Tampa Riverwalk 2/16/19

Oh what a beautiful day! In Tampa, FL God blesses us with beautiful 70 degree sunny weather in February. What better to do than get outside and spread the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

It is so pleasant on the Riverwalk. Everyone is in a good mood, so many people stopped by. We must have given out 100 rosaries/medals and had many meaningful conversations. Seeds were planted. We had two new evangelists, George (originally from Lebanon) and Shohreh (originally from Iraq)  join our regulars, Mike, Richard, Reuben and I.

If you live or are visiting the Tampa area, please consider joining us. We usually do something the third Saturday each month. E-mail me at bill@brown.org to get added to our list. I only send out two e-mails a month:

  1. First e-mail for us to decide where to go this month.
  2. Second e-mail announces the decision and logistics on where and when.

Ybor City 1/19/19

Ybor City is kind of like the Bourbon Street of Tampa; however, it’s a great place to evangelize. There is always a lot of foot traffic, and the people are usually not too busy to stop and talk. So that’s where we chose to set up at our last outing. We always set up at a great spot in front of a vacant lot.

There was a wonderful start to the day. A young woman, named Danielle, stopped by. She said she was a protestant who attended her first Catholic Mass this past Christmas. She admitted it was beautiful and her curiosity about becoming Catholic has started. We discussed RCIA but before I could get into the specifics she started to cry. She sobbed about not deserving God’s love and more I couldn’t understand, so with trepidation, I just placed my arm around her and we prayed until she composed herself. She asked for prayers to bring her closer to God in her brokenness. She accepted a rosary and many pamphlets about becoming Catholic, Sola Scriptura and Faith Alone.

Then everything changed. While I was still by myself, a van pulled up with about a dozen members from the Black Hebrew Israelites. They unloaded multiple tables, a stage, and speakers. Some of their items were placed right in front of my table.
Then they started their hate speech over a very loud microphone. I’ve never really bought into the idea of hate speech thinking it was just free speech to which you disagreed. Boy was I wrong. They openly hate white people, Jews, Asians, Catholics, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus. They even hate continental Africans, the current African American leaders, and Martin Luther King Jr. They do this very unabashedly and referred to silent me directly as a homosexual pedophile.

Finally, some of my brother and sister evangelists showed up. We decided we would not put up with this abuse anymore, so we moved across the street. Sometimes discretion is the better part of valor.

We all know that God can show us the good when we see only bad, and this is what He did. Most of the pedestrians were just as uncomfortable with the platform of the Black Hebrew Israelites as we were, and most of them did what we did. They crossed the street to get away from the hate and ended up right at our table of love. We had way more traffic than normal.

Except for the noise from across the street, the rest of the day went as good as it ever has. We evangelized from 11:30 to 6:00. I was joined by first timers Suzanne, Sharon and Betty; Paul from the Lakeland Chapter, and my stalwarts, Richard and Mike.

Then we had one of those encounters that keeps us coming back out. I noticed a young guy who looked familiar. He was a Scientologist I encountered back on November 2016, at the Ybor City Cigar Festival. Here’s what I posted about him:

The Scientologists (who had a table around the block) stopped by. They were taken aback when we offered them a rosary saying they thought Catholics hated them. We showed them love, gave them a rosary and showed them how to use it.

I noticed Paul approach this guy, so I let it play out. Here’s Paul’s report:
There was a young man who was escorting a young gal. They had walked past our booth a couple of times. They were both wearing shirts with Scientology written on them. They both stated that Scientology accepted all religions. I told them that Christ said that He was the only way, truth and life and that no man comes to the Father but through Him. The young man said that he had been attending mass. I asked him if he was confirmed, and he did not know what that was all about. So, I shared with him the importance of going to RCIA and getting the proper knowledge of the faith. I encouraged them both in the faith and to seek after the pearl of great price and to forsake all other things. She said she appreciated all that I had shared.

The seed that was planted in 2016, continues to grow, if even ever so slightly.

Another reoccurring encounter that never ceases to amaze me was the one Sharon had with Janette. Janette appeared to be homeless or at least not very well off. We gave her multiple rosaries, crucifixes and medals for her and her family. When we asked her how we could pray for her, she replied, “prayers of thanksgiving because I’m so blessed”. Sharon gave her a big hug.

Some more highlights:
• We handed out over 75 rosaries and 50 medals. The large Miraculous Medals were very popular.
• More pamphlets were taken than normal.
• We wrote down 28 prayer requests.
• We had many “second level” conversations where we get past talking about the rosary or medal and discuss that person’s faith in God (or lack thereof).
• Paul also had a chance to evangelize a Messianic Christian by encouraging him to frequent Sacred Heart Parish (downtown).
• We had many Catholics give us encouragement.

From the streets of Ybor City, the Tampa Chapter of St. Paul Street Evangelization wishes you all the Peace of Christ.
Bill Brown


Keep Christ in Christmas 12/7/18

For December we handed out “Keep Christ in Christmas” type car magnets at the Brandon Mall. Yes, the Mall that has asked us to leave before. It was Richard’s idea.

It went well because of a few key decisions:

  1. We stayed outside the mall at the entrance/exits.
  2. We only approached people as they were leaving the mall.
  3. We stopped our activities when the mall cops drove by.

It was a very successful night. We synchronized our watches, moved stealthily to our predetermined locations and handed out our magnets (and Nativity activity books for the kids). There were 4 of us, and I think we handed out about a hundred magnets and 50 activity books. Then we had a few beers to celebrate.

Come join us; we have fun.

Tampa SPSE at Ybor Saturday Market 11/17/18

Once again we showed up for the morning market at Ybor’s Centennial Park. Foot traffic was brisk and we handed out many rosaries, medals and pamphlets. Vic, Reuben, Mike, Richard and I had a great time. That’s important too.

We had been there before and knew what to do and more importantly, not what to do, so I made sure we set up on the public sidewalk and not in the park. The person in charge of the Market tried to kick us out, but I knew my rights, politely informed her of them and said I would only leave if someone from the City came. She came back with a text from “Alice” who supposedly worked for the City. “Sorry, not good enough.” Thank God, she never returned. Police passed by and greeted us happily. The lesson is to know your rights and be polite.

A few highlights:

  1. A non-Catholic theology major was very interested in our pamphlets and how to pray the rosary. Go Holy Spirit go!
  2. A mother and her adult daughter could not believe we were handing out such nice rosaries for free. Mom cried on my shoulder.
  3. Vic handed out billions of (St. Paul & Pope Francis) dollars to the many children who passed by and then engaged with conversations about Jesus’ love for them.
  4. A Catholic couple asked to join our Chapter.
  5. Many other Catholics strengthened us with their blessings and verbal support.
  6. As usual, we were able to convince a number of protestants to pray the Hail Mary, and therefore the rosary.

If you want to join us evangelizing in the Tampa Bat area, we generally do the 3rd Saturday of the month. Contact me at bill@brown.org to get on our e-mail list.

Tampa Chapter SPSE Introduces the Ministry to the Diocese at Family Faith Fest 10/27/18

We don’t usually preach to the choir, but this month we chose to set up our table at the Diocese of St. Petersburg Family Faith Fest. It was a great opportunity to recruit new evangelists and boy did we! Thirty-two spirited individuals joined our ranks.

In addition, we did hand out hundreds of rosaries, medals and pamphlets. We actually depleted our stock. But it was good to know these sacramentals would be put to good use.

Tampa Riverwalk 9/15/18

It was another hot day in Tampa. We chose to evangelize the Riverwalk again, but in a different location. This time we chose MacDill Park. We found a beautiful spot under a tree. Foot traffic was good, but a lot of potential customers are whizzing by on bikes, skateboards, or jogging and don’t want to stop. We still gave out many rosaries and medals. We recently purchased a batch of St. Christopher medals because of the many requests for them.

We had three new evangelists with us that day, Joe, Sarah and Neil (see picture).

One women came up to us crying. She was from out of town and staying at a nearby hotel. Melissa told us that she had been a Catholic all her life. She attended Catholic grade school, high school and college, but she had fallen away from the Church. Evidently, our table made her realize her mistake. We prayed over Melissa, urging her to return to the Sacraments and Mass. I trust the Holy Spirit to see that through.

We stayed from about 10:30am to 3:30pm. With different evangelists showing up at different times. Thanks to our stalwarts: Reuben, Richard and Mike.

Ybor City 7/20/18

Ybor City is a great place to evangelize. There is always a lot of foot traffic, and the people are usually not too busy to stop and talk. This Saturday was no different. We did the afternoon. It was hot, but the shade from the buildings made it bearable.

Most of our customers were pleasant casual conversations. Catholics were surprised to see us evangelizing in public. Baptists were glad to hear we didn’t “worship” our Blessed Mother, and when we explained the Hail Mary (first half scripture, second half asking for intercession) most were glad to take a rosary and give it a try.

In the picture you can see Teresa selling crosses and such made from weaving palm leaves off to our left. During one of our conversations she told me she was a Native American and she believed in one God, but not necessarily the Christian God. Then when the Scientologists walked by she leaned over to me and said, “I’d rather be a Catholic than one of them”. I had to laugh to myself. Later on, I overpaid for one of her crosses and she started to cry.

Another interesting encounter occurred while I was packing up. I had laminated and placed 3 posters of famous Catholic scientists (Sr. Mary Kenneth Keller, Fr. Georges Lemaitre, Friar Gregor Mendel) that I got from Word on Fire. When I looked up, I saw three young men reading the posters. They told me they thought the Church was “against” science. It allowed me a great opening to point out faith and science are not at odds at all. They both are invaluable ways to understand the physical and metaphysical. I gave them the SPSE pamphlet on the Existence of God through Astrophysics.

If you want to evangelize your Catholic faith on the streets of Tampa, just e-mail bill@brown.org.

SPSE Tampa Takes on the Riverwalk 4/20/18

For April ’18, we decided to set up shop at the new Tampa Riverwalk. The logistics were great. We were able to park at MacDill park in one of about a dozen metered parking spaces and set up right on the Riverwalk about 200 yards away.

Unbeknownst to us, there was some type of charity walk taking place that morning. So we had hundreds of pedestrians pass us for the first 2 hours. I’ll bet we gave away 100 items, including our new line of bracelets that have Bible verses inscribed. There were a lot of teenagers filled with the Spirit who were glad to see us. Joyce asked me why I did this. I told her because I love Jesus so much. That earned a high 5. Another women asked us to pray for her nephew in Seminary. There was also a homeless women who asked us to pray over her.

Traffic lightened up after the walk with mostly exercising type traffic. This is definitely a place to return.

Paul, Apostle of Christ Movie: SPSE Evangelizing at a Theater Near You 3/23/18

For March, as we were trying to decide where to evangelize, the “home office” requested we go to the various showings of the movie “Paul, Apostle of Christ”. So we were at the AMC 20 Theater in Brandon. The crowd was a little light. If we do it again, I’d recommend the evening shows. The logistics were fine. No one kicked us out. We set up the table. They did make us place our sandwich boards where no one could trip over them.

There was one former Catholic turned Evangelical Christian (his label, not mine) that was very good at quoting Sacred Scripture, including siting the chapter and verse. He then said to me, isn’t Scripture beautiful. I replied, “Yes, second only to the Eucharist”. He was very enthusiastic, so there was no need to engage in any other apologetics, so we just enjoyed discussing our common ground.

Ybor City in the Afternoon – 1/20/18

For our first outing of 2018, we returned to our usual spot in Ybor City. Reuben, Richard, Mike and I were able to set up our table and get started. The crowd was steady, but not heavy. It was a good mix of families and adults. Not quite as rowdy as the evening crowd. Some highlights:

  1. A young man, Tyler, came up to us and accepted a rosary. After talking awhile we found out he was homeless and in a tough situation. We asked him what could we pray about for him. Of all the things to ask for, Tyler asked for God to make him more humble. Not a home, money, job, but humility. I think he already had it.
  2. Another young man, Sean, asked that we pray that he could find the light.
  3. Jose accepted a rosary saying he would use it to pray for a green card.
  4. Doug was a gentlemen going through RCIA. He accepted some items and asked for prayers that he sticks with it.
  5. Deacon Mike stopped by and commended SPSE on its activities. He asked us to pray for stronger faith.
  6. If you go back and look at our first trip to Ybor City in July 2017, you’ll find an entry about a street dancer in a silver jumpsuit with silver face paint. He hung out next to us and asked us to pray for his wife who had cancer. We told him the story of the Miraculous Medal and gave him one for his wife. Well Harry showed up again late this afternoon and said there was someone we had to meet. Over comes his wife, Kimberly. She pulls the Miraculous Medal out from her shirt and said she has not taken it off since her husband gave it to her in July. Her cancer was in remission and she felt much better. God is great!

If you’re in Tampa, please join us. We stay out about 3-4 hours. E-mail bill@brown.org.