And beginning tonight in this small city on Florida's Treasure Coast, those who love the Word of God commenced a nonstop, Bible-reading marathon that will take them from the first verse in Genesis to the last line of Revelation, lasting some 90 hours and finishing up Sunday afternoon.
The outdoor event features people of all ages and beliefs reading the King James Version of the Good Book at a public park owned by the city of Stuart which, for the first time this year, is joining Martin County in endorsing the project.
"Here we are on government property, and we have the Ten Commandments right there in front of the pulpit," said Donna Healton, a pastor with Spirit of Prophecy Ministries who organized the event along with her husband and fellow pastor, Gene Healton. "Our vision is that every county in Florida will be doing a Bible marathon."
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The Christian couple began their first marathon in the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
They said God had prompted them to start the event as a "protection of our nation against terrorism." They originally thought it was just going to be a one-year project, but the reading has blossomed over the past years, popular with not only ministers, but just ordinary folk who wish to read Scripture publicly.
Bible-reader-wannabes either sign up in advance for a 15-minute time slot of their choosing, or just show up off the street to jump in whenever there's an availability.
At times, reading the Bible can be difficult when it comes to mouthing some of the names found in the Old Testament. For instance, Genesis 10:26 states, "And Joktan begat Almodad, and Sheleph, and Hazarmaveth, and Jerah."
When one woman had trouble making it through that list, she ad-libbed a bit, saying, "Lord, you know who they are!"
And why do people come from all over the Sunshine State just to read the Bible out loud?
"We're here basically to pronounce the Word of God," said Father John Bower of the Church of the Holy Comforter in Stuart. "The Word of God is to be pronounced at all times and in all places for the salvation of mankind."
"We're not the minority," stressed Michele Mazone of Jensen Beach, Fla. "We are the majority and we have to put a voice to that majority. We have to let people know that we're not going to go away, we're not going to go away quietly, that we're still going to come out and voice our opinions about the Lord and our commitment to Him and that we commit our lives to him. He is with us and He will always be with us to the end."
In years past, unseasonably cold weather made it uncomfortable for some readers and listeners, as they wore parkas, hats and gloves to stay warm through the overnight hours. This year's forecast has low temperatures expected to remain in the upper 60s.
Gene Healton was sporting a T-shirt with a Christian cross and a message stating, "This shirt is illegal in 52 countries," which he says is a reference to Islamic nations that have little or no tolerance when it comes to promoting Jesus Christ. He says it's important to be public in proclaiming God's truth, and feels there's a growing threat in America that's diminishing freedoms of speech and religion.
"That's for sure," he said. "They're trying to pass the hate bill and taking God out of more and more things all the time. We have to stand in that place and continue to pray. The Bible says there's always going to be a remnant [of those faithful to God], and a remnant is going to do a great work."