Happy Birthday America!

Happy Birthday America!

In this blog post by Mike Barko, he recounts his remarkable journey at a July 3rd and 4th celebration event. Facing numerous challenges, from late applications to unexpected storms, Mike's unwavering commitment to sharing the gospel shines through. With a series of encounters, he leads individuals to trust in Christ, demonstrating the power of faith and persistence. It's an inspiring tale of faith amidst adversity and a reminder of the simple yet profound message of the gospel.


Mike Barko

7/15/20199 min read



The deadline to enter the event had passed...April 15th...but my good friend Mike Adams encouraged me to send the application in anyways...

I am glad that I did.

The day before the July 3rd and 4th celebration, I still had not heard back from the event coordinators, and my check for the application fee had not been cashed.

What was I to do?

Both at the event website, and, on the Facebook page, there was no phone number to call. I did not want to send in an email. I felt if I gave the details they would say 'no'.

Ministry friend Johan Weiss gave me the answer that I needed...

"Send a message simply asking for a phone number."

I did, and they responded within 15 minutes.

The lady I spoke to was very nice. Instead of being vague about what we do, I decided just to come right out and tell her...We would pass out bracelets and share the gospel with people.

Here is what she told me...

"I have been out of the country for two weeks and am not sure what the other people in the office did with your application. Yes, it is past the deadline. However, because you called me, and since you will be sharing the gospel, I will allow you to set up at our event."

Our ministry team was now excited and ready to go...

The next day, good friend and team member Rob Gilmer notified me that, because of a situation at his workplace, he would be unable to help at the event.

Because of Rob's absence, I arrived at the event alone. One of the event directors, Marne, kindly offered to help me unload the entire van. We hurriedly unloaded, only having 15 minutes before all vehicles had to clear the lot.

Having unloaded everything, and moved my vehicle to designated parking, I was now ready to set up. Just one problem...

In my hurry, I had left the six cinder blocks which anchor the tent back in the ministry van. Marne to the rescue...

She suggested we use one of the event golf carts to transport the cinder blocks to tent-set up location.

Everything was now ready to be set up, but who would help me put both tents up? Right on time, ministry team member and friend Karen Brooks showed up.

Everything was set up by 3:15 -3:30 p.m., and then it happened...

It started as a gentle breeze, but then it really began blowing...
Our two tents moved a few inches, but were reeled in tightly by the 25 lb cinder blocks anchoring them down. Thank you Marne!

As the wind picked up, neighboring tents behind us began to move. The small anchor weights were no match for this windstorm. A few of the tents were literally picked up in the air and spun around in what now appeared to be a 'whirlwind' or 'mini-tornado'. Small items were blown all over the place.

This whirlwind encompassed about a 30X30 area. One lady was knocked over and had to be attended to by medical staff. A fire engine came. A vendor lady from Minnesota commented that she had witnessed these 'mini-tornadoes' before.

Our tents and supplies had been spared. Thank you Marne, 25 lb cinder blocks and Jesus!

I told Karen, "Let's stay focused and share the gospel."

The first two that I shared with were two young teens, Taylor and Alex. They both wanted to trust Christ as their Savior.

Then came Beth. Beth was 75% sure that she would go to Heaven because she 'believed in God' and was a 'good person'. This is probably where the majority of Americans are.

Beth was doing what most of these people do: they pray and ask forgiveness and then 'hope' that God forgives them. This is not the gospel. Listen to the words of the great hymn 'Before the Throne of God Above'...

'When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free
For God the Just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me

To look on Him and pardon me

Notice it is...Because the sinless Savior died

that...God the Just is satisfied

as...'He looks on Him and pardons me'

The work is God's.

God the Father looks on the work of God the Son and is satisfied. The result? He pardons me.

What is my part? Simple. An upward look.

Upward I look and see Him there...

This is the simple gospel.

Remember in the New Testament...

"Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent." (John 6:28,29) (Italics mine)

Remember in the Old Testament...

when the wrath of God was breaking forth on the children of Israel. (Numbers 21:6-9) God told Moses to place a serpent on a pole. This was a type of Christ.

What happened? Those who simply looked were healed.

An upward look was all it took. Simple faith in Christ alone. Are you thankful for that?

Beth gave the upward look and placed her simple faith in Christ alone. Here is what she told me:

"I don't have to be perfect. He enlightened me. I now realize it's not what I do. It is what He did for me. I'm trusting God."


Jeremy came next. He told me that he 'believed Jesus died for him' but was 'still working on getting to Heaven.' Like Beth, I believe this is also where most Americans are.

What is the problem here? Jeremy is not really 'believing'. How do we know this? Ask the following question...

"Is what Jesus did enough?"

Jeremy said 'no'. At this point, he was not 'truly believing.'

Remember the hymn writer...

'The vilest offender who truly believes, that moment from Jesus a pardon receives.'

I shared the law with Jeremy and then the gospel. What was his response?

Simple. An upward look.

"He saved me. 110% sure now."


Next, I got to share with a dad and his son, Harry and Sonny. After hearing the gospel, both wanted to place their faith in Christ alone:

"He saved me."


By this time ministry team members and friends Johan Weiss and Alan Foster had joined Karen and me. It was not long before the second storm came...

This time it was a thunderstorm. Due to the severity of this storm and probably also because of the earlier 'whirlwind', the event coordinators broadcast on a loudspeaker that all people should immediately evacuate the parking lot and head up into the gymnasium on the hill.

Johan and Alan both spoke up, "Let's take some bracelets and go share up in the gym!"

It is great to be motivated by team members!

Once in the gymnasium, I looked around for someone with whom I might share. I noticed two older ladies sitting together on the bleachers. Both were bubbly, talkative, and receptive to me sharing with them.

Linda told me that she had previously received Christ as her Savior. Unfortunately, because she 'kept on sinning', she was not 100% sure that she was going to Heaven.

Glenda said that she 'believed in God'. Like so many, she knew that God was creator, all powerful, and ever present. Unfortunately, also like so many, she did not understand God as Savior.

Glenda walked off halfway through the presentation. If I am giving my life for the gospel, and they don't want it, there is nothing I can do. Instead of feeling discouraged, I felt holy stubbornness rise up inside of me..."If everyone rejects me, I'm still going to preach the gospel!"

"But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God." (Acts 20:24)

I focused on the one who stayed. Linda and I got through the message together. The breakthrough came for her when I shared the following:

"God, your judge, became a man, and took your eternal judgment at the cross. He was judged guilty for all of your sins: past, present, and future."

Linda began to weep as she placed all of her trust in the finished work of Christ. With tears, Linda told Jesus how much she loved Him and thanked Him for what He had done for her.

There was one more older lady I got to share with by the exit: Imajean. She told me that she had been in the church choir since she was a little girl and had been in church all of her life. Imajean was a lot like Glenda. She understood God as creator and other things, but had not trusted Him as Savior.

Even though she had given me permission to share the gospel with her, Imajean got offended a few times during the presentation. This is probably a good thing. Our pride does not like to hear that we are 'not good' and that we deserve to be punished in hell.

On top of her resistance, there also was a pastor and one of his friends standing adjacent to me and Imajean. I had shared with his friend earlier, and he had gotten offended and walked off.

My religious flesh, that part of me that wants to fit in with my peers and wants to be liked, initially did not want to share the gospel with Imajean, and was struggling throughout..."I want to be liked. I want to be loved. I want to 'fit in'."

I am so glad that I pressed through all of this from my old sin nature.

"How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?" (John 5:44)

"...whatsover is not of faith is sin." (Romans 14:23)

At the end, Imajean wanted to place her faith in God, now, as her Savior. After prayer, she said:

"He saved me."

I kissed Imajean on the forehead and headed back to our booth.

On the way back, I got to share with three in the parking lot who did not understand the gospel, but wanted to place their trust in Christ. Once back at the tent with Karen, Johan, and Alan, it was not long before someone came over the loudspeaker with the news that because of the impending storm, all events for the evening would be cancelled.

Before heading home, I got to share with a few more. Chloe was a young girl who wanted to trust in Christ and prayed with me. Lou was on a golf cart who came over, recognizing me as the guy who holds the cross every Friday.

Lou was a faithful Catholic who was 'hoping he would get to Heaven because of his good life.' Lou did acknowledge his sins, but then he told me more about his good life. I simply explained that his salvation was this: he should trust the work of Christ to cover his sins, not his good life.

In other words, he should repent: transfer his trust from himself to Christ alone. Like most Catholics, Lou already understood the person of Christ... He is God. He just needed to trust in His work.

Lou told me that he now understood, but for some reason wanted to make this decision on his own. God please save Lou. Thankfully, during my conversation with Lou, two other event workers came over to talk with him and Karen was able to lead both of these workers to Christ.

Possibly my most important conversation was with the last person, and the first person mentioned in this newsletter, my good friend, Mike Adams.

I shared how I struggled to fit into the body of Christ at times and was tempted to please them instead of Christ in order to be liked. I shared the story of my struggle in the gymnasium with the pastor and his friend. Mike completely understood my struggle.

I said to him with righteous indignation, "Phooey on all that! I stick a knife in that!"

"For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ." (Galatians 1:10)

"...the kingdom of Heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force." (Matthew 11:12)

Sometimes we must be violent with our flesh.

I am glad that I did, for what started on the first day as a whirlwind, ended up the second day as a mighty move of the Spirit!

To be continued...