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Bible read-a-thon at Tampa City Hall is 'a lonely road'

Jacqueline Daniels, left, reads the Bible aloud as Christopher Villanueva holds the tent steady as the wind blows Monday during a read-a-thon at Tampa City Hall. The event is expected to end at noon today to celebrate the National Day of Prayer.

KATHLEEN FLYNN l Times

Jacqueline Daniels, left, reads the Bible aloud as Christopher Villanueva holds the tent steady as the wind blows Monday during a read-a-thon at Tampa City Hall. The event is expected to end at noon today to celebrate the National Day of Prayer.

TAMPA

Stephanie Lawrence meant to meet up for lunch with friends. But she got the restaurants mixed up and ended up alone near City Hall.

That's where she saw three people taking turns reading aloud from the Bible. She volunteered for a shift and got the book of Ruth.

The afternoon traffic whizzed by and no one stopped to listen. It took faith just to know her words would reach the ears of passers-by, let alone their hearts.

"We can say the word went out to Tampa," said Lawrence, a New Jersey resident in town for a United Methodist Church convention. "Whether Tampa hears it, we'll see."

If all goes according to plan, the last volunteer will finish Revelation today at noon, wrapping up the four-day, round-the-clock Bible read-a-thon connected with this year's National Day of Prayer. By late Wednesday, a man was reading from Luke.

Volunteers have signed up for shifts and are driving by to make sure the Bible is being read at all times.

The event hasn't exactly been a rock concert.

"The road to heaven is a lonely road," said Linda Ilonzo, who attends a Pentecostal church in Tampa and routinely ministers to the homeless. She was sitting in a folding chair set up near the reader's lectern. Hers was the only chair occupied at one point Monday afternoon.

"They run from the word of God," she said about no one in particular.

Christopher Villanueva, 56, who is homeless, said he had read from the book of First Samuel earlier that morning. He had watched volunteers set up the event on Sunday. He said he never feels treated right by city churches. He said they just want to get rid of him when he is looking for help. But he felt at home near the City Hall steps, listening to the Bible.

"I slept there all night, just fell asleep on the bricks," he said.

By Monday night, just before 11 o'clock, traffic by City Hall had slowed to a trickle. Theresa Bonzelaar had finished a chapter in First Kings. Her husband, Tim, is the pastor at an Assembly of God church in Sulphur Springs.

As they listened to a woman pick up where Theresa left off, they contemplated their purpose.

"Just giving voice to the Word of God affects the atmosphere," said Tim Bonzelaar, a former office manager from Michigan who came with his family to Tampa after joining a ministry group. "God created things by speaking. There's something he's doing to cleanse the atmosphere."

His wife nudged him. "I think you're next," she said. Tim headed over to the lectern. Nearby on the steps, Villanueva had fallen asleep again.

Jodie Tillman can be reached at jtillman@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3374.

These are public events in Tampa on the National Day of Prayer:

Worship service with music from local groups. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. today, Lykes Gaslight Square Park, 410 N Franklin St.

Prayer service, 7 p.m., George M. Steinbrenner Field (near N Dale Mabry Highway and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard). Area pastors will say brief prayers; Christian recording artist Ricardo Sanchez will sing. Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Sen. Ronda Storms and County Commission chairman Ken Hagan will attend. Free admission and parking. Call (813) 642-3488 or visit ndptampa.org.



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Prayerful activity

These are public events in Tampa on the National Day of Prayer:

• Worship service with music from local groups. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. today, Lykes Gaslight Square Park, 410 N Franklin St.

• Prayer service, 7 p.m., George M. Steinbrenner Field (near N Dale Mabry Highway and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard). Area pastors will say brief prayers; Christian recording artist Ricardo Sanchez will sing. Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Sen. Ronda Storms and County Commission chairman Ken Hagan will attend. Free admission and parking. Call (813) 642-3488 or visit ndptampa.org.

Bible read-a-thon at Tampa City Hall is 'a lonely road' 05/02/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 2, 2012 11:52pm]
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