On November 23, 2000 three of us visited the Auckland Sky Casino (New Zealand(. We had planned this for some months and had much prayer backing from several churches for the evening. Lois had been a missionary in South America for a few years before she had a stroke and then was walking and talking with difficulty (and now has gone to Paradise.) John is a high school teacher and also an elder in a small fellowship in Papatoetoe (where Lois attended) and a dear Christian brother of mine. This particular night Lois hobbled around the casino and found that 14 out of 20 people accepted tracts she offered to them. What a lovely saint she was. John had significant talks with several people as did I and we handed over tracts.
On the way to the casino, between where I parked my car and the casino, I began walking alongside a Chinese woman and a Fiji Indian man. I said hello (“Ni hao”) to her in Chinese and she asked me about China (where I had lived for 3 years.) I briefly shared about our Chinese adopted daughter Jessica who was born in Beijing (like her) and gave her one of my personal tracts. The man introduced himself as Raj and as he looked interested I asked him if he spoke Hindi and when he said yes I gave him a Hindi tract (from my pocket.) I carry languages mostly found in Auckland: Chinese, Japanese, Hindi, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Arabic, German, Maori, mine in English, Russian, Korean, Malay, Indonesian, Samoan. I assumed (wrongly) that they were going to the movies that night and farewelled them.
Above the casino (the largest in NZ) is the Auckland Sky Tower which can be seen from almost anywhere in Auckland. The tower is nicely lit up at night but to me always reminds me of the casino below and man's sin. More about that later.
Outside the casino we three evangelists met up and prayed together, then we split up and went inside to report back in just over an hour. As we set out, all three of us felt we were in the Lord’s shoes as we walked through that place. Inside the casino, first I walked the length and breadth of the place, praying in tongues and in English, getting a feel for the place and praying the Holy Spirit would go before me. I’d never been inside a casino before and it was quite oppressive. It reminded me later of what the walk round Jericho might have felt like before the walls came down.
We were surprised how soft some of the people were to receive us and believe it was because of all the prayers behind us that night. What a difference intercession make to the sharing of the gospel. There were hundreds of people in the casino that night – people of all ages (over 18), races, faiths (even Christian!) - glued to one-arm bandits. What a tragedy that so many lives are being sucked into the lure of mammon every day. I heard soon after this that there were Sky TV adverts in NZ offering $50 free to anyone to come to the casino and try their luck! Dangling an even fatter carrot in front of people's souls. How much we need the grace and mercy of God.
I saw a Maori man undecided about beginning a particular gambling machine. Standing alongside I commented on this and he replied to the effect, "This one looks like it pays out well." I commented it must be hard to choose and asked him where he was from.
“Spirits Bay,” he replied, the northern most beach in New Zealand. (In Wellington 3 weeks earlier I had prayed that the Spirit would sweep from the top of NZ to the bottom!) I was surprised to hear anyone lived at this beach because it's very exposed to winds from every direction and I've never seen any houses up there - just an automatic lighthouse.
We exchanged names - his was ‘Russ.’ I told him I lived in Auckland now but had been living further north than Spirits Bay before that. He looked at me surprised and said, “What’s further north than Spirits Bay?!”
I smiled, having hoped he would ask me this question. “China,” I replied.
“China! What were you doing there?”
“I was a missionary in China for 3 years.”
He turned and looked hard at me and said, "Then what's a missionary doing in a casino?!" (We were surprised how many people gave us similar replies. They KNOW the casino to be a place of sin!)
I replied, "I'm here for you, Russ. Do you know that Jesus loves you? I've come tonight to tell you that. Can you read Maori? (Yes.) Can I give you a small booklet in Maori to tell you about Jesus?"
He thought about it for some time. He was looking at the gaming machine and I could see his soul was now in a knot! Eventually he said he'd like one, so I got one out and gave it to him. He looked at the cover and the first page and I asked him to tell me what it said. He translated it for me. I told him I wanted to give it to him but only if he would read it. He asked to keep it. I told him I would be praying for him and said, "Have a good night, Russ" and wandered off.
Most people were too glued to the machines and with so many security staff wandering around I didn't want to be kicked out early for disturbing these ones! So I just talked to people who were standing up either trying to decide what to do next or standing near the roulette tables.
Luis was one of these. A tall dark Sudanese. I told him this was the first time I'd ever been in a casino and was not here to spend any money. He too looked at me, wide-eyed, and said, "Then why on earth have you come?"
"To tell you Luis about Jesus and how much he loves you. Can I give you an Arabic tract about Jesus to read?"
"You mean read in here?"
"No, I mean take home and read. But I don't want to give it to you unless you want it and will read it." He too paused, thinking about that and finally said he wanted it. Lord Jesus, put Your hand please upon Luis.
A Samoan middle-aged woman was trying to feed a $20 note into her machine. It didn't seem to want to go. I said to her, "Hello. Are you from Samoa?"
"Yes," she replied, "why did you ask me if I was from Samoa?"
"I like to meet people from different countries and guessed you were Samoan." "Do you know any Samoan?" “No, I'm sorry I don't. This is my first time in the casino but I'm not spending any money."
"Why have you come in, then?" she asked.
"To tell you Jesus loves you. I am a Christian and being Samoan I'm sure you know about God."
She stood up and with a smile said, "This $20 won't go in. Perhaps He's trying to tell me something after all!" And walked off. I pray the Lord stirs what I believe she knows about Him for most Samoan people know about the Lord even if they don't know Him personally.
Walking through the bar which looked down over the casino floor I spotted Raj and his Chinese girlfriend. I went down to the floor and said hello. Raj's eyes were wide. I quickly explained that the reason I was there was not to spend but to share Jesus. They smiled and walked off. I saw them again later. Raj asked for my phone number. He had recently moved to Auckland and didn't have any good friends. He lived in Hillsborough (suburb). I said I knew some Christian friends in Hillsborough who could meet him and got his phone number. He said "We trust you because of what you've told us tonight." They fareweled me as they left the casino.
Afterwards outside and below the casino I met a German guy waiting to catch a bus who happily received a German tract and across the road gave a Japanese tract to a young Japanese woman.
About to get in my car, I noticed the words "St James Church" on a commercial building across the road with lights on. Some people were leaving there (it was about 9pm) and I hoped to find someone there who might pray for some of the ones I reached that night. I always seek intercessors who live nearby to pray for certain ones. Though standing amidst them as they left, all ignored me until I wondered if they were a church group!
One man turned at the bottom of the drive, looked back and said to me, "Did you want something?" It turned out he was the pastor.
"Yes," and told him a team of us had recently been in the casino sharing the Lord.
The Sky Tower was looming large above us at this point and the pastor said, "Yes, I'd just been saying to one of the others how the Tower tonight looked like the Column of God's Fire."
“Or the Tower of Babel," I added.
"True," he replied. I asked his name and told him about the Samoan woman. He smiled and said, "What a delightful story. I guess there are many in there who would be ready for God after losing so much in an evening." We shook hands warmly and farewelled one another. May Tony and St James church catch a vision for reaching those in the casino opposite his church.
The next morning I read Math 11:27 "Everything has been delivered to Me by My Father.... to whom the Son will reveal."
I noted in my diary, ‘Everything I am, have and do has been delivered to me First Class by my Father in heaven, especially all touched yesterday at the casino. Through Jesus He has chosen to pour out His heart though me to the lost. May many more today Father receive Your heart through the revelation of Jesus. To Muslims through dreams and visions in the Middle East. To Kiwis through Your Word spoken to them, such that being challenged by the grace and mercy of Christ, they cannot remain indifferent but must choose one way or the other.’
We had one more visit to Auckland's Sky casino in 2002 but there seemed fewer opportunities to share than the previous time. I spoke to only 4 people: Nigel, a Fijian/Samoan older man who had been an altar boy at the City Mission! Not a Christian he told me. Worked in a garage most of his life, now nearing retirement. He received my tract happily.
Marty we simply prayed for. Couldn't get near him because he was one of the senior supervisory staff running the central tables. (Name on his badge.) A big man, literally. Make a great bouncer. I'd also like to see the Lord transform his life.
A Sudanese Muslim man who spoke Arabic but didn't show any interest in taking the Arabic tract I showed him. And a Papua New Guinean man here 14 years.
Two of the women (who came with John, Lois and me) hadn't done any street witnessing before in their life! I hadn't realised that when I invited them. What a place to start! One rose to the challenge to speak; the other spent the evening praying for a lot of people - including Marty whom I prayed for.
Lois (now very frail)simply sat at the bar overlooking the main floor, reading her Bible and praying. A man sat beside her and asked what she was reading. When she told him he was most surprised. It opened up a brief opportunity for her to share.
There's a ministry in itself. Take a Bible into the casino and read it at the bar and talk to whoever asks you what you're reading!! I like it.
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