Street Corner Evangelist
Street Corner Evangelist
Have you ever seen one? I’m talking about the kind that have wild eyes and long stringy hair, wear tattered white robes, and carry signs with pictures of flames and words condemning you hell. Walking the strip of Las Vegas, I suddenly had a glimpse of how someone becomes one of those.
First let me say that God told me to go to Vegas. No, He didn’t send me there to gamble. I love big cities but after spending the last couple of weeks in the peaceful serene mountains and valleys of the west, the lights and noise were a shock to my senses.
I drove into the concrete KOA campground of Circus Circus. I pulled Happy into what looked like an ordinary parking place, hooked up the electricity, and walked to the Circus Circus casinos on my way to the strip. I noticed a woman with glazed eyes and smoky face, cigarette burning in a cup, sticking coin after coin in a slot. I tried to say hello and all she did is glared.
The first person I talked to was my taxi driver who told me about his grandmother raising him. “My grandma raised me in church but I don’t go. But my faith is still in my heart. I’m thinking about moving to Colorado. My girlfriend moved to there to live with her parents and go to school. She took my 7-month old son with her. I’m thinking about marrying her but I don’t know. It would probably be good for me to get away from the gambling and this life but I’ve lived here all my life.”
“Tony,” I said. “You already said you were raised without a father. Now your son is going to be raised that same way. Your grandmother taught you about God but the choice about the way to live is yours. What do you want for your son, girlfriend, and you?”
“You’re right about not wanting my boy to be without a father. I’m just not sure I can do it.”
“With God, you can anything.”
I got out of the car to see what looked like a 14-year-old boy propositioning a prostitute. Thankfully, she turned him down. Everywhere I looked, I saw women, younger than my daughter, dressed in fishnet hose, black tight dresses, shiny tight skirts, or spiked heels. I saw men having their pictures made with 2 or 3 women at a time. I passed people with open alcohol containers on the streets, laughing, and sloshing alcohol on everyone around them.
The neon lights blinked bright as water shows danced and babies squealed with delight. People from Japan snapped pictures; hassled moms chased children, and wives glared as men ogled the perfect bodies walking by. A gay man pranced down the streets, swaying his hips from side to side. A giant sign, the size of a building, advertised a show by revealing a perfectly formed exposed backside of a young woman. When her mother walks down this street, does she recognize that as the bottom she diapered? I wondered.
I walked and walked and walked. My foot got sorer and sorer and the dry heat drained the energy from my body. God, why am I here? I could be in the Grand Canyon. Everyone here is drunk. No one wants to talk to me here.
I walked over to buy a ticket to a show my son had recommended. When they asked for $125, I almost fainted. This had better be good or he is dead, I thought as I handed this woman my credit card. I thought the show was in 3 hours but I was in Pacific Time so I had 4 hours to walk the strip.
I stopped inside what looked like a civilized restaurant for a $13.99 Prime Rib Special. Sitting at the table in front of me, were 3 generations of men, out for a wild weekend in Vegas. Male bonding at its best. The middle generation decided the loaf of bread could talk if he cut a mouth in it. He sliced a wide mouth with his knife and spent the rest of the meal talking through the bread.
I tried not to watch this spectacle but my table faced his and there was no place else to look. He thought it was hilarious that I’d noticed his antics and started mocking me with the talking bread. I laughed nervously, trying to be a good sport but it made it worse. I wanted to ask if he’d noticed that his son was mortified but decided that wasn’t the best strategy. I finally did what all women know to do when men are being rude or gross. I stuck my nose in the air, blatantly ignored him, and it worked like a charm.
I found my way back to the strip and looked for shopping areas. Bob had suggested visiting The Venetian. When I finally arrived, I collapsed in the mall attached to The Venetian and enjoyed their musicians and what I thought was a deep blue night sky. The man next to me said, “This sky looks so real. I can’t believe it.” I looked up and realized the sky was an amazing replica of the one God created. I wasn’t sure how I felt about that.
When I was rested, I left without entering one store. I got back on the strip and headed back to the location of my show. When I get there, I’ll just sit and wait. Shocked that I’d walked so far, I wasn’t sure I could keep going in the heat. I spotted an escalator and rode it up, in search of air conditioning.
I reached a balcony where drunk people were hanging over the rail, watching a light show below. He’s going to fall, I fretted. She just spilled her drink on him. Does he care? Did he even notice?
I looked to my left to see two scantily clad women hanging on a businessman, twice their age. Does he have a wife back home? I worried. Did my body ever look like that? Isn’t that black leather hot?
I was hot, exhausted, and my foot hurt. Suddenly, it was all too much. I had visions of myself screaming, “Stop this. Don’t you know you’re ruining your life? Don’t you know there’s a better way? You don’t have to live like this. Jesus is the answer.”
Determinedly, I headed for my show. When I finally got there, I still had an hour to kill. I collapsed at a telephone bank that had chairs and called Bob. Did I mention I’d left my cell phone back at Happy? “Bob,” I said. “I think it’s time for me to come home. If I don’t come home soon, I’m going to be one of those people carrying signs that condemn people to hell.” When I get crazy, Bob just ignores me, knowing a power greater than he and I both will eventually restore me to sanity.
I hung up the phone and buried my face in my hand. The woman next to me asked if I was OK. “Yes,” I said. “I’m just tired and overwhelmed and my $125 show doesn’t start for another hour.” We began talking and she shared her testimony.
“I’m here this weekend with my best friend for her bachelorette party. It’s just the two of us. We’re both Christians. My husband led me to Christ a year before we married and it has changed my whole life. This morning my girlfriend left her purse by a slot machine. We prayed about it but didn’t believe we’d ever find it. A kind man found the purse and stayed with it until a security guard helped him find us. God is taking care of us, even at slot machines in Vegas.”
She left to find her friend and I sat up a little straighter, still not ready to move. A beautiful teenager with sweet large brown eyes and curly brown hair collapsed in the chair next to me. She weighed what I’d guess was about 350 pounds. She tried to make a phone call but didn’t get her party. Like I had done, she buried her face in her hands.
“Are you OK?” I asked.
“Not really,” she said. “I’m hot and tired.”
“Are you here alone?”
“No, my dad brought me.”
“You look like a student,” I said. “How old are you?”
“I’m 17. I’m a senior in high school. I’m from Missouri.”
About that time, her Dad walked up. “Are you coming?” he demanded.
“Dad,” she sighed. “I can’t. I have to sit here.” He stomped off. She looked at me with tears in her eyes. “We’ve been walking in this heat for hours. As you can see, I’m not exactly built for it and I can’t keep up.” She rubbed her hand over the rolls on her body. “He’s mad at me.”
“I understand,” I said gently. “In my 20’s, I was almost 100 pounds more than I am now. I remember feeling like you're feeling. There’s hope, you know. There is an answer to your problem. God showed me how to be released from that jail and he can do the same for you.”
Her name was Nina and I shared with her about God and my recovery from food addiction. She listened carefully, with hope in her eyes. “My mother is overweight so I’m stuck with this,” she argued.
“Nina, no you’re not. The addiction cycle can be broken if you turn to God for help. You don’t have to be held hostage to your mother’s patterns. The Bible says if you ask, you will receive. Overeating is an addiction and only God can remove it. Are you a Christian?”
Truly I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, Be taken up and cast into the sea, it will happen. And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive. NASU
“I was saved when I was little but I haven’t gone to church in years. I don’t think much about God anymore. Mostly I just eat.”
“Did you ask Jesus into your life?”
“I think so. I don’t really remember. I think I was baptized,” she said.
“I hope you decide to find a good church. Do you have friends?” I asked.
“Yes, mostly the overweight ones. The ones that weren’t too big, gain weight when they hang around with me because all I do is eat,” she whispered, shame buried deep in those young beautiful brown eyes.
“Nina, 25 years ago, God and I made a deal. I get up every morning and ask for knowledge of His will for me and the power to carry that out. He tells me what to do and what to eat and I do it. In exchange for that, He gave me health and life again. I’ll never take that for granted. I’m a miracle and you will be one too. I see a vision of you a year from now, when you go off to college. You’re beautiful now but you’re going to be thin. You’re young and the weight will come off quickly. If you put the food down and put God in it’s place, you’ll have a life beyond your wildest dreams.”
I gave her my card. “Nina, God told me to come to Las Vegas. He put me at this phone bank and orchestrated this entire evening to get this message to you. He loves you that much. You’re going to be able to do this.” I told her how to find help in her hometown and she wrote down the information. “I want you to e-mail and tell me how it’s going.” She promised she would.
I felt God whisper, You can go back to Happy now.
But I’ve paid $125 for that show, I argued.
That’s up to you, God said. Go if you want. I enjoyed the show and caught a taxi back to Happy. I stayed in Vegas another night, talking to people at the campground, but never felt compelled to go on the strip again. The streets of Las Vegas are safe from any street-corner evangelist signs designed by me.