The event that caused thousands of people to descent upon Cleveland and sent as many people going as far away as they could from it.
Truth be told, I normally wouldn't have gone anywhere near the RNC. I'm not a big fan of crowds, and I certainly have no desire to mingle with violent, uncouth protest groups. I don't like any of the presidential candidates, so I wasn't about to go toting a sign in support. Yet, when our church decided to participate in an outreach effort in order to get the Gospel into the hands of the thousands upon thousands of people visiting the RNC, I knew it was an adventure worth being a part of.
The first part of my interaction with the RNC took place Monday night. Several like-minded churches were gathering to sing patriotic songs and pray on the steps of City Hall, and our church was going to join them. Now, I had been hearing for months about the tight security at the RNC and the very real possibility of an attack.
I live in a rural area. I don't go out much at night. I'm a homebody who likes to avoid danger. Part of my brain was telling me that I was crazy to go downtown where other people were bent on making trouble. But I knew that it was the right thing to do - to show my patriotism as well as my concern for my country's spiritual condition.
So we went- a bus full of cheerful, chatty people who may or may not have been sharing my nervousness. The whole time, I kept reminding myself that I was going not for myself, but for God.
The first thing I noticed when our bus pulled over to the curb and let us out was the tense atmosphere. Maybe it was the sight of soldiers, policemen, and SWAT teams armed to the teeth and milling about. I certainly felt a trifle intimidated by the sight of snipers on top of buildings, ready to fire at a moment's notice. The other people hurrying around were mostly dressed very professionally, and at least half of them seemed to be with the media. It felt very movie-like.
We walked, feeling very conspicuous, until we reached City Hall and were greeted by about a hundred other Christians. To my surprise, big news cameras were already set up to cover our time of singing and prayers, and reporters were interviewing church members.
But once we all started to sing those beautiful, majestic songs such as our national anthem, America the Beautiful, and God Bless America, my initial fear melted away. Sure, we felt like we were in the middle of a war zone, with helicopters whizzing overhead and distant shouting. Who knew if someone might come along and start a ruckus any second. I just stood very close to AJ and smiled for all I was worth. As we alternated singing and praying, I noticed the mayor of Cleveland stroll by and talk to one of the pastors for a while. Then the Cleveland chief of police stopped as well and we all cheered for him. Many people walking by were filming us on their phones, and it was encouraging to see the smiles on most of their faces.
It was incredible. My heart never stopped beating more quickly than usual, and the slightest suspicious sound nearby caused me to look for possible places to hide, but the sheer thrill of letting my voice mingle with so many other Christians seemed to almost lift me out of my shoes. Like so many Americans, I tend to feel despair at the direction our country has gone. Yet it felt so satisfying to hear our country being prayed for in public.
Our time ended too soon, and we reluctantly walked back to meet our bus. Along the way, we thanked the police officers for their service. Many of them had come from states such as Utah and Georgia to help out. I can honestly say that although their presence was a bit intimidating, I am so thankful that so many were willing to stand around and protect people like me. They all did an amazing job.
But I wasn't done with the RNC. Two days later, I was going to be going out with a group to pass out John and Romans and tracts on Public Square. Right where the bulk of the protesters were.