Happy Birthday America! (Part 2)

Happy Birthday America! (Part 2)

In this heartfelt blog post by Mike Barko, he shares a powerful story of faith and evangelism during a community event. Despite its length, Mike's passion for spreading the Gospel shines through. He reflects on God's presence in life's whirlwinds, citing biblical passages. Mike discusses his own spiritual journey and reveals a personal sin: the desire to please others. The post details encounters with people of various beliefs during the event. Mike's unwavering faith leads to transformative conversations, emphasizing repentance and faith in God alone for salvation. The narrative highlights how hearts were touched, leading individuals to trust in Christ, even amidst fireworks. The post ends with gratitude for the Holy Spirit's work and mentions Karen and Johan's contributions. It's an inspiring account of faith and evangelism.


Mike Barko

7/20/201913 min read

Sorry for the length of this newsletter. It was all on my heart and I am glad that I got it all out.

The last newsletter, I mentioned a whirlwind which touched down at the recent Happy Birthday America event on the afternoon of July 3rd. Thankfully, there were minimal damages and injuries.

"...the Lord hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm..." (Nahum 1:3)

"Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind..." (Job 38:1)

"...Elijah went up by a whirlwind into Heaven." (2 Kings 2:11)

"As the whirlwind passeth, so is the wicked no more: but the righteous is an everlasting foundation." (Prov. 10:25)

What do these scriptures tell us?

1) God has His way in the whirlwind.
2) God speaks to His children out of the whirlwind.
3) God uses the whirlwind to accomplish His purposes.
4) God uses the whirlwind for judgment.

As I shared in the last newsletter, the Lord revealed some sin in my heart as I was sharing the evening of July 3rd. This sin was the desire to please man.

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

The desire to please man is a hindrance to our faith.

"For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ." (Galatians 1:10)

Our Lord brings judgment to the non-believer and the believer. God's judgment to the world is condemnation. God's chastening of His children is discipline.

"But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world." (1 Cor. 11:22)

Thank God that He has taken our eternal judgment already in Christ. Thank God that He loves us enough to chasten us, or discipline us...

"Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby." (Hebrews 12:11)

God chastens us in order that we may 'yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness, as we are exercised thereby.' In other words, as we submit to God's discipline and co-operate with it, we will bear fruit.

"...and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit..." (John 15:2)

My Father, the husbandman, purged me from some sin, 'desire for men's approval', on Wednesday night...(I hope He got most of it, but there is probably more still there)

Thursday 'yielded the peaceable fruit of righteousness, as I was exercised thereby'.

Karen and I showed up around noon on Thursday, July 4th. The place was mobbed with people. In fact, there were so many cars that the police directed us to a detour which probably cost us 30 - 45 minutes before we finally arrived at our booth.

Once we got the tent set up, immediately we began sharing.

Laura was the first lady with whom I spoke. Her really little girl wanted a bracelet, but she was probably too young to understand the message, so Laura agreed to let me share with her.

Laura was 99% sure that she would go to Heaven because 'I lived my life to help others.' This is the default setting in the human heart: dead works.

"...not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God." (Hebrews 6:1) (Italics mine)

Notice that Paul here mentions the foundation of our salvation: (1) repentance from dead works and (2) faith toward God.

So, in order to be saved, we must (1) change our mind about trusting in our dead works, and instead, (2) trust in God.

I am happy to report that Laura did this and placed her faith in God alone.

Next came Megan. She actually was working for Jimmy John's, a sub shop. She came to our booth to present me with a free sandwich card. You know me...I presented her with a free bracelet.

Megan was engaged to a man who was a Christian. In the last 6 months she had been 'praying, changing, and doing better'. She thought that because of this, she would go to Heaven.

So many people have changed direction, but have not 'repented'. The Greek word for 'change direction' is strepho. The Greek word for 'repent' is metanoia. Metanoia means that we 'change our minds'. This is repentance.

What do we change our minds about? We recognize that there is nothing we can do to save ourselves. Our praying, changing, doing better, being sorry, stopping sinning, asking forgiveness etc.., all of these things are nothing more than us 'trying to do something to save ourselves'.

These are all dead works in God's eyes. God tells us we must repent from these dead works. (Hebrews 6:1) We must change our minds and realize that these things cannot and will not save us. We must realize that we have been trusting in these things to save us.

Recognizing that these things cannot save us, and realizing that we have been trusting in these things, we change our minds. This is repentance. We come to an end our ourselves. Our end in God's beginning.

In fact, after going through the law, I remember asking Megan, "Can you save yourself?"

Her response was an emphatic, 'No!'

Realizing that we can do nothing to save ourselves, we trust instead in another. We place our faith in God. (Hebrews 6:1)

This is our salvation: 'repentance from dead works and faith toward God.' (Hebrews 6:1) We transfer our trust from ourselves, and instead, trust only in the work of God in the person of Christ.

Megan 'repented from her dead works and placed her faith in God.'

She was now 100% sure of Heaven because, 'I trust God.'


Next came Ed. He had three previous bad experiences with church so he no longer attended. Ed said he was probably headed to hell and that he 'needed to repent before he died'.

I explained the same thing to Ed that I explained to Megan. Ed, like Megan, understood that he stood condemned as a guilty criminal in God's courtroom sentenced to the electric chair.

Like Megan, Ed also understood that he could not save himself. When I asked,he responded also with an emphatic, 'No!'

I preached Christ to Ed. God, His judge, loved him so much that He became a man 2000 years ago. Somebody had to be punished for Ed's sins. Ed deserved the punishment, but God took it for him at the cross. God sat in Ed's electric chair. God was fully executed in Ed's place. All of the judgment that should have fallen on Ed, fell on Christ instead. It was an eternal judgment!

Ed got the point. He repented of thinking that he could save himself, and instead, placed his faith in God. Ed prayed with me and told me he was now 100% sure of Heaven because...

"I trust God. I have eternal life right now." Then he told me...

"That was the best explanation of the gospel that I have ever heard. I've never heard it explained that way before. Thank you!"


"...bring forth fruit meet for repentance.." Guess what? Ed went home, got his wife, and he brought her back to hear the message! Her car even broke down on the way, but they still managed to make it.

Sharon was where most professing Christians are. She was 'hoping she would get to Heaven because she prayed and asked forgiveness and was trying to do better.'

Sharon needed to repent. She needed to recognize that none of these things would save her. She need to come to an end of herself, and instead, trust in another.

Sharon heard the gospel, and like her husband, wanted to trust in Christ alone.


After I spoke with Ed, the Lord opened the floodgates. I had four from a Karate group that came over. They all wanted to receive Christ. Then, a young boy, Nehemiah sat down with his grandfather. Nehemiah thought he would go to Heaven because he was 'kind'.

Grandfather already knew the Lord, and he patiently listened as I shared our children's presentation with Nehemiah. At the end, Nehemiah understood that he was trusting in himself. Grandfather spoke up, 'That means hell!'

Little Nehemiah wanted to transfer his trust to Christ alone. The childlike Spirit brought two more children, this time much younger, William and Lelani. One of them mentioned 'being good', and the other said something about believing in God. Neither understood Christ.

After hearing the gospel, both wanted to trust in Christ alone. After prayer, they said in succession that they were now...

"100%...200%...300%...(then they shouted) INFINITY!"

Right about this time, the wind really began picking up. The clouds were moving in, and it was becoming ominous. The loudspeaker notified us that we were being evacuated again to the gymnasium.

This time, I did not even go inside the gym. I decided to share with two African Americans standing under a tree. By now it was gently raining.

The man Stacey really seemed to get it. He was trusting himself, and finally understood there was nothing he could do to save himself. He really was happy and joyful after trusting Christ alone.

The lady Melva went along with it, but based on his reactions versus hers, I really focused on him. She had been previously taught by the Jehovah Witnesses. Surprisingly, she put up no resistance when I stressed that Jesus is God in the flesh, God the Son.


Back at the tent it was non-stop for the rest of the evening. All the way up until, and even through the fireworks at 9:30 p.m., the youth kept coming. I had groups of six, five, four, and three. These youth really responded well and humbled themselves after hearing the law. Then, they wanted to receive Christ.


In fact, I remember a group of four young teen African American girls. Two of them really seemed to get it and wanted to receive Christ. Unsolicited, the other two also decided to respond when I gave the invitation to pray.

One of these four girls who did not appear to get it the first time, left, and started bringing back her friends! I told her that I would give her a second bracelet if she listened again. Another one from the first group sat also down with her to listen again!

The two who heard it the first time were so eager to answer my questions to the new girls, that one of their friends who was standing off to the side told them to 'shut up and listen!'

All in all, this initial group of girls brought back 6-8 of their friends to hear the gospel! The Spirit was moving! At one point, I had so many that Johan was sharing with one of these new girls.

As I was sharing the law with one of these new girls, one of them denied having ever used God's name in vain. A little while later in the presentation, she blurted out..."Oh my G-d!" I smiled, looked at her and said, "You just did it!"

She said, "Did what?" I said, "You just used God's name in vain!" She said, "No, I did not!"

Two of the initial girls who brought these girls back both spoke up at the same time, "NOW YOU'RE LYING!"

We all laughed! There was joy and conviction as I shared. All of these girls that were brought over wanted to place their trust in Christ alone. In fact, one of the girls, that I was not sure had really understood the first time spoke up to one of the new ones and said...


I marveled as I witnessed what God was doing. Because of God's discipline the night before, I found myself preaching harder against sin...(liar, thief, adulterer, murderer, blasphemer) I was making no apologies whatsoever.

The more I emphasized sin, the more they understood that they could not save themselves. Then, I really preached the finished work of Christ with renewed passion and vigor...

"God took your judgment! God was judged guilty for you 2000 years ago! That is how much He loves you! Someone had to pay! He took your place!"


Everyone was responding. The Spirit was moving. It was all God. At one point, I looked up and Johan began sharing with one. Then, unsolicited, another came and sat down to listen. There were three or four out front, and I couldn't talk to them because I was so busy. These same people, uninvited, just walked right in the tent and sat down next to Johan, eager to hear the message!

I remember a couple from West Virginia. The man knew what we were doing, but he allowed the woman to sit down and listen anyway. Her name was Leslie. Leslie told me that she had a Pentecostal grandmother. Leslie told me that she knew she was going to Hell.

Why? She said she had a chicken fighting business. In fact, I think her shirt said, "Chicken Little." She said that she was being cruel to animals and thus could not go to Heaven.

After sharing the law and the gospel (she responded well), I told Leslie that I was a 'chicken murderer'. I told her that I ate chicken several times a week!

Leslie wanted to place her faith in Christ alone and prayed with me! She said, "He saved me."

Then there was Sasha. She was there with her friend Chris. Chris already claimed to be a Christian, but based on his answers, he was in the book of Galatians trusting himself. Sasha had no Christian training at all.

Sasha had been adopted and so she had that to work through. Sasha did have a few questions and objections when I shared the law and the penalty for sin. However, after I would clarify with an answer, she would humbly receive the truth.

Finally she said something that shocked me, "How do we know that God never sinned?" I don't think it was so much rebellion, as that she just did not know.

I don't even remember how I answered this, but I just kept on with the gospel. When I got to the end, she wanted to trust in Christ! She prayed and then said with a heart and a countenance filled with joy...



Because she understood now, I decided to talk to Chris and see if I could help him place his faith back in Christ alone. He was not able to see the truth that he was trusting in himself instead of Christ. At one point, Sasha spoke up and said...

"Why don't you get it! You're the one who supposed to understand this!"

Unfortunately, many people in the church today are 'mired in Galatians'. Being thrilled that Sasha got it, I left Chris in the hands of a good God and moved on.

Again, it was non-stop all afternoon and evening, with mostly large groups of youth coming under the tent. I really only had one tough encounter...

and it was four girls from a local church. I can remember their names and faces, but to protect the church and these girls, I won't mention them.

Initially these girls were vacillating between 'still working on it' and being '100% sure'. When I asked the second question, there was no mention of Christ.

Their answers were..."We are good...we are hoping that God would see the good in our hearts, and that the good in our hearts would be greater than the bad."

They gave me permission to share, and I shared. I shared the law just like I shared with all of the other young people. I held nothing back and made no apologies. Unfortunately, with this group, I never got to share the wonder of what God had done for them in Christ because one of them spoke up...

"Sir, what you are doing is just wrong. Jesus would not be happy with this. Your method is wrong. You are not being kind to people. We do it the right way by loving people. This is wrong."

She was in my face and pretty hot. The other three girls were now uncomfortable. They had not been uncomfortable before, but now were shifting around and talking amongst themselves. I believe they would have stayed and heard the good news if it had not been for this young lady.

I simply responded by showing her all the dozens of names of previous youth who had heard the same message that she had heard but had humbled themselves when they heard the message. If my message was 'too unkind', many of these youth would have gotten upset as well. Interestingly, she was the only one all day that had a problem with my message.

Her response actually validated the message that I preached. Some might argue, that, because almost everyone else received the message that day, that I was making it too easy on people to believe and not preaching the real truth of the gospel.

Her comment that my message was 'not a message of love' lets me know that I was not being too nice and watering the message down. I really believe the reason people were responding more is because I was preaching with passion and vigor...

...not apologizing for the law and sin and hell and not holding back on the fullness of grace as well!

The day was glorious. Yes, all these girls walked off, but another lady who had sat down after I had started with these girls did not leave when they left. She wanted to hear the entire message and encouraged me to keep preaching the truth.

Then the fireworks started. My back was toward the wonderful display in the sky. I was in the zone, and I wanted to keep going. I got to share with four youth, whose faces were toward the fireworks. I had to shout several times over the ruckus, but all four of these wanted to trust in God as their Savior.

After the fireworks ended, it cleared out pretty quickly. It was now 10:15 p.m. I was able to snag one more group of three young men on their way out. They all heard the message and wanted to trust in Christ alone.

Karen stayed the whole day. She even stayed to help me tear down the tent and she had to get up to work the next day. I got to bed at 3:30 a.m., and when I got up, I couldn't. I could barely move.

Karen led 27 people to Christ on July 4th. She is a real trooper. Thanks also to Johan who led 14 to Christ. He was only there for a few hours.

All in all, I thank God for the amazing move of His Spirit. Because he disciplined me the night before in my heart, I had renewed passion and vigour as I preached the gospel and...

"yielded the peaceable fruit of righteousness as I was exercised thereby."

One more thing...

When I got to my office on Sunday night July 7th, I found the application with the check returned in my office. It has been sent on June 21st and had been sitting there awhile. Because of various situations, I had been unable to get to the office for over two weeks.

Had I gone to the office and seen the envelope, I would have cancelled the event and none of this would have happened!