On Friday evening the team met once again at Café Nero for a time of prayer and devotions before heading into Leicester square. The team was as follows: Carl, Wesley, Ben, Susi, Petra, Jannah, James, Steve, Wayne, Nigel, Josh, Melissa and Fredee. Josh (president of Operation 513), Fredee and Melissa were at the last leg of their mission trip around the UK and joined up with us for the night. Josh of course is from Brisbane, Australia, and the two girls are from California. Nigel and Wayne are two friends from Mansfield who travelled down to London to join. We truly were blessed to have such a large team; brothers and sisters in Christ from all over partnering to fulfil the great commission!
We headed to our usual spot and set up our table that has free Bibles, DVDs and tracts for people to take away. Once we were sorted I stood up to preach. I had not even been preaching for even five minutes when four police officers approached me and asked me to step down. They told me that they did not permit public speaking in Leicester Square because it draws a crowd, which "lends itself to pick pocketing." This seemed ridiculous to me and I explained to the officer that we had been coming to Leicester Square for over a year. I asked him if we had broken the law and he said no. With Josh coming to give support we pointed out to the officers that there were buskers in the square that also brought in a crowd, as did the nightclubs, but he simply said he was not interested in them and was concerned simply with what we were doing. It was quite apparent that they were not prepared to let us continue so we asked them what we would be arrested for, since we were not guilty of breaking any law. We were told that we would be taken in for anti-social behaviour. At this point righteous indignation arose in us and we decided we needed to speak with the inspector at the station. We had been discriminated against and it was only right that we made a stand concerning our rights (see Acts 16:35-39).
Josh, Steve and me then made our way to the police station. Before leaving we told the team to remain in the square and hand out tracts and speak to people one-to-one. Arriving at the police station we waited until we were able to speak with the station inspector. Josh took the lead in this and I was really impressed with the way he handled himself. He was very assertive and bold, but at the same time he was deeply respectful and courteous. He did use strong words with the inspector and told him that we had been discriminated against and as such felt vilified. The inspector was very apologetic and agreed with us that we had done nothing wrong. He said that we were not in breach of any law. He assured me that we were totally within our rights to preach open-air in Leicester Square, provided of course we did not deliver hate speech. We of course had no problem with this and thanked him for his time. We headed back to the team and told them the good news. They of course were very encouraged.
I stood up once again and preached a solid gospel message. God brought people to listen and you can see that in the photos below. The gentleman in the white cap was a good sport and agreed to go through the good person test. It's always good to be able to do this as it brings a bit of humour and also keeps the crowd interested.
After I preached Josh stood up to preach and he did a wonderful job of defended the faith against a number of objections that came from those listening. Josh is incredibly knowledgeable in the field of apologetics and I always find it inspiring when I go witnessing with him.
During both open-air sessions the team spoke with many people and handed out many tracts. God was so very good to us and we give Him all the glory that He sovereignly intervened and used us to proclaim His gospel in the midst of persecution. It was a great night of ministry and one we will remember!
Soli Deo Gloria!