ANAHEIM, Calif. "Hope" was the central message of the 21st annual Southern California Harvest Crusades with Greg Laurie, which drew more than 118,000 people to Angel Stadium over three nights, many of whom came seeking spiritual answers.
The theme for the event was "Hope," which seemed to strike a chord with Southland residents. The crusade was hosted by more than 300 local churches and supported by more than 6,000 volunteers.
Spokeswoman Laura McGowan said that the crusades have been a "mainstay in Southern California since 1990, and have drawn more than 4.1 million people to evangelistic outreach events around the world."
Drawing from his own experience of grief and loss over the death of his son, Christopher, in a 2008 car crash, evangelist Laurie told the audience about the hope they could find in a relationship with Jesus Christ.
This message of hope culminated on Sunday with a first-of-its-kind program called, "An Evening of Hope," where a capacity crowd of 48,000 listened to Laurie discuss issues of pain, suffering and loss with psychologist and author Dr. James Dobson and Grammy Award-winning musician Steven Curtis Chapman, who experienced the death of his youngest daughter, Maria Sue, two years ago. Chapman's daughter was killed in a tragic car accident in the family's driveway.
Addressing the pain of loss that eventually everyone will go through, Laurie asked the crowd, "Why do bad things happen? The answer is this." After a pause he said, "I don't know. But as Christians, we do not sorrow as those who have no hope because we will see our loved ones again. If you are a Christian, you are reassured by that hope."
Chapman later added, "God restores and redeems what He takes away. There are no words for the pain of loss, but our hope is in the resurrection. Emmanuel, God is with us."
Chapman and MercyMe took the stage to perform music that reflected the theme of the weekend and, as he did each night of the Harvest Crusade, Laurie concluded the Sunday evening program with an invitation for those in attendance to walk onto the outfield of Angel Stadium to put their faith in Christ. Over the course of the weekend, 11,789 people did just that.
In addition to performances from Steven Curtis Chapman and MercyMe, the 2010 Southern California Harvest in early August also featured music from David Crowder Band, Crystal Lewis, Phil Wickham, Sanctus Real, OC Supertones, Revive and The Katinas.
Apart from the crowds gathered at Angel Stadium, people from 47 countries around the world watched the 2010 Southern California Harvest live, with 290,000 connections made to the live Harvest HD webcastmore than double the previous record for cyber attendance. In addition, 768 webcast viewers filled out online cards indicating that they prayed with Laurie to make a commitment of faith.
Video-podcasts and blog accounts of each message were also made available, as well as "behind-the-scenes" updates from Greg Laurie on Twitter and on Facebook.
And, for the first time, Harvest implemented a texting feature that allowed cell phone users to receive updates about the Harvest Crusade throughout the weekend.
Laurie, who founded the evangelistic Harvest Crusade events in 1990, also serves as senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, Calif., one of the largest churches in the U.S.Each evening of the Harvest Crusade is archived and available online. For more information, visit www.harvest.org.
Harvest Crusade Schedule:
• Chicago, Illinois • September 24-26, 2010
• Seattle, Washington • November 5-7, 2010
• Auckland, New Zealand • June 24-26, 2011
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