Me: Friday? Want to come hear a few bands with me? Roger's Arena. Free.
(I send her a link to Phil Wickham's THIS IS AMAZING GRACE video to let her know what type of music we'll be listening to. She's been to church with me a few times over the past 3 years. And I've been to a number of AA meetings with her. We've had conversations about faith and death and grieving and family and friendships and love and hurt and dating and church and Match.com and traveling and careers... She knows I'm a Christian. I know that she's thinking about it.)
Her: Just park at my place and we can skytrain to the arena.
Me: FUN. A transportation adventure.
(I'd been in touch with the only other person I knew who would be attending, hoping she could save us some seats. I was driving into Vancouver after work, and with traffic, parking, skytrain, walking ... I didn't think we'd arrive much before the event started at 7. Sadly, she couldn't, so we'd have to find seats when we arrived. But with all the negative press about the event, I didn't think we'd have trouble.)
Her, on Commercial Street, just after I'd gotten out of my truck: Here. Give me a hug.
Her: I needed that.
As we walk, then wait, then ride, then walk, then enter the arena, we talk about our work week's challenges. And about the event we'll be attending.
Her: This is three hours? I looked it up on line.
Me: Oh, I guess it could be. I'm mostly just going for the music. We don't have to stay til the end. If you want to leave after a few bands, and before the speaker starts, that's OK with me.
Her: I think I want to hear the speaker. My soul is empty and needs a refill.
Me: OK. Just let me know when you want to go if three hours is too long.
We enter the arena.
Usher: Hi, welcome. The lower section is all full. You'll have to go upstairs to find seats.
Me: Was not expecting this...
Her: I have to go to the bathroom.
We eventually get upstairs.
Usher: All these sections are full, you'll have to go around to the end.
Me: I really was not expecting this.
Her: Are we going to be sitting behind the stage?
We find two seats. We're waaaay up in the nosebleeds, sitting near a family of children who pass gas like its an Olympic sport, with a view of the stage from the side. More and more people continue to find seats and eventually two sections behind the stage get filled as well.
At 7 pm, we are welcomed by hosts. We stand and sing Oh Canada, followed by a worship song by a gal who reminds us of a young Tracy Chapman.
Phil Wickham comes out next, and like a rock star, leads us in worship.
Her: Are we supposed to be standing or sitting. I'm confused.
Me: Either or. Doesn't matter. But the lyrics are on the screen there, so if you want to sing along, or at least see the words, you'll probably have to stand.
She has lots of questions about random things, some faith related. Some not. So I sing, sit, stand, talk, clap, sway, talk, listen, sit, stand.
When Phil's set is done, they clear the mosh pit, and ask everyone to find their seats. While that's taking place, a video is played re: Samaritan's Purse.
Her: Is he going to talk now?
Me: I think so. I thought there'd be a few more bands first, but I guess he'll be up next.
Her: Good. I need to hear something that will fill my emptiness.
Me, thinking to myself, Oh, I'm pretty sure you will.
Another singing group, comes on stage and has a southern gospel/Sister Act feel to it.
Me: I can't fully appreciate this style of music.
Her: They are really good. REALLY good.
And then Franklin Graham comes out. And starts preaching from Daniel.
Her: Old testament?
Her: I can't relate,
Franklin: God loves you. Know that. God loves you. But sin has separated you from Him.
I hear a sigh beside me.
Franklin: God created you. Designed you. Loves you. Forgives you. In a few minutes I'm going to give you the opportunity to come down here and pray with me. Confess that you've sinned. Ask Jesus into your heart. Become a Christian.
Her: Who is he, that I have to go down there and do that with him? He have special powers or something?
Me: No, it's just that it's a bit of a marker, yea? If you get up and walk down there, and pray with him, you'll know and remember that on this day you did that.
Me: If, say, you wait, and pray at home sometime over the weekend or next week or whenever ... you may doubt that you actually did it. Or question whether you did it right. Or whatever. I think there's a measure of peace that comes with doing it this way.
Her: I don't see the point.
Me: I think they probably also have volunteers who'll pray with you, give you some material, maybe a Bible, and answer any questions you may have. They want to be sure you aren't left on your own. It's about community.
Her: I ache for community.
Meanwhile Franklin is still preaching his guts out. The kids in front of us are still farting. I'm praying for people I love.
Her: Have you ever heard this story before? Nebuchadnezzar is from the Matrix!
Me: Also a Babylonian king...
Franklin: In a few minutes, I'm going to invite you to join me down here....
He continues preaching about Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar and sin and forgiveness and sex and morality and then he's done.
And he welcomes people who want to confess their sins and ask Jesus in their hearts to come down.
(And I'm thinking, "this is the same language his dad used 50 years ago. Do we still call it that? Asking Jesus into our hearts?")
Her: I'm not going down there.
Me, not expecting that she would: OK
We sit in our seats and watch the arena floor fill up with folks. And watch hundreds (thousands?) of people stream down the aisles and walk down the stairs. Someone is singing an appropriate song.
I look at the big screen and see Franklin Graham's face. He is at peace. Quietly waiting. He looks gentle and kind and authoritative and confident and wise. He's just waiting. No fidgeting, no glaring looks of condemnation, no wagging finger.
Franklin: Some of you in the upper balcony may be struggling with this decision. God loves you. And we'll wait for you to come.
Her: That's it. Let's go.
We gather up our scarves, coats, purses and exit our row. I think we're leaving the arena; she's had enough.
She asks the usher how to get to the floor.
Me: What? You're doing this?
Me: OK then.
Her: You don't have to come with me. I'll go alone.
Me: Not a chance.
Franklin prayed, she prayed, I prayed.
We met a counsellor who prayed.
(And wanted to fill out forms and ask questions and get all personal which freaked her out.)
I encouraged her to accept the free material, share her contact info and relax.
Franklin then said, "Go to church on Sunday. Find a church that preaches from the whole Bible, introduce yourself to the pastor and let him know what you did tonight and get involved."
Her: I want to go to church on Sunday.
There was another band (Hillsong) scheduled to play but she was done.
So we walked around downtown, talking, then eating sushi made with purple rice.
We hopped on skytrain shortly after 10, just as the crusade was ending. The young man standing beside us was holding his bag of free resources, which made me smile. He too, had been on the floor praying with Franklin.
It had been a big night.
Her, as we get off at her stop: We should celebrate. McFlurry's?
Me: Hell yes.
... and we enter the most ghetto, inner city McDonald's ever.
We sit at the bar seats, over looking Commerical Drive, her enjoying an Oreo ice cream treat, and me,
Three things I'm thankful for:
3. That I went for Phil, but she heard God calling her through Frank.