Charles Spurgeon said: "I can think of nothing better than for a Christian to celebrate the coming of the new year by preaching to the lost as they are rushing to see the fireworks at Southbank."
Nope, he didn't say that, but he really should have.
It has been a tradition of sorts for the team of Operation 513 to open air preach and celebrate the new years by sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The team met up at 9:00 p.m. and were bracing for a long night ahead of us. A good number of people showed up for the special event, we have a rather sizable team of around 15. Everyone was all tracted up and ready to go. In short order the team were pass out tracts to the non-stop stream of people and there were quite a few one on one witnessing happening.
Being a night usually marked by drunkeness and lewdness, the Law was in full enforcement.The boys in blue were patrolling the street in large numbers, (and occasionally posing for photos for the tourists) and also were the council officers. A couple of officers from the city council approached us twenty minutes after our arrival, they were quite happy to see that we have obtained council permit for the night, has a few words about safety and carried on with their duties in Queen Street Mall.
David, Ryan and myself took terms open air, people were very distracted at this point, there were many passer-bys but not many stick around to listen. The people handing out tracts were a lot more fruitful as the constant streams of people meant a lot of tracts went out, and many conversations took place. All went very well without incident as the clock approaches midnight, people were increasing their pace as they make their way towards the river where the fireworks and the count-down takes place.
Ryan was the preacher who had the privilege of closing 2008 out by preaching the Gospel. The Queen street mall is almost empty as people rush to the celebration, almost all of them ignore the preaching as they rush by. However there were a few who aborted their original plans of attending festivity and stopped to listen to the Gospel. Ryan, for example, stepped down from the soap box to witness to someone as the count down was going on, to Ryan and his listener, something more important was taking place than the celebration. There were many more who received the Gospel as the Calendar flipped over to 2009, preaching or receiving the Gospel, I am sure there's no better way to start your year.
After the fireworks is over, we are now getting ready for the crowd to move back from Southbank into the city, only this time, instead of trikleing through the mall like the first half of the night, the crowd now arrive in droves. We had preachers ready again, and the Gospel went out as massive amount of people walk by.
Between Ryan and myself we managed to gather a rather large and hostile crowd. A young man who was a professing Muslim was extremely rude and loud, the crowd caught on his negative behavior and was becoming more and more hostile by the minute. While the young man carried on with much zeal for what he believed in, there were very little reasoning in his arguments. He asserted again and again that according to the Islam Jesus was only a prophet and not God as the Christian teaches, when I confronted his belief system with some very basic "Dr. James White" apologetics, he was unable to give anything that remotely resembles an answer. He just gets louder and ruder as it goes on and eventually the council officers who spoke to us earlier in the night stepped in as in their opinion the situation is our of control.
While I respectfully disagree with their assessment, I choose to take on their suggestion and have the preaching cease for the time being and just have one-on-one witnessing. Well, one-on-many on as most of the team finding themselves addressing multiple persons at a time. It was a very interesting time as I find myself speaking to a group of Muslims, and the young man who had cause much of the aggravation still yelling at the top of his voice when asserting his long defeated arguments. Dan were addressing a very self-righteous non-practicing Catholic and his friends right next to my little gathering with the Muslims men and from the corner of my eye I can see a few people gathered around Ryan, despite the absence of open air the Gospel was still being proclaimed to the crowd. By the end of the night (2:00 a.m.) there were many great witnessing encounters, Gospel tracts went out by the hundreds and it was indeed another great start of the year in Brisbane for Operation513.
I think when I finally got to bed, it was 4:00 a.m. This maybe a year without much sleep, but to God be the Glory.
S. D. G.