The first week of the “Berkeley Blitz” is over. Today is Monday, March 10, 2014, a time to reflect on the past three days before I leave the house in less than an hour to start week two.
The photo above is taken in front of Sather’s Gate, a main conduit for UC Berkeley students; thousands pass through here every day and we have one of our preaching spots right here.
UC Berkeley is much different than any other major university I have ministered on. To put it kindly, there are a lot of strange people that float in and out of this campus.
For example, while Don Harman was preaching, an elderly, white-haired man was performing some bizarre antics near him. He pulled his camouflaged jacket over his head and, bent over, began to slowly turn in circles while waving his arms and hands up and down, whispering occasional chants while doing this slow-motion dance (see the video below).
Again, while Don was preaching, another man, a non-student, would stand near Don and raise his voice, telling the students that there is no such thing as a Christian. He held in his hand a piece of paper with verses from the Sermon on the Mount printed on it and saying that no one lives up to its standards.
Along with the bizarre, there are also the curious. I was blessed to have many conversations with students who stopped to engage in fruitful conversation. Yesterday was an example of this.
I was standing with one of my posters that asks, “Are you right with God?” in bold, white lettering on a black background. On the bottom is reads, “Repent and believe the Gospel.” (Mark 1:15) This is my favorite sign because of the power behind the question.
I like to ask the students questions to try and engage them in conversations. For example, when a student passes by me I will gently ask, “Young man, are you right with God today?” Their reactions can be startling; it’s not something they are usually asked on this liberal, anti-God campus and it pulls them up short.
Sometimes they respond, “F**k God!” Or you will hear the occasional “Hail Satan!” I might get the silent treatment with their only response being to show me their middle finger as they walk by.
Many smile and say, “Yes, I am.” And then I say something like, “Have you repented and believe in the Gospel? Because that’s what Jesus said is necessary in order to be right with God.”
Many don’t like to hear that. The smiles quickly fade and their jaws set, no doubt because this is something that clashes with their false, preconceived notions of how one gets right with God.
But then there are some who continue to smile even after I tell them of repentance and belief in the Gospel. They might say, “Amen!” I will then ask if they are Christians and some will enthusiastically reply that they are. These are the ones that warm and encourage my soul and I praise and encourage them in their faith in Christ.
A teen-ager, probably not even a Cal student, with bright, dyed red hair and torn jeans, came up to me. She asked me about one of my signs, the one that reads “Evolution is a lie,” a sure conversation starter.
I was struck by her friendliness, freshness and innocence. She was respectful and curious, and I felt that I was speaking with one who had yet to be corrupted by the wicked culture of the San Franciso/Berkeley area (she is in the video).
Hopefully, the few seeds I was able to share with her will take root in her life and she will give her life to Christ before she becomes one of the countless other young people who succumb to drugs, alcohol and loose living. I am thankful to be there, to offer hope, warning and reconciliation to God through Jesus.
I am blessed to have other brothers in the faith joining me in this tough mission field: Larry, Don, Dave and others. Their faith, boldness and love of Christ inspires and motivates me, pushing me forward in this great cause that binds us together: a band of regenerated brothers.
Nick is another student attracted by my “Evolution is a lie” sign. I was busy talking with another student when he first came up and didn’t have a chance to speak with him before he left, no doubt to his next class. About an hour later he returned and stayed for over two hours to stand and talk, along with a small knot of other students. They are hungry and they are searching.
Nick is proud of his Catholic background and education. At the end of our conversation, I ask him if he is born again, quoting Jesus in John 3:5. He replies that yes, he has, but through the rituals of the Catholic church: baptism and confession. It is clear as we talk that he has little clue of the true meaning of being “born again.” Few Catholics do.
He is relying on the fact that he is a member of the Catholic faith and that doing good works is how one becomes “born from above.” I quote to him Ephesians 2:8-9 and gently explain that this kind of thinking is going to send him straight to hell.
That’s what Protestants believe, he counters, and I tell him that’s what the Bible teaches. I urge him to read the entire third chapter of the Gospel of John and also Ephesians 2:8-9 when he goes home. He tells me he will and I hope he does.
On Sunday, I attend an on-campus church called “In Christ Alone,” made up predominantly of Asian students. I met one of the pastors, Vieng Wong, while open-air preaching and we hit it off. He is very evangelistically minded and their church, made up of approximately 30 people, has been on campus for about ten years.
Afterwards, Vieng buys me lunch at a Korean restaurant off-campus. Joining us is Arnold, a young Asian student from Hong Kong on fire for the Gospel. You will see both Veing and Arnold in the first few seconds of the video. Arnold is young firebrand, full of zeal and passion, and young men like him, mentored by committed pastors like Veing, will turn UC Berkeley upside down for Jesus.
Veing invited me to speak at his church and also to dinner this week at his house. He is excited to learn how to open-air preach and wants me to “show him the ropes.” Hopefully, this week, March 10-14, 2014, I will be able to do just that.
My first three days at UC Berkeley has been nothing short of remarkable. I am astonished at how many people I have met and been privileged to share the realities of the kingdom of God with. Not every conversation is easy and friendly; there are haters of the Gospel here and the spiritual battle is very real, but I could not ask for a better start to the “Berkeley Blitz.”
If you feel led, please keep us in prayer. We desperately need it.