For many many years, there was a music, food, and craft street fair in Asheville called Bele Chere. It was always held the next to last weekend in July…around my birthday…and the hottest, stormiest weekend of the year. There were often street corner preachers pounding Bibles and screaming condemnations and fear. The last year or two (the fair is no longer held), the Episcopal church in Asheville set up a booth down the street from the preachers and displayed the (now iconic) banner: “GOD LOVES YOU. NO EXCEPTIONS.” There was a simple shoe box on the table with a stack of scrap paper and pencils beside it. On the shoe box was printed “Prayer requests.” There were prayer ministers standing by the table if someone requested immediate prayer.
I was not aware of the booth nor did I usually attend the fair because it was always so hot and so crowded. But, as a church office volunteer, I was asked to type up the prayer requests from the slips of paper so the list could be distributed to the entire group of prayer ministers in our church and blessed by the priest before being burned and the ashes distributed in the garden.
I was totally blessed by the opportunity to read so many heart-felt and fervent requests. I prayed with the authors as I typed them up. I wept over so many. There were short “just pray for me” requests and sometimes just a name, like “Jesse” or “Melissa” or “mama.” Others had long stories in tiny scribble over the front and back of the piece of paper…stories of long illnesses or abuse or addiction. I was overcome and needed to cry a lot afterwards.
But, that’s how it is done. Lost and lonely, hopeless souls are drawn to Jesus not by threats and condemnations but by offering what Jesus offered: hope, healing, and heart.
“It is God’s love that we must display in sharing with others,” says Don Merritt on his blog The Life Project: Finding Clear and Simple Faith.
To God be the Glory.
The photograph at the top is borrowed from a post on the same subject, same event, titled “Bullhorn Preachers, Bullhorn Truckers,” on a blog titled Not a Normal Vicar. I recommend your reading it to get the full picture. As I don’t see how to contact the vicar directly to get permission, I hope he will not mind my referencing his post and blog, as well as using his photograph. He is from the UK and I intend to read more of his thoughts and observations.