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Suwanee

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State or province: Georgia

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Mark Baker
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Suwanee Town Center Outing - 3/27/21- Holy Week!

March 30, 2021


We had a good day this past Saturday morning evangelizing at Suwanee Town Center.  The Farmers’ market was the main event happening which always brings some good foot traffic.  It first appeared as if maybe it was not going to be a good day.  Shortly after we setup our table & sign, said our opening prayer, one of the officials there informed us that we were not permitted to have the table set up due to a City of Suwanee ordinance.  She indicated that we were free to walk around and greet people but just could not have a table setup.  I thanked her for informing us and promptly complied. We quickly had to come up with a plan B.  Well, as we all know, God’s plans are better than our own.  So we packed up most of our stuff and put it back in our car, kept a handful of rosaries, miraculous medals, some pamphlets and proceeded to engage souls on foot in the Farmers’ market.  We gave away about 8 – 10 rosaries and pamphlets on how to pray the rosary.  We had a couple of meaningful encounters:

  • Spoke with a protestant couple who accepted our rosary and pamphlet on how to pray it. They are currently attending C3 church in Gwinnett County.  Very friendly couple.  We chatted about attending church services virtually or in person.  They mentioned that they had been attending their services virtually for quite some time.  I indicated that we had been attending in person (in limited numbers due to social distancing, etc.).  I shared with them the significance for Catholics of receiving the sacrament in person and the grace that comes from that, which is just not possible in a virtual scenario.  They did seem to understand the difference.  It was a very nice exchange overall.
  • Spoke with a young man named Matt who was pushing his 15 month old son through the market in a stroller. He accepted our rosary and after asking if he was Catholic, he shared that his Mother was Catholic and Father was Lutheran.  It appeared as if he was raised mostly Lutheran and had also attended Catholic schools at one point and enjoyed studying the faith.  He is now attending 12 Stone Church, a progressive praise and worship church gaining much popularity here in the Atlanta area.  We discussed the similarities between Catholic and Lutheran liturgies and the common belief of the true presence (which he is not currently receiving at 12 Stone).   I decided to try out my “One Good Reason” pitch that I had been practicing on why I felt the Catholic Church’s liturgy reflects God’s desire for worship as revealed to us in scripture.  He was very attentive and engaged in the dialogue.  I provided him a schedule of our Holy Week services and asked him to visit us at Saint Monica’s anytime.

Have a blessed Holy Week!



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Christmas Tree Lot Outing - 12-5-20

December 7, 2020


Well, after a long time away from the streets we got back out there!  Below is a summary of the outing:

Once again, as we did last year, we set up our table at the St. Monica Christmas tree lot at McGinnis Crossing.  The trees sold very fast this year and there were not many left on Saturday.  About 16 trees were sold while we were there and had encounters with about 8-9 people/couples.  Evangelizing at the tree lot has its advantages and disadvantages.

The advantages are:

  • you have a captive audience with whom have already engaged in conversation for a different purpose
  • most people tend to be in a good mood and somewhat open to dialogue

The disadvantages are:

  • they are there for a purpose and may not want to be engaged in other conversation
  • while we are busy with selling trees and the many other logistics (ie. trimming it, netting it, tying it to the car, etc.), sometimes it was difficult to get engaged in a deep conversation

Most of the conversations started by asking if they attended a local church.  We engaged some Catholics, some Methodists, some Episcopalians.  We talked with many of them about how the pandemic has impacted their worship services.  I mentioned to them how St. Monica's was handling it.  Some said they had been primarily attending live stream events from home.  I took the opportunity to mention that St. Monicas was doing the same but indicated why I felt it important to  attend in person to truly get the grace from the sacrament.   We had a flyer with all of the Christmas Mass times that we handed out to many of them who were interested and told them how it was going to be managed due to the pandemic.

We spoke with a Methodist couple who were involved in the music ministry at their church.   Knowing we were Catholic, she jokingly mentioned how strict the rules were in the Catholic Church.  I mentioned to her, with a smile but with intent, "that's why we have the sacrament of Confession".   In hindsight, one of the things we could have mentioned was how much Joy it brings to be able to be obedient to God's rules versus seeing them as a burden.

I spoke with one lady, who, after asking if she attended a local church, she basically said her work schedule didn't offer time to make it to Church.  Nonetheless, I gave her the handout with the Mass Schedule and invited her to attend.  In hindsight, I missed the opportunity to indicate how much more valuable it would be in Gods eyes to find that time to make it to worship services in the midst of a difficult weekend work schedule.

In the end, each customer was treated with great care and respect, and if for no other reason, I trust that our personalized service spoke volumes about the strength of our Faith.



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Sims Lake Outing - 11-10-19

November 11, 2019


We had another great outing at Sims Lake Park yesterday!  We had 6 to 7 evangelizers come out on an absolutely gorgeous Fall day!  As usual we started with prayer and in our prayer remembered our veterans and thanked them for the sacrifices to secure the freedoms we enjoy and often take for granted.  We handed out rosaries, miraculous medals and crucifixes.  We ended up having about 4 to 5 meaningful encounters.

  • We met one couple (Angela and Brian).  Angela is a Catholic and Brian is a Lutheran.  They alternate between attending Mass one week and the Lutheran service the next.  We spoke about Mary and other tenants of the faith.  Brian is very open to the faith and didn't to seem to have any real objections.  Unfortunately, the conversation ended before we could challenge him on why not to truly consider becoming Catholic.  But seeds were planted.
  • We also met Robert and his family who were out for a walk.  Robert was an Italian ex-Catholic from New York who was now attending a non-denominational church in the area.  They were very open to talking with us and one of our evangelizers (also Italian from New York) chatted with him about their home towns and places they knew in the New York area.  We told him about St. Monica's and invited them to join us sometime.  We did miss the opportunity to provide him literature about returning to the Catholic faith, but again, the seeds were planted.
  • Next we met Shannon and her three girls who were originally from Melbourne, FL but have been living in the Atlanta area for the past 15 years or so.  Shannon was an ex-Catholic who had an unfortunate encounter with a parish who refused to baptize her baby because she was not married to the father.  That apparently left a bad taste in her mouth about the Church and she decided to pursue other faith options.  She still had fond memories of her Catholic faith and accepted our brochure about Reasons to return to the Catholic Church.
  • Finally we met "Kamanda" a worship leader at an inner city church in Atlanta.  When asked if she had any prayer intentions, she simply asked for protection for her in her ministry in doing God's work.

Lessons Learned:

  • While we had some meaningful encounters, in hindsight, we may have missed some opportunities to "invite" some of them to a deeper relationship with Christ and His Church.  We need to be thinking about opportunities to be bold and truly invite someone to take a step in their faith.


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Sims Lake Outing - 9-22-19

September 23, 2019


We had a very good outing yesterday at Sims Lake Park.  We had between 5 and 7 evangelizers come out, 2 for the very first time.  Although it started out very slow, we ended up having 5 or 6 meaningful engagements.  We spoke with a couple of Baptists and a Lutheran worship leader.  All of the engagements were very amicable and pleasant.

  • We engaged a man named Mike who was there with his two boys. He was Protestant and his wife was Catholic.  Although he has attended the Catholic Church at various times, both he and his wife had recently been attending a local protestant church.  When asked if he had ever considered becoming Catholic, he said he had considered it but never seriously looked into it.  Some team members shared their own experiences about discovering the truth of the Catholic faith and the grace that comes from the Sacraments.  He accepted a miraculous medal for one of his sons.
  • Perhaps the most important engagement we had was with a women (Terri or Kerry) whom we initially offered a rosary to who, and after a brief discussion revealed that she, although not Catholic herself, had been attending Saint Monica with her husband and child.  Her husband was Catholic and she had been taking her child to Saint Monica for catechesis and preparation for the sacraments.  We asked her if she had considered becoming Catholic herself and she said she had but had not seriously looked into how.  We provided her with a Church bulletin and noted the person with whom she would contact regarding Adult Faith formation.

One footnote on the this last engagement that we discussed afterwards was the fact that we probably overwhelmed her with information coming from multiple evangelizers.  One was providing her information on how to pray the rosary, another was handing her literature about the Catholic Church, in general, while yet a third person was providing her information about who to contact for inquiring about RCIA at St. Monica.  This is probably too many people at one time and we should take note not to overload people with too much information at once.  We will continue to pray for her that she will seriously look into the RCIA program at Saint Monica.

 

SPSE Team Photo



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Summary of Outing – 8-18-19

September 16, 2019


Summary of our Outing – 8/18/19 – Suwanee Town Center

We returned to Suwanee Town Center where we haven’t been in a while

Myself and about 6 to 8 evangelizers made it out to continue spreading the good news of Jesus Christ and His Church.
  • The foot traffic was a light – likely due to hot weather.  We did have a pretty good location next to the fountain where people were bringing their children to play in the fountain.
  • We probably engaged about 6-8 people during our 2 hour outing
  • We had one meaningful engagement  –
    • A couple of our team members noticed a mother taking “modeling” photos of her daughter and, because of the team member’s expertise in photography provided some guidance on lighting, etc.  After a brief discussion about photography, they offered them a crucifix and miraculous medal.  They seem to have been previously Catholic but didn’t share their current faith.  Prayer intentions were asked for and taken.  Very good technique used here of “earning the right to be heard” by first engaging in meaningful dialogue about something of interest to the visitor.

Lessons Learned

  • In the future, we will probably have better success on a Saturday at Suwanee Town Center or when the weather is cooler or when there is another event happening.
  • We may have had too many evangelizers concentrated in the small area of the sidewalk.  Might be better to spread out a little so as not to appear as “daunting” to passers by.


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Summary of Outing – 6-10-19

September 16, 2019


Summary of our Outing – 6/10/19 – Sims Lake Park

What a great day it was to be out evangelizing on the Feast of Pentecost – the birthday of our Holy Catholic Church!

Our Lord did grace us today with a break in the clouds for our SPSE outing.  Myself and about 6 to 8 evangelizers made it out to Sims Lake Park to continue spreading the good news of Jesus Christ and His Church.
  • The foot traffic was a little lighter today – likely due to the threat of rain
  • We engaged about 7-8 people
  • We had 3-4 meaningful engagements
    • We encountered Mark, a “used to be” Catholic currently attending Victory Church.  Claimed he was getting more “meat” out of the service at Victory.  Our team member shared his personal experience of being away from the Church and returning when he realized the grace that comes from the sacraments and especially the Eucharist.  We gave him a miraculous medal, a recent Church bulletin and invited him back to the Catholic church.
    • Met a retired widower, ex-marine Marty who is a Catholic but has not been attending Mass lately.  He shared a poignant story with us about his experiences in Vietnam as a Marine and how he narrowly escaped death.  He accepted our gift of a crucifix and we invited him to join us at St. Monica for Mass.
    • Engaged a mother who was there with her two children.  She accepted our offer of a miraculous medal and quick explanation of the history of the medal.  She indicated that she was not regularly attending a church.  We gave her a recent bulletin and invited her to join us anytime.
    • Perhaps the most interesting encounter occurred when, after one of our team members offered a holy card to her child, a mother asked what we were doing.  Our team member shared that we were a team of Catholic evangelists sharing the good news.  The women asked if she and her “wife” would be welcome to attend our service.  The team member, although initially caught off guard, answered promptly and said, “Yes, of course. Please stop by and visit anytime”.  The team member said she felt like the woman may have been seeking more of a confrontation, but definitely handled the situation very well. (**Quick point of note here:  It’s usually better in situations like this to avoid a straight out confrontation on a potentially contentious topic.  If the conversation would have gone further, we are not to confuse the truth, but sometimes it’s better not to force a confrontation)


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Summary of Outing – 4-7-19

September 16, 2019


What an awesome day we had yesterday at Sims Lake Park!
The weather was fantastic and we had another large group of 8 evangelizers!
A quick summary of our encounters:
    • Took 3 prayer requests
      • Luisa – Health – heart problems
      • Krystal – finding a job and her son with autism
      • Mrs. Griswold – suffering from Cancer
    • Handed out about a dozen rosaries
    • Handed out about a half dozen miraculous medals and a couple of crucifix necklaces
    • Talked with a man named Joshua who recently moved here from North Carolina; he’s not Catholic but looking for Church home here in the North Atlanta area; provided information to him about St. Monica
I would call it another very successful outing!


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Summary of Outing – 3-10-19

September 16, 2019


We had a great outing today at Sims Lake Park!  The weather was great.  Foot traffic was pretty good as well. And we had a great turnout of 8 Evangelizers!  For many, it was their first time out – they all did very well!
  • I’d say we engaged about 10 -15 people.
  • Of particular note was an ex Catholic named Jennifer, whom, although now attending a local Mega Church, still remembered her Catholic roots.  Her mother, Mary Ann, was a very strong Catholic mom who recently passed.  She took a rosary offered to her and information on how to pray the rosary to refresh her memory.  She also shared with us the need to pray for her husband, Jim who has been diagnosed with Cancer.  We gave her a miraculous medal and shared with her the numerous miracles which have come from its wearing.  Please keep Jennifer and Jim in your prayers!
Thanks be to the Holy Spirit for His guidance today!


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How my Ash Wednesday Went!

September 16, 2019


OK, for those of you “scoring at home”, i was engaged by 9 people at work today:

6 people asked me what that was on my head. Of those 6,
  • 3 knew basically about Ash Wednesday and acknowledged the ashes on my head, but I didn’t get a chance to evangelize much more than that
  • 3 had no clue, but were satisfied that it was an outward sign of my faith, and not much dialogue beyond that
  • 3 people, obviously Catholic, mentioned the fact that they still need to get their ashes later in the day. So it gave me a small opportunity to ask them their home Parish and dialogue a bit.
So, although I didn’t get a chance to truly engage in heavy evangelization, at least 9 new people know I’m a Catholic.


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Ash Wednesday – Great Opportunity to Evangelize

September 16, 2019


Ash Wednesday is a great opportunity to Evangelize your Catholic Faith.  I try to receive my ashes early in the day and then “wait for the comments”.
Typically, you’ll hear things like, “Hey, you have some dirt on your head.”  How do you respond?  Below are some things to consider in your response:

THE BIBLICAL RESPONSE

Over forty passages in the Bible associate ashes with mourning and grief. In Old Testament times people used ashes as a sign of repentance. They would sit in ashes, roll around in them, sprinkle them upon their heads, or even mingle them with their food and drink. They did this as an outward sign of their inward posture of repentance. Check out Daniel 9:3-6, for an example.

Ash Wednesday begins Lent, a time when we stop and assess how we’re doing in our walk with God. Lent helps us identify spiritual areas in which we can grow and sinful areas that we need to avoid. To repent, put simply, means to turn away from sin and turn toward God. We use ashes as an outward expression of our need to begin again.

A TRADITIONAL RESPONSE

Ashes are a sign of physical death, as in ‘ashes to ashes, dust to dust.’ We began as dust (a joyless and lifeless existence), and our bodies will return to dust until we are raised up by Christ. By receiving ashes and keeping them on, we publicly proclaim our intent to die to our worldly desires and live even more in Christ’s image, which we focus on during the season of ‘rebirth’ that is Lent (a Latin term for ‘Spring’).

THE HISTORICAL RESPONSE

For over twelve hundred years on the dies cinerum (day of ashes) faithful followers have approached the altar and received ashes upon their foreheads. These ashes are made from the burnt palm fronds that were blessed on the Palm Sunday of the previous year. The ashes are sprinkled with holy water, usually fragranced with incense and blessed using four prayers that are thousands of years old.

The use of ashes for repentance and penance can be traced even further back and is practiced throughout the world. On Ash Wednesday ashes are applied to believers’ foreheads in the shape of the cross.

THE SYMBOLIC RESPONSE

God formed Adam out of the ‘dust’ of the earth, which we read about in Genesis 2:7. In addition, Jesus healed the blind man with clay (earth and spit) in John 9:6. We mark ourselves with ashes as a ‘new beginning’ at the onset of Lent, allowing the life of Jesus Christ to make us whole and new again.

THE MOST BASIC RESPONSE

I’m a sinner. I don’t always love God as strongly as I could or as directly as I should. Ash Wednesday reminds me that it is only through God that I have life; He gave it to me.

Ash Wednesday also begins my preparation for Holy Week and the Passion and Resurrection of my Lord, Jesus, without Whom I have no life here and no chance at eternal life in Heaven. This is just a great opportunity for me to get better. Thanks for asking.

God forgives. He loves. And He gives this sinner a second chance. Put simply: my God kicks ash.



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