As we begin the second printing of The Caselli Family Series, I’m so mindful of the first time we took this journey. It was a difficult one, heavily laden with serious relationship adversities on our publishing team, as well as within our home church. One woman, whom I was very close to at the time, flat out told me that “the characters were stupid,” that they did the “dumbest things” she’d ever read, and that the only place we could possibly market the thing was in the deep south. I was crushed. Her opinion mattered so much to me at the time. But, I made a note to add the deep south to my marketing plan.
Many times this past few months I’ve had to stop and ask myself, “Why on earth are we doing this again?
When my husband Jim and I left Sioux City in early June of 2010 to begin our first “book tour” I was full of hope and excitement. I couldn’t wait to start telling ladies about blackguards and knights, and about the hope we have in our beloved Savior. We had plotted a course that would take us through many Christian concert venues. We enthusiastically anticipated meeting men and women searching for God—because why else would you go to a Christian concert? We really thought we were looking in the right place.
I imagined immaculate teenagers, dressed in clean jeans and t-shirts, carrying their Bibles—maybe humming a Christian tune along the way. I imagined young adults (dressed like the above described teenagers) witnessing around every corner, perhaps gathering in clusters to pray. I imagined older adults guiding and leading the young adults and teenagers—everyone working together for a common goal, that goal being to share the Good News of Jesus, His forgiveness and His Salvation.
As it turned out, the Christian concert venue wasn’t at all what I’d imagined. The immaculate teenagers were nowhere to be found. When the local church youth groups showed up, my heart ached.
The boys were dressed like punks, making sure their “colors” were proudly displayed. Their pants hung off their backsides, exposing their holey (not holy) underwear. And they definitely weren’t humming anything Christian. They cursed like nothing I’ve ever heard—and I’ve heard (and done) some serious cursing.
The girls were so scantily clad that I was embarrassed for them. They hung off the young boys like harlots begging for attention. And the boys didn’t seem to notice that they even existed.
The young adults were dressed marginally better, except for their t-shirts. They seemed to want everyone to know how bloody Jesus’ death had been. Depictions of His beatings and crucifixion were emblazoned on their chests and backs—without explanation. I cannot imagine how confusing that must have been for the unbelievers.
No one carried a Bible.
Did we try to reach these kids and young adults? Yes. I’ve never worked harder in my life. And I know that we did connect with some of them, but by the time we reached the very southwestern corner of Colorado, in mid-July of that year, I was beginning to wonder if we’d gone off our rockers when we made the decision to take the Good News on the road.
The Colorado venue was bigger than others we had previously visited. They were expecting upwards of 20,000 people. However, we were still surprised at the full size police force that was required to protect the vendors and concert goers. It was a little intimidating, but we set up our booth at 7:30 a.m. that first morning of the event, and began the work that the Spirit had so convicted us to do.
We were required to stay in our booth until 11:00 p.m., but by 7:00 p.m. we were ready to break our contract. No one had stopped by our booth, even when I stood out front with fliers. People swung wide when they passed by us, avoiding eye contact and hurrying along on their way. It was over 100 degrees in the shade, the wind whipped the dust into our booth, and the flies were unbearable. The crowd was filthy and hostile. They hadn’t come to praise Jesus and that was obvious. They were either looking for a “hook-up” or they’d come to rob vendors. The police force had been on top of us all day. I clipped my mace gun to my belt and wished I was home—but home was exactly 1000 miles away.
And it was in that moment that a large, dark-haired man, dressed in regular jeans and a clean t-shirt, strode up to our booth. He put his hand on my shoulder and then he reached for Jim. I did think about my mace gun, but when the man started to speak I forgot about it.
“I have been sent to pray for you,” he said in a beautiful Russian accent. “I know that you are discouraged but our Father wants you to know how proud He is of you and what you’re doing here.”
I started to cry and I whispered, “But we’re not doing anything here.”
“Oh yes you are,” the man replied. “You are being obedient and seeking out the work He laid upon your heart. Do you think that our Father does not see you?”
And then he started to pray for us. He prayed for our encouragement and health; for our strength; for our tenacity; for our continued growth and maturity; that we’d stick with it just a while longer; and he prayed for our comfort.
And all the while he prayed over us, we wept. I have never felt comfort like that in my life.
When he’d finished praying he introduced himself as “Julian.” He explained that he was a missionary, that there had been a problem with his wife’s Visa, and that he would be joining her in another country very soon. In the mean time, he had been led to witness at the Colorado event. I noticed that he was carrying his Bible.
Shortly after Julian left us people started to flock to our booth. We were able to talk to many young people, including a band member!
It wasn’t our job to preach the Good News on that particular day. No, the Good News was meant for us—Jim and me. And when we’d reached the point of packing it in and heading for home, God sent a beautiful messenger to encourage and strengthen us.
No matter how unreasonable the road before us appears to be, when God is leading He will give us the strength needed to continue. I encourage you, my brothers and sisters, stick with the work the Spirit has laid upon your heart. God will encourage and comfort and it will be the sweetest of rewards.
Despite how difficult the first journey was, we’ve committed to doing it again. Perhaps we’re just a couple of crazy old fools…but I don’t think so. Turned out that the deep south loved the books. And no one since that time has ever said that the characters were “stupid.”
I think there may still be someone out there who needs this ministry. And God, in His supreme Providence, is sending us out to find them!
© 2017, Ta`Mara Hanscom