NOTE: In July 2014, Pastor Edd Cathey of Grace and Peace Presbyterian Church in California, MD, led a group of young men on a trip to Key West to learn evangelism with Pastor Bill Welzien of Keys Presbyterian Church. We are pleased to share the following personal testimonial received from team member Joshua Gardner.
This summer, I was blessed with the opportunity to visit Keys Presbyterian Church in Key West with four other members from our own church, Grace and Peace OPC in Southern Maryland. The focus of our trip was evangelism and relationship growth with both God and each other. The experience I had there was incredible and I definitely grew closer to God over the week. I also grew much closer to the guys I went with and am very thankful for their friendship.
Our trip started out with a flight into Miami and a long four-hour drive down to Key West. We stayed overnight in the building above the church. The first person we met upon arriving was Jim, an elder at Keys Presbyterian who lived in the flat above as well. He was a great guy and I enjoyed talking with him very much. The next day, we had a morning meeting with the pastor of the church, Bill Welzien. He is an open-air evangelist at Mallory Square, which is the local evening attraction at Key West for watching the sunset. He gave us an expectation as to what we might see and hear and experience at the Square. We also discussed Scripture pertaining to evangelism and God’s work and we prayed together for courage, wisdom, and ultimately the growth of God’s kingdom.
We went down to Mallory Square three times that week: Monday evening, Wednesday evening, and Thursday evening. Bill used a big board to preach a basic Gospel message using ladder lettering. He would make boxes and dashes and turn them into words and diagrams that were connected to the message and explain their significance. At the end of his message (he gave two every evening), he would hand out free tracts explaining the Gospel to anyone who wanted them. While we were with him, we would hand out tracts and talk to people about the Gospel. I was given opportunities to talk to a number of people, both believers and unbelievers, and it was a blessing to discuss their beliefs and the Gospel with them. As a high-school student, I know how difficult it can be to share Christ with people of the same age and I’m thankful that I had the opportunity to do so at Mallory Square.
During the trip, we also did a few fun things together. We snorkeled at the reef with a group of approximately 35 people, and Aaron and I went on a jet-ski tour around Key West. It was great to be able to spend time with all the guys and get to know them a lot better. Most evenings we would discuss Scripture with our Pastor Edd Cathey. We would focus on what it means to be a godly man and all the areas of discussion that the topic encompasses. While we were there we met an intern named John Gildersleeve who was evangelizing with Bill. I enjoyed his company and got along very well with him. He is a godly young man who influenced me with his passion for Christ. Bill was an excellent leader and caring teacher who preached the Gospel with strong belief and a servant’s heart. He is a big role model in my life and I thank God for his confidence to share Christ openly.
Overall, the trip to Key West taught me much and strengthened my relationship with God and all the guys. I was blessed to be a part of such an amazing experience.