wonder how much disaster was avoided thanks to her intercession?
Inside the game, I had a great conversation with the two men next to me, a couple of chemical process engineers from Canada! They each learned the gospel and remained friendly to me, although they enjoyed mocking me a bit. They actually promised to contact me and drive down to a Buckeyes game sometime, we’ll see if that happens.
The ride home was cut in half by a dear friend who offered me a place to sleep, including a snack and a wonderful breakfast to go with the fellowship. God is so kind and gentle to me in so many ways. I hope you will pray for me that I will be loving and faithful to Him if I should face much harder times than I had to face last Thursday.