For each of the past three years, during the week before Thanksgiving, a couple from our church has sponsored a Bible reading marathon on the plaza in front of the Harris County Family Law Center in downtown Houston. They recruit individuals to read through the Bible, out loud, starting on Sunday afternoon before Thanksgiving, and reading continuously, 24 hours a day, until the last verse of Revelation is read sometime early Thursday morning. The readers include people from a couple of our Sunday School classes, some people involved with the Gideons, and individuals from several other churches in the community, as well as passers-by who hear what is happening, stop, sit down to listen, and then volunteer to read.
Tonight, there were perhaps nine or ten people gathered at around 8:30 p.m. when we arrived. Several surrounding buildings still bear the yellow plywood patches over windows from Hurricane Ike’s visit back in September, though it would have been difficult to imagine, in the chilly breeze this evening, that a tropical weather event swept through just two months back. Set up under a couple of canopies, the Bible reading goes on through the week regardless of the weather. Last year, a heavy rainstorm swept through on Wednesday evening, pushing the readers under the eaves of the law center, and it was followed by a cold north wind. The previous year, I remember sitting around wrapped up in blankets, with a Coleman portable heater under the tent, in sub-freezing weather.
Even in the wee hours, there is activity nearby. The plaza is directly across the street from the old county courthouse, and just a block from the new one. The jail, central booking and night court are located there, and there is constant foot traffic during the night of people coming and going to work, and of police and sheriff deputies bringing offenders to be booked. During the daytime, of course, it is a very busy place. Some people stop to listen, others to read, while others move along. You never know what they hear while they are in the vicinity.
This year, in addition to reading the scripture, backpacks with some essential personal supplies were assembled for distribution to the homeless people on the street. Many of them do come by during the Bible reading, and this year, they will receive a gift from a wide variety of donors.
This year, my wife and I had to cut our visit a little bit short. Since my hospital stay last summer, I don’t spend a lot of time outside in the cold at night. But we still went to enjoy our Thanksgiving week tradition tonight. As always, it is a blessing.