Midwest USA Region Participates in 2016 Chicago “LitFest”
Midwest USA Region Participates in 2016 Chicago “LitFest” Large annual book fair draws 100,000+ and hundreds of visitors to TLIG display.Midwest TLIGers believed they had missed the registration deadline for LitFest, the annual outdoor book fair which includes over 300 dealers as well as author presentations and book signing, live entertainment and excellent local cuisine. But just 2 weeks before the June 11-12 event, and 6 weeks after the official deadline, an email arrived from LitFest coordinator Emilee letting us know that a small (and affordable) table had suddenly become available.
Praise be God, our assigned table was situated in the heart of the sprawling two-day event, on the shady side of the street, and right across from a large Christian bookseller. The foot traffic would be phenomenal! We watched the weather forecast change dramatically as the weekend approached. Not unusual for Chicago, but to see thunderstorms turn into clear skies was a blessing, as storms would have forced exhibitors to close up and seek nearby shelter.
Saturday was clear and hot. The tall buildings of “Printer’s Row” and our own shade tree kept us (and our visitors) comfortable. Truly wonderful was the cool air that spilled from the open door behind us—also the entry to some of the festival’s special events at “Grace Place” Episcopal Church!
Over those two days, from 10 am until closing at 6 pm, we joyfully shared our enthusiasm for True Life in God. Our many visitors were from many denominations. Some were openly thrilled to see the face of Jesus on our table’s signage, “Come to Me as you are, I Jesus love you”, joining hands with us to pray right on the spot. Only one visitor to our table had heard of Vassula, yet 247 books were distributed, about 40 DVDs, and hundreds of prayer cards. Even if folks did not stop at our table, as they strolled by we managed to get “Come to Me as You Are” pamphlets into many hands.
Sunday remained rain-free, but winds from the thunderstorm that missed us kicked up and occasionally blew a few prayer cards off the table towards whomever God had in mind! As folks politely returned them to us, we asked them to keep the cards—and they did, happily. This happened with a few DVDs as well. One man took the 'Come to Me as You Are" handout and then said, “This is the best message in the entire festival!”
An African-American family stopped by and the father, Jay, pointed to one of his young sons and declared, “He will be baptized next week!” We congratulated the little boy and the family, and then tried to explain a little about True Life in God. Volunteer Lisa Arman told the father to change Vassula’s name to his own name as he read the messages. To demonstrate, she opened the book at random, and read the following: “Dear Jay, it is not difficult to pray, just say “Christ is Risen.’” Immediately Jay took Volumes 9 and 10 and said thank you.
A Muslim volunteer for an Islamic exhibitor happened to pass our table. He wore a t-shirt that read “No Extremists,” and so our conversation began. Volunteer Frances Kosac shared Vassula’s message of religious tolerance, and told of her friendship with several Imams. He happily took Volumes 9 and 10, and invited us to his display to take whatever we wished for free.
Jesus also sent us God’s anawim, His poor, small and holy ones. We had folks disabled by strokes and other disorders stop and spend some time with us and take some books. We were particularly moved by an Indian woman who was paralyzed on one side, and a sweet young man (also a LitFest volunteer) with palsy and speech problems.
On Saturday and then again on Sunday, the “official” biographer of a famous (now deceased) Catholic priest who has a worldwide healing ministry stopped by. After taking some books on the first day, she returned on Sunday to bring some rosaries in return! Touched by what she had read, we exchanged contact information. We hope this friendship will grow.
And, blessed be God, the one person who knew about Vassula, and had actually heard her speak years ago, was grateful to connect with us and learn about our prayer groups.
There is simply not enough space to include every encounter, but we wish to mention a few more that touched us: the handsome, tattooed body-builder who had found Christ and simply had to stop and pray with us; the tiny, sweet-faced elderly lady (definitely in her 80s!), dressed in her Sunday best with hat and gloves, who proclaimed “I love spiritual books!” and despite her cane, loaded her satchel with our books; the ex-convict who found God in prison and now feels called to minister to those who feel rejected by mainstream religion—our conversation, he said, filled him with warmth and hope, as it did for us!
Finally, we must include something Frances observed: many little children came for a free lollipop, but smiled even broader at the face of Jesus on the little handout we gave them (both with parents’ permission).
One little girl actually tried to hug the face of Jesus on our signage. At the end of the last day, God sent a homeless man to the table, the volunteers loaded him up with as much of our leftover food, snacks, and water as he could carry. This is the “economy of Love” that God alone inspires!
We are so grateful to Sue Callahan and Mark Kleithermes for providing the free books; to Chuck Morton for his quick work to secure our spot, as well as the “load-in” and “load-out” of all the books and other materials; to Frances for donating “Heaven Is Real” books for Beth Myriam donations, and we cannot forget the prayers and petitions of our Midwest TLIGers unable to attend the LitFest—nothing else can explain the abundance of blessings we enjoyed that weekend!
To view more pictures please click here.
—Leslie Huzyk & Midwest North Volunteers
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