March 17, 2023 was the Des Moines St. Paddy’s Day Parade Outreach in the downtown area. This year it was sponsored by Pastor Shawn Barr of Grace Fellowship Church in Des Moines, along with Jon Neifert of Tulip Gospel Outreach. I was planning on talking about how everything went, but I really wanted to talk about how I was impacted by the person who came with me.
Ruth, a woman who attends my church, came late and missed the training session with Ray Comfort and Tony Ramsek; but made it in time to load up on tracts, bibles, and get some direction. She is an amazing person, and everyone at our fellowship loves her. She has such a child-like spirit, filled with excitement, wonder, and love for everyone. But the one thing that everyone who knows her says — she’s fearless.
I’ve struggled with fear, a lot, and in the process of writing a book on how to overcome fear. I’ve spent years trying to overcome my own fear, and I have come a long way. But, why haven’t I talked to Ruth and asked her about why she doesn’t have fear? I don’t know.
A lot to cover
Our group got out of the church van and walked as one to the center of the parade. Some headed towards the skywalk, others went the same direction to the end of the parade route; but Ruth and I were left to ourselves to take both sides of the street all the way to the start of the parade. A little irritated, I looked at Ruth and she had this huge smile on her face. For what I thought was a problem, she saw it as an opportunity.
“This is gonna be tough just the two of us. We have to go across the street, down past the library, and make a left; then another block after that. What do you think, Ruth?”
“Let’s do it!” She said with enthusiasm. “They all need Jesus and we get to talk to all those people ourselves!”
We found an opening to cross the street, and made our way to the other side. The first people we saw, we gave tracts to. “Here’s how you do it, Ruth. Just take a St. Paddy’s Day tract, hold it out and with a big smile look at them and say, ‘Happy St. Patrick’s Day!'” And that’s what she did. She was natural at it. This grandmother with health issues of her own with a huge smile walked up to anyone and gave them a tract. The only thing that kept her going was, ‘These people need Jesus.’
We got closer to the end before the turn and there was a bar she used to go to before she was saved. These two rough-looking dudes with long beards walked out wearing hardhats and she stuck her hand out with tracts and said, “Happy Thanksgiving! Do you know Jesus!” and gave them a tract. They smiled, and took it. “Can I pray for you guys. You look sad, and I just feel the Lord wants me to pray for you. Can I do that?” My thought was, there’s no way they’re gonna be mean to her cause she’s just adorable. But me, I might get hit on her account. So, I just let her go and stood beside her. But they were nice to her and said, ‘No, that’s ok, but thanks for the offer.’
As we left them, she was reminded of the New Testaments she had (probably why her bag was so heavy). She grabbed them all and immediately gave them away to the next people she saw. “Everyone needs to read God’s Word. It changed my life, and I know it can change theirs too.” Immediately after Ruth gave hers away, she asked me for mine. I gave her one of my Gideon New Testaments and as quickly as I gave it to her, she gave it to a little girl and said, “That book is about Jesus. He changed my heart and He loves you.”
We came around to the end and walked up the other side sharing the gospel and passing out tracts. About fifty yards from the end, we met up with a mother-daughter team from our group.
“Do you have bibles?!” Ruth asked excitedly.
“Yes, we have these…” and pulled out whole bibles from Genesis to Revelation.
“Can I have them?”
“Sure,” as she laughed at her excitement.
So, Ruth with her new whole bibles started giving them away as soon as she got them. The next two ladies who received them were a lesbian couple. After Ruth gave them tracts and wished them a “Happy Thanksgiving,” the one gal said, “I’m here with my girlfriend watching the parade.”
Ruth asked, “Can I give you something?” and handed them both a whole bible each. They both took them. “Jesus loves you, did you know that? He died on the cross so that you can be with Him forever.”
The one who Ruth started the conversation with said, “You know, I’ve been wanting to read one to see what it says. I don’t know anything about it. Where should I start?” We spent a few minutes with them before the firetrucks came and the parade started. But as we walked and passed out our tracts, I looked fifty yards back and they were still reading them, not even watching the parade anymore! God is amazing, and so is His Word.
Ruth prayed for a lady
We got to the side of the park and a woman approached Ruth wanting to read her shirt. So, she did. Ruth asked her if she could pray for the woman, and she agreed. No one prays like Ruth. The only way I can describe it is that they are the sweetest, kindest, gentlest words you will ever hear but with the explosive power of God behind them. Instantly the woman had tears roll up in her eyes, and a few minutes later, she gave Ruth a hug that you swore they were best friends all their lives.
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.1 John 4:18 NKJV
Ruth and I finished our route and headed back to the van. When we were away from the noise of the parade, I asked her, ‘I love that you are fearless like a child not afraid of anything or what people may think of you. Why are you not afraid to do this like most people?’
She said, “This was the best day of my life. There’s nothing like sharing the gospel. I know that Jesus wants me to share the Gospel, and I know that He is out here and I want to be where He is. And when I am telling people about Him, I know He is right there with me. I don’t have to fear anything when He is right beside me.”
Ruth was a little embarrassed that she got the holiday mixed up several times, but I told her those who she wished a “Happy Thanksgiving” will remember everything she said after that. It will stick in their minds, and maybe want to read the Bible this week. That made her smile, and you can tell she agreed it was all worth it.
We all got back to the church and talked about our experiences. Most of our group had never shared the Gospel before, and had some great interactions– at the very least stepping out and conquering fear. It was fun to see eyes lit up knowing they, in Christ, was able to overcome their fears and share Jesus. Ruth was fired up, and couldn’t wait to do the next event.
Before I left, I sat in my car and thanked the Lord for all that happened. Looking back at that day, not one person rejected Ruth or refused to take a tract or Bible. Not one. I started to tear up. It was a pretty amazing day and I learned some valuable lessons that as we abide in Christ, and He in us, we can love others bear much good fruit (John 15:1-17). I came to this event thinking I was going to teach others about how to share the gospel at a parade; in reality I was the one who was schooled.
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