I went out with another evangelists towards the Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe near the theme parks to get a chance to meet tourists. We wanted to strike up some conversations and share a few miraculous medals for the day. We started at the Shrine and ran into one of the volunteers there. Her name was Laura and she shared with us a bit about her life as a practicing catholic. She told us how she used to evangelize in the way that we did, but since she is older she enjoys going to the hospitals with a parish ministry to care for the sick. I told her about how we all have to evangelize as missionary disciples, but that the way we evangelize can take on many different forms. She was happy to see young people becoming active in their faith and warned us about spiritual warfare. I asked her about her spiritual life in the midst of caring for the sick. Laura admitted she felt exhausted so we offered to pray with her. She accepted and we prayed that the Holy Spirit would be poured out anew so that by God’s strength she would continue to proclaim the gospel for the salvation of souls. She thanked us and we walked about five minutes over to the outlets.

Today was President’s Day which meant that there were more people shopping than usual. The parking lot was overflowing with cars and the people were all scrambling for food during the lunch hours. We went inside to the cafeteria and looked around to sit with someone eating lunch. We went over to a family as they were leaving and sat down. Within 5 minutes another family approached our table to ask if they could sit with us, to which we agreed. The woman had luggage with her and a younger son who seemed to have been crying. Her husband went to get food and I asked her where she was from. She didn’t understand me so I started talking to her in spanish. She told me they were visiting from Chile, and the other evangelist started talking with her since she also had family there. We stayed talking with them for the duration of their meal, and while I let my team mate talk with the parents, their son came over to sit next to me and talk about his vacation. So I began talking with the little boy who seemed no older than 7 years and he told me how he went to New York and Washington before coming here. 

I asked him about how he liked Orlando, and he said although he really enjoyed his trip he was excited to go back to school. I asked him why, and he said he was ready to hang out with his friends again. But there was one particular friend who was ‘very annoying’ and I asked him why he thought that way. He told me “she says really mean things to me when we play together that I cry and run to tell my Tia (aunt) so that she can stop.” I asked him why he was friends with her if she was mean to him. He didn’t have an answer for me, so I said “next time you play with her and she is mean, you need to tell her that you don’t like how she treats you and that if you are going to be friends she needs to be nice.” He started telling me about how he can tell his Tia so that his Tia can talk to her, and I looked at him and said firmly “No, YOU need to talk with your friend. She is your friend, and if you do not say anything how will she ever know how to treat you? You know that you deserve to be loved well, so you need to communicate with her because that is not how friends treat each other, OK?” He took a moment to be silent and think about what I just said to him. I told him that his Tia loves him very much, but she cannot always be there for him so he has to communicate with his friends, otherwise they will not learn about how to love him well. After this discussion he talked to me about his dog and the virtual game he played when he couldn’t be outside with his friends. He was very happy that he had over 60 friends on this virtual game which was a bit disheartening to see how he admired a virtual game. I talked with him about playing games with his friends outside, and he admitted that when he was lonely he would pick up the game. I encouraged him to leave the game and make more friends in his neighborhood while the other evangelist was sharing her testimony with his parents. Later she told me that the family was catholic but not practicing. They sent their son to a catholic school where he learned his prayers and came home asking questions about the faith. As we wrapped up, the other evangelist and myself prayed over the family and said our goodbyes. I left them with some miraculous medals and cards in spanish as a gift and wished them a safe passage home. 

While I personally didn’t experience sharing the gospel with the family (which the other evangelist did) I hope that teaching the young boy about the meaning of love and healthy relationships will have a lasting impression on him.

*All names recorded in Orlando stories have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals