Back in October 2007, my husband (Kevin) and I attended the Universal Light Expo, a “new age-y” expo in Columbus. It calls itself the largest metaphysical expo in the Midwest, and I don’t doubt it. A friend of Kevin’s had given him the program for the 2006 Expo, back in 2006. As we browsed through it, we were struck by the fact that there weren’t any Quakers listed anywhere as participants in this “Light” expo. We both agreed that Quakers needed to be there. Who better to be a part of a Universal Light expo? Who is more familiar with the Light? What better place to find people seeking God? So, we decided we needed to go.
We applied for a booth in which to sell our honey, beeswax candles, and bodycare products from the hive. And we started asking our fellow Friends if they would like to help us bring the good news to this audience. Some were enthusiastic. Some offered to pray for us. Some gave money. Some volunteered to come hang out with us and be evangelists. Some were skeptical.
The skeptics told us that people at metaphysical expos weren’t interested in Christianity. That we would be wasting our time in a hostile environment. Some of them were concerned that we would be making conservative Friends look bad by associating with such an event. There were enough people encouraging us that we felt our leading to go was probably correct. There were enough skeptics discouraging us that we proceeded cautiously, even while we hoped.
The expo was a wonderful success. We set up the booth so that roughly a third of the space was devoted to information about Quakers and Christianity: tracts, book catalogs, some books, handouts with Quaker websites on them, etc. The rest of the space was our hive-products, which we hoped to sell enough of to pay for the weekend (which it did. Yay!). Our fellow evangelists came out and hung around the booth and also wandered around the show, making conversation with people, and leaving tracts here and there as the Spirit led.
Many people asked us questions about Quakerism in general, and conservative Friends in particular. Some asked us where they could find a Quaker meeting/church to attend. Several people expressed happiness that Christians were at the expo (“Oh, wonderful! Oh, it’s about time!” said one enthusiastic woman with a cross around her neck). A few clearly thought we were delusional, but since we were so cheerful about it, they stayed and chatted and asked questions just to see what sort of delusion we had. Several of the other vendors stopped by at various times throughout the weekend with little gifts for our children… “Is it OK if they have this?” they would ask, handing me a book or some crystals, or some little carved wooden toys, or some candy. There were indeed one or two people who seemed very uncomfortable near us, but they were few, and were far outnumbered by the ones who seemed to want to chat and chat… and chat! It felt very good to be there. There was such a sense of spiritual yearning among the people there, such a strong spirit of seeking and hoping.
One of the things we did was to give away free Bibles. We kept a Bible on the table all the time, with a sign on it that read: “Free to a Good Home (or a bad one)”. Approximately a dozen Bibles walked away from our booth that weekend. One went to a little old lady who told me, “I got my old Bible 30 years ago, but my eyes are 30 years older now… thank you so much for this nice big print!” A couple Bibles were spirited away when I wasn’t looking. Some people tried to pay for them. I remember one young woman in particular: She was probably 18, dressed in black, a piercing here, a tattoo there, extravagantly dyed hair… an ordinary lovely unremarkable young lady of her generation. She was walking by the booth with her two young male friends, but she stopped when she saw the Bible.
“Is… Is that really free?” she asked.
“Yep,” I said. “Free. If you’d like it, you can have it.”
“What kind of Bible is it?”
“Oh, just an ordinary King James.”
“No… Umm… I mean, what denomination?”
I paused here, trying to think of a useful answer. I stumbled a bit. “Well… it’s just a Christian Bible… lots of denominations use it…”
By now, she had picked it up, and was beginning to randomly turn the pages. “Does it have the psalms?”
Behind her, I could hear her friends muttering and snickering together—“…doesn’t even know what’s in a bible….” … “…thinks she’s a Christian…”.
“Oh, yes. It has the psalms. They’re in the middle of the book. Here…” and I reached over and helped flip the pages to the right place.
I watched as she turned a few more pages, ran her finger down a column, and stopped, and read silently. And her eyes lit up, and she breathed, “Oh, yes!” And she clutched the book to her with both hands and strode off, with her two jesters trailing behind her. And I wanted to holler out, “Wait! Which psalm was it!?” But she was already gone. Maybe someday I will find out…
I am thinking of this now, because in less than a week my husband is going to be attending our second metaphysical expo, The Gift of Light Expo, also in Columbus. The plan is more or less the same… hive-products for sale, tracts for free, conversation for the asking. We are very much looking forward to being among such seekers again. We are hoping to be able to help some along their spiritual path. Through God’s Grace, we also hope to be helped along our spiritual path. If you think of it, say a prayer for us, that we will be a blessing at the Gift of Light Expo this weekend. And that we will find that we are blessed there, too.