Ybor City – 4/20/19

Our plan was to attend “Easter in the Park” on Picnic Island. When I arrived I noticed the white caps on the waves in the bay. As it turned out, we had a very strong wind storm that morning and the event (which included bounce houses) was cancelled. Some of us turned around and went home, but not Joe. So I told Joe to meet me at Ybor and we’d set up in the alcove of a vacant store to be protected from the wind.

It worked well and we set up the table and gave out many of the children’s Easter activity books (no bunnies or eggs – Biblical pictures) as well as our regular rosaries and medals.

We stayed from about 10am to 3pm and collected 23 prayer requests and had many meaningful conversations. Most importantly, we were able to remind many people of the true meaning of Easter.

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.

Ybor City Cigar Heritage Festival 12/4/17

This was our second attendance at this event. Last year it was great and we set up on the street just outside the park. This time it was great until it was not.

Luis C. and I showed up around 11am. This time the organizers added a fence so setting up outside the park was not an option. So we just wheeled the wagon into the middle of the festival and set up our table in a great spot under a tree.
As soon as we arrived, a gentlemen and his son approached us. He informed us his son was doing a report on the papacy and they had questions about the doctrine of infallibility. We discussed the issue, but I had to admit there were gray areas. Luckily I had both the SPSE pamphlet and a booklet from Catholic Answers on the topic which I gave to them.

We continued to meet a lot of people and give out many rosaries and medals. Some policemen came up to us and took a rosary. Another couple arrived where the wife was Catholic and the husband was discerning his entry into the church. We answered his many questions. He asked abut RCIA and why it is so difficult to join the Catholic church. Luis pointed him in the direction of Mother Mary for guidance.

A continuing story for me at SPSE is that person who declines the item with a bit of air of superiority, only to return an hour later saying they were moved to come back and get a medal or rosary. Way to go Holy Spirit!

So after about 1 1/2 hours, while I was busy with a customer, a lady comes up to Luis and tells him we have to leave. She didn’t look official, so Luis & I decided to ignore her request for now and see what happens. Then we held hands and said a prayer for her asking God to forgive her for she knows not….

5 minutes later one of the policemen shows up and tells us we have to leave because the event sponsors rented the park and only paying vendors can be there. We explained we were not selling anything, we were passive, people were enjoying us, etc. but no matter. So we agreed to leave and started packing up.

A few minutes later, as we were packing, the lady returns and tells us to leave faster. I told her not to worry, we were packing, and would be gone in a few minutes. She says we are not packing fast enough. Luis tells her, “We prayed for you.” She says, “I don’t need your prayers.” Luis says, “We prayed for you anyway.” I’m trying not to bust out laughing while I’m packing.

So we left after a very successful hour and a half we shook the dust from our feet and drove back to Brandon.

YBIC – Bill Brown 813.335.4765