I'm sitting in McCarran Airport in Las Vegas waiting for my flight home after a long week of training with the team from Intentional Churches. The training was fantastic, and having the opportunity to connect with an old college roommate, Doug Parks, and his wife Jennifer over dinner was especially sweet. Doug and Jennifer have lived in Vegas for going on 2 decades now and I love to hear their heart for the area as well as for the church.
- I saw Spiderman just about beat the crap out of a guy as they stood yelling at each other on the street.
- I saw people literally tethered to slot machines.
- I saw a few people vomit.
- I saw a lot of cheeks ... most on people's faces and many elsewhere ...
- I watched a woman chase her very drunk husband up an escalator to take his keys away from him so he wouldn't drive. That wasn't nearly as interesting as watching the completely hammered young guy try to navigate the down escalator on the other side at the same time! Imagine how hard it was for him to keep his footing when his inebriated mind, already swirling with imbalance, tried to keep his feet on the moving steps beneath him. The moving handrails didn't seem to help much either. (I'm not going to lie, it was pretty funny to watch.)
As sad as those things were, for the most part, the two saddest things I saw had to do with Christians and they way they treated people.
First, as you drive up the south end of the Strip, there is a billboard to greet you on your entrance into "America's Playground." It warmly greats all by saying:
"What happens in Vegas ... GOD KNOWS! And the wages of sin is DEATH!"
What a great sign! It makes me so happy and does my heart to good to know that THAT'S how Christians lead off trying to reach "lost" people. (Yes, that's sarcasm.)
We might as well put a big sign across from the "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign that says, "Hey everybody, enjoy Vegas while you're here because you're going to burn in Hell for it!' Signed, a graceless, loveless, punisher of a God.
But why stop there! The second thing I saw was when i walked the south end of the Strip on Sunday afternoon. I bumped into a young guy on one of the walkway bridges who was yelling at people as they walked by. He had tracts for them to read, if he could get them in people's hands, but most of the passer-bys weren't having it. He was shouting, almost verbatim, the words from the billboard.
"Repent!" ... "Turn from your wicked ways!" ... "God sees you!" ... "Hell is hotter than Vegas!"
He was a real peach ...
These are the times I usually walk past them and think, "No wonder people hate coming to church so much." As I was preparing for this Sunday's sermon I read this quote:
"Jesus did not spend a great deal of time discoursing about the trinity or original sin or the incarnation, which have preoccupied later Christians. He went around doing good and being compassionate."
Just makes me wonder what Vegas would look like if the people who were doing the screaming would stop for a minute and start serving.
As I ate my obligatory In-N-Out Burger (I still think 5 Guys is waaaay better, but that's a different blog!), I had the privilege of eating with a Vegas resident.
K.V. circled the In-N-Out Burger a few times before coming in. I'm not sure if he frequented this particular restaurant, but people weren't too interested in having him sit in their vicinity. K.V. was wearing torn up jeans and a wide-open fleece jacket. His head was covered with a flat-billed cap and he was wearing sunglasses. His skin was leathery and tan, and he looked to be a solid 65 years old. It was hard to guess his age; if you've ever been around the homeless their environment adds quite a few years. K.V. asked if he could sit next to me, so I said, "Sure!'
The first thing he said to me wasn't a question about having extra food or buying him something, he said, "Hey man, I have a gift for you!" He proceeded to pull out a little pocket notebook with a L.A. Dodgers logo on the front. He brushed it off and handed it to me.
I had already decided I was going to offer him something to eat; he let me buy him some fries and a Coke. (I also gave him the chocolate shake I was enjoying!)
K.V. told me a bit about his story and just smiled and laughed throughout our "meal" together. NOT ONCE did he ask me for anything. NOT ONCE did he complain about his situation. Instead, he offered me a gift!
As I left the table I held my hand out to shake his, but he wouldn't open his fist, choosing to give me a fist bump instead. He told me that no matter how much he washed his hands, his psoriasis always looked bad and he didn't want me to be uncomfortable! I told him I wasn't scared and I wanted to shake his hand anyway. He smiled and told me he was so glad that someone wasn't scared of him. (He still wouldn't let me shake his hand.)
As I'm getting ready to leave Las Vegas I can't help but think about K.V. and that quote above
"[Jesus] went around doing good and being compassionate."
I hope the next Christian K.V. bumps into on the Strip will be a little more like Jesus and a little less like the rest of us.