The crowds had already assembled behind the barricades, and though I couldn’t hear their shouting, I saw their signs moving up and down, up and down like target ducks in a shooting arcade. The flashing red and blue lights of the police cars added to the carnival atmosphere. Breathe, just breathe – it’ll be OK.
I turned with a reassuring smile to my guest speakers sitting on the stage behind me. They looked worried; with reason. The permit office had warned us – “If there’s any trouble your event will be dispersed by the police.” My mouth was dry. As I gulped water from a bottle, I could see the unrest moving over the barricades into my audience. I decided to begin.
I began with my welcoming remarks, and the chanting behind the barricades became louder. Police exited their cars standing ready for trouble. Something small was lobbied over the barricades. I waited, but no reaction so I continued. I introduced my first guest, and the angry bursts increased at the boundary. It spread forward evidenced by the back of heads instead of faces. No! My people are engaging the protesters. “People, people!” my words just became part of the cacophony. Turbulence increased from the fence moving into the audience as a wave coming onto shore. I’ve lost control – it looks like Dante’s inferno – confusion, confusion.
Except, one pair of eyes were still focused on me. She stood there, an island of balm in a sea of contortion, watching me. I shrugged my shoulders in defeat. She shook her head as a mother disappointed with an unruly child. Then, she smiled. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her though the disturbance continued to swirl around her. She lifted her arms, brought her palms together, and I understood her meaning. Pray! As I turned to my guests to encourage their prayers, I heard a vibrant melody lift from the din behind me, “Open the eyes of my heart, Lord. Open the eyes of my heart.” Before I could turn back another voice joined the song, “I want to see you, I want to see you.”
Leading my guest speakers in earnest prayer for a peaceful gathering, I watched as she continued through the crowd enjoining others, “To see you high and lifted up, shining in the light of your glory.” People began clapping the cadence and as the song spread smiles replaced grimaces and the angry banter decreased.
I watched as the crowd engulfed her, yet her wake was evidenced by the calm she left behind. My audience continued, “Hold out your power and love as we sing Holy, Holy, Holy.” Then, the refrain “Holy, Holy, Holy”, over and over as the crowd swayed from side to side like lapping water on the hull of a boat. The discourse at the barricade stopped, and people at the boundary left dragging their signs behind them. The police retired to their cars.
“Jason, go find that woman and ask her to join us up here.” Minutes later, Jason returned with a handwritten note. “Spiritual Warfare - God doesn’t need us to praise him. He already knows who he is. We need to praise Him so we know who we are – Deborah.”