The Whole Earth Festival
There is an annual phenomenon here in Northern California called the Whole Earth Festival.” This gathering is held at the University of California at Davis, and is attended by thousands of people, not all of whom are students. In a way, it’s something like whole wheat bread—very little, if anything, is missing. Combine health foods, conservation, ascended masters, frozen yogurt, massage, crafts and Hare Krishnas, and you have the “Whole Earth Festival.” But there’s one more to add to the list: Jews for Jesus.
We Jews for Jesus would never let such a great witnessing opportunity slip by. Each year we are represented there among the hundreds of other groups seeking those who may be inquiring as to the true meaning and purpose of life. Besides Jews for Jesus, other church groups and parachurch organizations set up booths to offer the Way, the Truth and the Life to those who attend.
It is nearly impossible to hand out our broadside tracts at this fair, due mostly to the restrictions placed on us by those in charge. Yet where there is a will, there is a way, and we can get the Gospel out in many other ways. In past years we have always set up a book table and offered lots of free literature, mostly a huge selection of broadsides. That allowed people to “broadside” themselves. We also had a sign-up sheet for unbelievers who wanted to receive more literature, and another for believers who wanted to receive our Newsletter.
At the last Whole Earth Festival we were given a prime area right in the center of all the activity, across from an outdoor stage where various bands were performing. Between us and the stage was a huge grassy area where people were dancing or sitting and sunning themselves or meditating, each in their own way. Besides the regular jazz and rock-n-roll bands, there was also another “interesting” band performing. It was the Hare Krishna Rock Band, intended to raise Krishna consciousness of all those who were in earshot. They sang the Hare Krishna chant to rock-n-roll music and invited all those who were listening or dancing to sing along after them, which many did. One young woman told me that the Hare Krishnas also had a punk rock band. (I thought that was rather amazing!) Our new location was not only right across from the main stage and in front of the main gathering area, but directly around the corner and next door to the Hare Krishnas. In fact, they hesitantly allowed us to use the back of their display to hang some of our signs.
With all those eastern-type booths surrounding us, including tarot card readers, we decided to use an idea our New York Branch had originated and found successful. We set up a Psalm Reading booth. First we dressed up our Sacramento Co-Laborer Michael Butcher with a scarf around his head and placed a rose on his table. Those who know Mike can understand that this in itself was quite a sight. Mike is tall and has the physique of a football player. He’s by no means what one would call a petite man! Next we put a sign in front of Mike’s table that read “Psalm Reading—Choose a number from 1-150.” As people passed by, I asked them if they would like to have their psalm read. Then to make it a bit more intriguing I played a game with the number they chose. I had them divide the number in half and add their age. They found that very mystical. Then in a loud voice, Mike would bellow out the psalm that corresponded to the chosen number. Passersby would stop and listen, and then we would interpret the psalm. Usually our interpretation went something like, “God is the Creator of the entire universe, and he wants you to worship him rather than his creation.” Of course we took every opportunity to tell about Yeshua, as well.
We took turns sitting at the booth and reading psalms. When it was my turn to sit at the psalm table, a young woman walked by. She was dressed very much like a hippy from the 60s. I asked if she would like to have her psalm read, and she said, “Sure.”
Her name was Corinne and she was wearing a Jewish star around her neck. She reminded me very much of what I was like in high school and college. In fact, she reminded me particularly of one of my Jewish girlfriends.
After I read Corinne a psalm and gave her my interpretation, I tried to engage her in conversation. Noticing that she was Jewish and had a very “eastern” mindset, I began talking to her about the Jewish Messiah and about being Jewish. Like most Jewish people, Corinne began by proudly proclaiming that she was a Jew and did not believe in Jesus.
I pointed out that one could believe in Jesus and still be Jewish, and I questioned her as to how she defined a “Jew.” I asked her if it was okay for a Jew to believe in eastern religions, even though the Jewish Bible specifically forbade it. She said she was not that familiar with the Jewish Scriptures. Since she was very eastern and mystically minded, and since I had her attention, I thought I would share with her how God had promised hundreds of years before the Messiah exactly when he would come. Corinne believed that there were many messiahs, and that some of them were even now on earth. I told her there was only one Messiah of Israel, and I read to her from the prophet Daniel about when this Messiah was to come. She found it fascinating, and I told her that if she would give me her name and address, I would send her more to read on that subject. She did, and I sent her the promised literature along with our basic Letter of Witness.
We had another interesting and very encouraging encounter this time at the Whole Earth Festival with a Jewish man named Robert. He was there specifically looking for Jews for Jesus. He had seen us there the previous year and knew that we would be returning. The difference for Robert between the previous year’s exposure to Jews for Jesus and this year’s was that now he was a believer! He couldn’t wait to find us and meet other Jews who had a similar faith.
Robert had just finished medical school, and he was about to leave for Boston, where he would be interning for the next few years. He was eager to attend our fellowship in San Francisco and also to obtain the address of our Boston Branch so he could get involved there. It was a blessing to hear Robert’s story. He had been seeking the truth for many years. In fact, he had become quite involved in following gurus and in the New Age religious mindset. Nevertheless, God had continued to put Christians in Robert’s path until finally he had responded to the Lord’s calling.
After an entire day surrounded by alternative lifestyles and religions it was refreshing to meet Robert, one whom the Lord had called out from such a lifestyle.
Isaiah the prophet spoke out against much of what was going on that day at UC Davis when he said:
And when they shall say unto to you, Seek unto those who are mediums, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? Should they seek on behalf of the living to the dead?…And they shall look unto the earth, and behold, trouble and darkness, dimness of anguish; and they shall be driven to darkness (Isaiah 8:19, 22).
It was our privilege to be at the Whole Earth Festival offering needy souls God’s light instead of Satan’s darkness. God alone knows how many hearts we may have touched with his Word. We did our part, and the rest is up to him. Maybe next time we minister at the Whole Earth Festival we will meet another person like Robert! Maybe that person will be Corinne!