By Stephen Bennett*
October 2003 – As we made a left down Route 6A in North Truro, I knew we were only minutes away from my old stomping grounds – Provincetown, Massachusetts. After five- and-a-half hours of traveling, emotions were running high as our chartered coach was heading in to what many believe is no less than a modern day Sodom and Gomorrah.
“P’town,” as it is commonly known, is a beautiful artist’s colony which sits on the tip of Cape Cod in New England. Established in 1686, historic Provincetown boasts a huge memorial – the Pilgrim tower. The community’s landmark and tourist attraction marks the place where the Pilgrims first landed. If those godly settlers were alive today, their eyes would no doubt be fixed on the skies in terror – waiting for the fire and brimstone to fall at any second.
I remember the day in 1991 when I first arrived in P’town to live for the summer. Weighing 155 pounds, tan, blonde and “gay,” I got out of my ’87 black Pontiac Firebird and posed for a photo in front of the town limits sign. I keep that photo as a personal reminder of the life-transforming power of Jesus Christ in my life. This time, things were much different.
As the sign came into view, I had the bus driver pull off to the side of the road and stop. The thirty faithful saints, ranging from teens to seniors, marched out of the bus to pose for a group shot in front of the sign. They asked me to get in the center of the photo – with my wife Irene by my side.
We prayed, got back on the bus and headed into town for what we called “Out of the Fire – Project: P’Town.” Our simple plan was to share the life-changing gospel message of Jesus Christ with homosexuals who had come to celebrate the annual Carnival Week.
As the bus pulled into the heart of the city near McMillan’s Wharf, all eyes gazed out the windows. Rainbow flags were flying everywhere. Commercial Street was packed with men, women and children of every age. It looked like any other typical New England summer tourist area. Provincetown has an annual population of 4,000 residents which swells to over 60,000 visitors in the summer months.
As the crowd came into focus, we could see homosexual men walking hand in hand; lesbians with their arms linked together, sneaking a passionate kiss as they strolled in and out of the town’s shops; and caricature-like drag queens in their high heels. Parents and their children, some toddlers in strollers, walked among the homosexuals, seemingly oblivious to the public displays of “gayness.”
The bus parked and we split into pairs. We carried gift bags each of which contained a Bible, gospel tracts and a CD with a special recorded message directed to homosexuals. On the outside of the bags, as well as on our t-shirts, was the simple message: “You Are Truly Precious in God’s Eyes.”
As strangers in a foreign land, we set out with great hope and faith to bring the life changing message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to this town rampant with sin.
Parading their sin like Sodom (Isaiah 3:9)
Looking into their sad eyes, it was hard to escape the thought that each of these human beings was someone’s child. What happened in their lives that brings them to this point, we wondered. Molestation? A bad relationship with a parent? No doubt each story is filled with pain, loss, anger and the desire to be loved and accepted. And we had what each was searching for – Jesus Christ.
As Irene and I headed into town, we met a lesbian reporter and her friend. Our visit had been announced the day before in the local newspaper, so they were expecting us. The reporter asked for a gift bag, no doubt to report on its contents.
Her friend refused our gift, loudly suggesting that we should “go to Washington to protest the war in Iraq.” The woman, who appeared to be in her mid-fifties, said she wanted nothing to do with an “oppressive dominating male God.” She stayed on a nearby park bench as the lesbian reporter followed us, photographing our every move.
We approached two lesbians sitting on a bench under a tree. “Hello, my name is Stephen Bennett and this is my wife Irene,” I said. “We are Christian evangelists to the gay and lesbian community, and we have a free gift for you today – a Bible and a CD.”
Unlike many of the lesbians we encountered, these women were friendly. They accepted our gift and we talked.
I told them Jesus loved them and encouraged them to listen to the CD. They agreed, smiled and I gave them a hug.
Next we encountered an older drag queen with bright orange hair. He was passing out flyers for a “gay” ocean cruise. We took one of his flyers and gave him a Bible gift bag. We told him that Jesus loved him and asked him to listen to the CD later. He gladly took the package and said thank you. He was friendly and kind.
Ellie, the singing transsexual, was in front of Town Hall. His make-up caked skin was burnt and leathery. His long, stringy, dyed brown hair blew in the wind. He was a tall, thin man and wore a tight fitting mini-dress with high heels. His boom box played tunes from the forties as he crooned in a deep baritone reminiscent of Frank Sinatra. Passersby laughed and dropped dollars in his bucket. I thought, “This is someone’s little boy.” My heart broke.
As he came to the finale of “I Did It My Way,” He lifted his arms in the air. Nancy Petrokansky, Connecticut State Director of Concerned Women for America, draped a Bible gift bag on his hand and told him that Jesus loved him. He responded by saying he had Jesus in his heart.
Christine, who flew in from California, lived for 25 years as a lesbian. Now at 50, she walked away from it all three years ago for her new life in Christ. She and her evangelism partner, Rob, spent a great deal of time with Joe, a friendly homosexual from Maine. He told them that he was a devout Catholic and believed homosexuals were created by God for population control.
Maria, one of our team, sought out Provincetown teens, many of whom had come to view homosexuality as normal.
Pastor Wayne Goodall of Haven of Rest Baptist Church in Connecticut faithfully stood on a street corner all day passing out Bibles, gift bags, and tracts and sharing the love of Christ.
Rose and Randy Ayhens, who were fearful they wouldn’t know how to effectively witness to homosexuals, stayed behind near the bus and handed out over 150 gift bags to people waiting to use the nearby public restrooms.
Later in the day we met Jackie, a lesbian who confessed she was on a spiritual search herself and didn’t know why she was lesbian. Her openness and kindness touched me and we connected immediately.
But not all our exchanges were positive. Many of the men and women homosexuals met our efforts with hostile and disgusting comments. The lesbians were particularly angry, frequently mocking God and Christianity.
The day ended with a drag queen dressed like Marilyn Monroe hurling my pastor’s wife’s Bible against the wall and screaming, “That’s what I think of you and your God!” Later the man was part of a group that surrounded our team as we attempted to board our bus to leave. Police were summoned to break up the scene.
Despite a disappointing ending, the message of Project: P’town surely reached the hearts of some. On the bus returning to Connecticut, tears were shed and prayers were offered for those who were willing to hear the gospel, as well as for those who rejected it.
*For more about the work of Stephen Bennett Ministries, visit www.SBMworldwide.com. A limited number of gift bags are available for those who would like to give one to a friend or family member. Call 203-926-6960 to request yours while supplies last. The only charge is $6 for shipping and handling. The special message recorded on the CD can also be heard at the Web site.