22nd Annual Multicultural Gospel Celebration, California State Expo Center and Fairgrounds, Sacramento, California
Before we entered the gate at the California State Fair we noticed booths outside. Next to a “Legalize Marijuana” table was a booth with sign reading “Jesus Saves.” I went up to take a picture of the booth and a man inside said, “You need one of these t-shirts” pointing to his own “Jesus Saves” t-shirt. I was wearing an Oakland A’s t-shirt (which, during the summer, is what I wear more days than not).
The man was Brother Gary, a street preacher who expects to man that booth throughout the fair, as he has for the last six years since he moved to California from Wisconsin. During the rest of the year, Pastor Gary looks for other opportunities to share Christ through preaching, signs, and tracts.
It wasn’t long before Brother Gary asked me if I agreed that salvation came through faith in Jesus Christ, and I agreed. (Free tip here for dealing with Christian evangelists. If a street preacher should ever ask you, “Do you know if you’re going to heaven?” and you don’t want to have a prolonged conversation, do not say, “I’ll go to heaven because I’m a good person.” If you want a short interaction, say, “I know I will go to heaven because I Jesus died for my sins, and I have trusted in Him for salvation.” That answer passes the test for most evangelists. I do believe it’s true.)
On of the events of the Celebration was “Who’s Got Gospel Talent,” a competition for young Gospel singers. We happened to catch some of the contenders, including some rappers and the young woman who eventually won the competition (she was very good). We also were there when she was awarded the first place prize which included a trophy, a opportunity to make a recording with a professional studio, a professional photo session, and an unspecified cash prize. She was quite moved, in tears, and wanted to give thanks to God and her mother “who brought me through hard times.”
He brought out Tianna Rey, a woman with three backup singers. They sang a song “Yahweh” (“Yahweh, hey, hey, hey!”) and a song partially in Spanish (with some questionable pronunciation but they hit the notes, so that was okay). He brought out Paul Genesis, a soloist who encouraged with song and word (“I want you to know that if you believe in prayer, God will answer your prayers tonight!”)
I very much enjoyed the Mighty Men of Faith, a quartet. One of the great things with this group was that though they sang wonderful harmonies together, but at times one man would sing while another member of the quartet would encourage him along like we’ve heard African American congregations encourage their preacher (“Take your time, take your time, there’s a message in the music, there’s a witness out there, keep going, keep going!”)
The last group we heard was the Tri Valley Community Choir as they sang, “Lord You Brought Me a Mighty Long Way.” What they did was what most people think of when they think of Gospel Music.
I thought it was interesting that none of the people we talked to at the Gospel booths knew that it was Gospel Music Day at the fair. But plenty of the people who were visiting the fair and looking for a Mike’s Hard Lemonade ended up hearing Jesus Christ praised in song.