I understood, after talking with Alexandre, a guy I'm discipling from Candido Mendes University (UCAM), that I'd be preaching with the aid of 2 or 3 guys from the Jews for Jesus Carnival project in the homosexual district of famous Ipanema. However, it became clear that the local Jews for Jesus leaders weren't about to associate their group with a hell fire preacher accompanied by a bullhorn and confrontational banner. So, suddenly, I was on my own. I could have submitted to their approach and been able to don the project t-shirt, but I was anxious to inaugurate my banner - with "You Deserve Hell" and a quote of Rev. 21:8 on one side; a quote of Heb. 10:31 on the other - in sin-soaked Rio de Janeiro. And boy was Rio "sin soaked!"
The first group I encountered in the park just two blocks from the homosexual district was a group of guys (who turned out to be homosexuals) waiting for a bus. I was walking with my banner unfurled and preaching from my bullhorn. It is amazing how people react to the statement "You deserve hell." Even well-meaning, so-called Christians seem to cringe at this biblically true statement (based on such well-known verses as Rom. 6:23 and Rev. 21:8). In my humble opinion, evangelism today is more defined by the culture than by the Bible! Oh, for a return to God's word for our evangelistic training - vs. such emphases as "We need to be connecting with the lost," "You've got to earn the right to be heard" or "That was appropriate for that time period, but this is the 21st century."
Not wanting to take away from legitimate and necessary changes in one's approach (e.g., evangelistic films, the evangelistic use of the Internet, etc.), have people really changed? My Bible tells me that no, people are still sinners under condemnation and in need of a Savior. That's why I still see - and expect to continue to see - a need for confrontational evangelism. Talking about a biblical method that is also one of the most cost-effective ones around! An open air evangelist can literally give thousands of people the bad news they so desperately need to see and hear so that they will either stop to ask him - like they did Peter in Acts 2 - how to be saved or, at least, go their way with God's relentless Word pounding away in their consciences.
Back to Ipanema (Remember the famous Bossa Nova song The Girl from Ipanema?), my homosexual "listeners" began to get a bit too agitated for my tastes. I was getting verbally "assaulted" from all sides to the point of not being able to adequately handle their objections and questions. Meanwhile, a thirty-something woman got into the fray, tearfully asking me for help. What I couldn't figure out was what exactly she needed help with! Finally, amidst all the confusion - complicated by my lack of sleep - I decided to walk to another part of the park. I was initially followed by several homos, who took it upon themselves to "denounce" me to those within earshot. One even hit my banner after trying to grab it and pull it down, but his friends called him off. Another kept unplugging my microphone from my bullhorn while I tried to preach, but I was just grateful he didn't try to cut the cord like some have done with a couple of my open air preacher friends.
I started preaching toward a heterosexual night club and was told I should go home since it was past my bedtime! One indiscreet woman expressed her disapproval of my message by bending over and "flashing" me with her gluteus maximus! A guy kept telling me to preach to his friends - by name - who had cans of beers in their hands. The "flasher" then threw her can of beer in my direction, but was well off the mark.
I decided to move on and preach to the folks waiting at the bus stop on the other side of the park. That group was calm and seemed particularly attentive. When I moved in the direction of the side of the park where I had encountered the homo crowd two guys stopped in front of me to read my banner. I soon discovered that they were Irish, so I had a good time challenging their presuppositions regarding the bible and Jesus Christ - in English! One of them seemed more "in tune" with the things of God, but the other was in blatant rebellion against his Maker.
I made one more attempt to preach to the nightclub on the other side of the park, and to my surprise, encountered two Americans - one from my old stompin' ground of San Diego. They both wanted pictures with me before discovering that I was a fellow American with a banner - in Portuguese - that said "You deserve hell." One told me in a rather crude way that I was courageous (i.e., "Bill, you've got b_ _ _ _!"), while I challenged each to seriously consider their true condition before a holy God and how to remedy it. One of the Americans - an airline pilot - told me he'd meet up with me again somewhere to continue the conversation . . . as he walked off with his Brazilian "date" (i.e., one-night-stand?).
It was already 3:00 a.m. and I could tell I was too tired to keep going, so I packed it up and headed for home. However, my curiosity led me to check out the Lapa area of downtown Rio, which is notorious for being one, big all-night block party during Carnival. Things were all lit up with hundreds of people still going strong at 3:30 in the morning. Next year I know where I'll be going! The Ipanema park was dimly lit, had at any given moment only 75-100 people in it and NO POLICE! The Lapa makes more sense . . . next year!