The first time I visited Las Vegas, I was 21 years-old. My husband and I arranged to fly down from Seattle to meet his older sister. She had boasted to us about how cheap the food was (a complete filet mignon dinner for around $5.00), plus low-priced hotel rooms at fancy resorts!
I wondered how the hotels and restaurants could get away with selling everything so cheap. But then – AHA – I learned the resorts made the majority of their revenue on the gambling in their fancy huge casinos.
Trips such as this was certainly nothing I’d ever experienced as our family didn’t have a lot of money growing up. I’d never been on a plane; let alone stayed in a beautiful hotel. So I was excited.
But so naïve…
My eyeballs nearly popped out of my head as we flew into Vegas early that evening. All the lights! And then as we stepped off the plane it blew my mind to see slot machines all over the place – even in the airport.
The hotel was amazing, and that night we met my sister-in-law and her friend for dinner at a beautiful restaurant. The food? Incredible – and cheap!
Then we entered the world of gambling. Never had I seen so many people gathered in huge rooms surrounded by blackjack tables and slot machines. Waitress-upon-waitress waltzed by, carrying trays full of whatever you wanted to drink. Oh, and did I say that the alcoholic beverages were free back then?
Blackjack was the only game that I’d learned a bit, so my husband and I settled down at one of the tables with our little pile of chips. Win some, lose some.
We also went to a couple of shows, and checked out numerous casinos – all with different themes. It was truly amazing, and as we flew back home I felt as if I’d matured a bit in what life was all about.
But then came the day when Jesus entered my life…
Since I’ve shared many times how it took losing 2 children for me to finally realize my need to surrender to Jesus’ saving love, I’ll not go into it here. Instead I want to focus on how warped my mind was when I first became a Christian.
Yes, I now had complete peace that I’d see my young children again in Heaven when I died; but what about the here and now?
Well I decided I needed to take the bull-by-the-horns and start pounding into peoples’ heads that they needed Jesus in their lives too. And not only did they need Jesus, but if they lived anywhere near my husband and I, they needed to attend our church – because that was the only church that truly presented the truth about the Bible.
Ugh… I cringe when I think about it.
Since I had lived through so many bumps and bruises growing up (most of them because of my rebellion), I had taught myself to be pretty self-sufficient. And, when something was important to me, I needed to make sure others knew about how right I was – and how wrong they were.
When I finally surrendered to Jesus, I already had some Bible knowledge because I’d attended quite a few Bible studies. But the problem was that I had head-knowledge only, and not heart-knowledge. I wanted to go out and do things for Jesus now that I knew I was His child, instead of sit at His feet and really learn who He was.
Because of that, I judged people – a lot. Someone would say they were a born-again believer in Jesus too, and I would immediately ask where they went to church. If they didn’t say “my” church; I thought they were reprobates. How could they go to another church and not mine?
And if someone I knew attended our church and then felt led to start attending a different church, my gossipy lips didn’t hesitate to share with people that truly there must be something wrong with them. They couldn’t really be Christians and just leave our church.
My legalistic frame of mind regarding other believers in Christ didn’t stop there, however. Because my judgmentalism carried to fellow brothers and sisters everywhere. If I read about someone doing something that “I” didn’t feel should be done as a Christian, immediately I’d share it with anyone who would listen. Did I go to Jesus and ask His opinion about the truth of the matter? NO. Did I open the Bible to study what it really said before shooting off my mouth? NO.
Which brings me back to Las Vegas…
Now that I was a believer, I was absolutely convinced that no Christian should ever visit Las Vegas – period! It was godless; and totally shameful. When I heard of couples at our church who were going there on vacation, I’d cringe. How could they call themselves Christians? It was evil, evil, evil…
But Jesus began breaking through my hard head. He began this process when I joined a Bible study called Lifestyle Evangelism.
He taught me through that study the difference between really being evil; or just appearing to be evil. How as Christians we’re not to shy away from people or places just because we don’t like the looks of something. Jesus Himself went among prostitutes, lepers and all sorts of people – and traveled to places we may think are filthy and wrong.
My Father reminded me that He loves everyone, not just those who live in moderately-priced homes in our city and attended our church!
As a matter of fact, I heard the Lord telling me one day, “Don’t the people in Las Vegas need to learn of me too?”
Ouch… I had been worried so much about my own self-image, that I had been turning my back on everyone in that vicinity.
My husband’s job back then had him traveling quite a bit. And a lot of this travel included attending tradeshows, some in Las Vegas.
He had asked me previously if I wanted to bring our son Jeffrey and join him down there sometime, but I’d always turned him down. NO WAY – it was the City of Sin!
But now? I was convicted, and I told him when there was another show down there we’d come with him, if we could.
The day came… A big yearly tradeshow my husband needed to attend. We looked at our finances, and decided we could swing it financially. My husband would fly down first for the show, then I’d bring our son and come down after that for a short vacation.
We arrived, and our son’s head was swinging constantly to the right and left as he stared at all the sights. Definitely reminded me of my first trip there many years ago.
The next day we all decided to take a walk through some of the resorts nearby, and then head downtown to have lunch.
Everything started out okay, until we hit the downtown area…
I was flabbergasted at all the men walking up-and-down the sidewalks shoving into peoples’ hands flyer-after-flyer of nude or partially nude women, many talking about available sex. There were kids around!
Then I noticed on a public bus there was a partially nude woman pasted on the side of it advertising a show at a nearby casino!
I was starting to become sick to my stomach, and really wished we’d never come. Yet I tried to maintain a semi-good attitude for the sake of my husband and son.
After lunch we took the tram which traveled to a couple other big resorts not too far away. After the first stop we decided we were through sightseeing and wanted to head back to our hotel. Why don’t we just walk back, rather than deal with the tram again? After all, getting on and off the tram hadn’t been really easy with Jeffrey’s wheelchair.
That plan was definitely not a good idea…
As we exited the resort and started walking, suddenly we found ourselves in a really bad area. My skin was beginning to crawl with a type of fear, and I could tell my husband was feeling uneasy too. Somehow we had gone from a nice clean safe place, to an area filled with garbage scattered everywhere. The people we saw leaning against the downtrodden buildings (or sitting on the pavement) looked as though they wouldn’t hesitate to grab whatever you had on you. And it seemed as though everyone was staring right at us.
I began to pray silently, and I know my husband was too. How did we get here? And how do we get back to where we were?
We discovered we were lost…
Finally we noticed the tram-line probably about a mile away from where we were. We began to walk as fast as possible toward the nearest stop.
On-and-on we went, finally emerging back into an area which had beautiful trees and hotels once again.
Then I looked, and saw about 1/4-mile ahead there was a bus-stop for public transportation. That was the way we needed to go, but unfortunately standing right at that bus-stop was a young man handing out flyers. Oh no, not again!
There was no way to go around him. So, since I was extremely tired and cranky by then, I decided I wasn’t going to let anyone else give me something I didn’t want.
As we approached the man, I had on my stern “don’t mess with me” face, yet still out came the young man’s hand trying to give me a flyer.
“NO THANK YOU,” I practically screamed as we walked by.
The young man pulled his hand back, and then he softly spoke as we passed by: “God bless you…”
I stopped cold in my tracks and looked at him. This young man was handing out Gospel tracts. He was trying to reach the city for Jesus!
I was ashamed, and managed to mumble, “God bless you, too.” And as we reached the tram stop, I realized my whole day (and attitude) had changed. Wasn’t this one of the reasons why I had agreed to visit Las Vegas in the first place? To see if perhaps there were people that we could talk to about Jesus?
Friends, don’t be like me. Don’t judge – anyone! Jesus loves all people, despite their color, race or where they live. And oftentimes He will send us to areas that make us uncomfortable just so we can learn to love others too (John 15:9-17).
Isn’t that really what true Christianity is all about?