Last Tuesday, I was walking back from class with my earphones in, listening to my iPod. As I was walking down Bruinwalk (the main artery of our campus) I noticed a guy standing on a ledge, Bible in hand, open-air preaching. Admittedly, my first thought was that it was another one of those preachers. You know the ones: with signs that say “Jesus saves you from hell” or “Repent or you will perish.” But the Spirit convicted me of that brief moment of disbelief, so as I was walking past the preacher, I removed one of my earphones to listen. I was surprised! I heard him faithfully proclaim the wrath of God on all those who sin, but His grace toward those who believe in His Son. As I continued to walk past him to head back to my apartment, I paused my iPod to pray for the his faithfulness and the fruitfulness of his ministry.
I stopped about ten seconds later to speak with some friends from a different Christian fellowship on campus, who had set up their table only a couple hundred feet from the street preacher, and we talked briefly about him–was his gospel sound? Who was he? After conversing with them for a couple of minutes, I realized I was not going to get back to my apartment very quickly, so I might as well go back to the preacher and tell him that I was praying for him. I said goodbye to my friends and walked back up Bruinwalk to the street preacher. He was, of course, rather preoccupied, preaching the gospel and all, so I instead engaged another gentleman on the floor, who was handing out gospel tracts to passersby. It appeared that he and two other men were the support team, giving out tracts to those who walked past, and having conversations with those who had heard the street preacher. They were there to do the one-on-one conversations, to free up the street preacher so that he could continue to proclaim the gospel to students walking past on Bruinwalk.
So I walked up to a gentleman passing out tracts, and I asked him, “Where are you guys from?” To which he replied, “Oh, I’m from Portland. The gentleman preaching is from North Carolina, and the two guys over there are from Canada and the LA area.” I was pretty surprised at this point–I had assumed they were a team that had come from somewhere in the LA area to preach the gospel open-air. I followed up with, “So… how did you guys organize yourselves and decide to come here?” I could see on his face that he was trying to answer this question as simply as he could to a complete stranger like me, who might have no idea what he was talking about. He answered, “We’re in town for a conference…” I thought, That’s cool. We have lots of conferences in LA. No big deal.
Then he said that it was a Bible preaching conference. At this point, I began to be incredulous. I didn’t know enough to be excited–yet. I know a Bible preaching conference that’s happening in the next few days. It’s Shepherds’ Conference, and we have it every year at my church, Grace Community Church. Could it be…? He continued, “I don’t know if you’ve heard of it–it’s called Shepherds’ Conference?” Heard of it? I attend Grace Community Church! I’ll be bagging your free conference books in just a couple of days! I can’t describe what a joy it was to be able to tell him that I knew exactly what he was talking about, and that I would have the privilege of serving him at the conference.
As it turns out, his name was Chuck (second from the left in the picture), and the street preacher’s name was Justin (far left; he joined us in conversation a couple minutes later). They had been to an abortion clinic earlier in the morning to preach the gospel, and then they came to the UCLA campus to do the same. I am incredibly thankful for these men and humbled by them. They took a week’s vacation to come to LA to attend a conference, and they day before it they decided to preach the gospel to areas of our city that need it the most. These are men who understand the pressing need of people for the gospel, who are devoted to that task, and for whom it is their joy, even on vacation. Chuck and Justin, I am tremendously encouraged by you, and it was my joy and privilege to serve you both at the Shepherds’ Conference! Thank you for coming to our campus, preaching the gospel, and setting an example for us of godly men.
You can find out more about Shepherds’ Conference, and listen to the conference audio, at the ShepCon website. 2014 general session audio is now available for download. (Also, that is my friend Carissa on the far right. She stopped to talk with Chuck and Justin, too!)