Harvest LA debuts on eve of 9/11 with message of hope

A WWII hero, former Navy SEAL, and a retired Major League Baseball player were among those featured at the first ever Harvest Crusade Los Angeles held on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

The event held at the iconic Dodger’s Stadium in the city of Angels is part of Christian organization Harvest Ministries’ expansion of the evangelical Harvest events. The events which have drawn an audience of over 4.2 million people from the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand are outreach events that preach the message of the Christian gospel to nonbelievers.

This Harvest event drew no shortage of a crowd; throngs of people shuffled into the stadium and filled a majority of the seats well before the start of the event. Dozens of blue shirt clad volunteers helped to usher people to their seats as others stopped to buy Harvest memorabilia or food from concession stands.

Eager attendees spurred sections of the stadium into chanting, “We love Jesus, yes we do! We love Jesus, how ‘bout you?” The crowd remained euphoric and became quickly elated as Christian music group The Katinas took the stage and officially opened the event with a song. Audience members rose to their feet and clapped rhythmically to the catchy, upbeat music. A thunderous roar rose following the end of the first song as The Katinas’ lead singer welcomed the people of L.A.

The ecstatic energy of the crowd remained high throughout the lineup of the night’s musical talent featuring Dove Award winning Christian artist Chris Tomlin, Grammy Award winning artist Kirk Franklin, and Dove Award winning artist Jeremy Camp. At some points during the performances, the crowd jumping along with the songs shook the floors of the stadium.

Franklin appropriately said during his performance, “This is the biggest Holy Ghost party in the world, so make some noise!”

Following the opening performance, former Cincinnati Reds player and Christian radio show host Frank Pastore was introduced to deliver the opening prayer. His story of tragedy and turn to Christianity was among one of several testimonies shared during the night. The stadium JumboTron showed the video testimonial of retired Navy SEAL Chad Williams, who turned the Christianity following his service in the Middle East.

WWII hero and former Olympic athlete Louis Zamperini appeared on stage to share his moving account of his ordeal in a Japanese P.O.W. camp during the war. Sometime after the war, Zamperini became a Christian after attending an evangelical event much like Harvest led by evangelist Rev. Billy Graham.

The main message of the night, preached by Harvest founder and evangelist Greg Laurie, focused on finding hope in Jesus Christ in light of all the tragedies in life. Laurie related his message to the 9/11 tragedy, beginning his message by retelling the event, and thanking the heroes of the country. Amidst the darkness of the topic, Laurie was able enhance the experience with his personal anecdotes and a few light hearted jokes and pop culture references. The core of his message covered the question, “Why is there pain and suffering?” telling people to turn to Jesus Christ for relief.

His message led to the alter call, and transitioned into a candlelight vigil held in remembrance of 9/11. Founding Calvary Chapel pastor Chuck Smith led a prayer for those affected by the tragedy, their families, for the country, and finally for those who had accepted Jesus that night.

After the prayer, the stadium lights dimmed, and the attendees were invited to hold up a picture of a candle on their smart phones made available by the Harvest staff for a digital candle light vigil. As a multitude of tiny, twinkling lights began to ignite in the twilight, The Katinas led the crowd in singing “God Bless America.”

Chris Tomlin was met with roaring cheers and thunderous applause as he took to the stage immediately after the vigil and song. His electric performance brought the crowd once again to their feet as they sang in unison to his easily recognizable hit songs sung by congregations around the nation.

Tomlin’s presentation concluded the night’s event which event organizers say brought over 50,000 attendees. Over 5,000 were said to have accepted Christ that night. So many people came down to the field during the alter call that the fire marshal ordered the field to be closed off to more people as a safety precaution. However, those that did not make it onto the field were welcomed to accept Christ and meet with volunteers for a follow up conversation right from the stands.

Reporting by: Benjamin Chan and Jonathan Diep

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