LOS ANGELES, Calif. For more than two decades, Harvest Crusades have led people to the light of Christ. On Sept. 10, organizers of the record-breaking gathering at Dodger Stadium urged the 50,000 people gathered for the stadium rally to participate in a cell-phone "candlelight" vigil to commemorate the 10th anniversary of 9/11.
To create the virtual vigil, the crowd was asked to download a smart-phone app that replicated a burning candle and, as the stadium darkened, they were asked to hold up their cell phones as The Katinas led the audience in a song of remembrance.
Chuck Smith, pastor of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, said a prayer for the survivors of the 9/11 attacks.
The stadium was filled with reverence and awe after hearing evangelist and Harvest founder Greg Laurie share about the promise that the Savior brings.
"Hope has a name, and it is Jesus Christ," he said.
The one-night evangelistic outreach, called the Los Angeles Harvest, was hosted by more than 330 churches throughout the region and used 4,000 volunteers. In addition to the message presented by Laurie, the crusade featured music from Chris Tomlin, Kirk Franklin, Jeremy Camp and The Katinas. A highlight of the evening was an interview with special guest Louis Zamperini, a World War II prisoner of war who was also an American long-distance runner who competed in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.
Before the crusade started Laurie said he invited Zamperini because of his amazing story, chronicled in the Laura Hillenbrand book, "Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption."
"I've gotten to know Louis a little bit, and I think he's got one of the most mesmerizing stories I've ever heard," the evangelist said. "It is a story of survival against all of the odds. But also, Louis is a hometown boy and went to school here and also to USC. He even has an airport named after him."
Also before the event, which brought out the largest single-night attendance in Harvest Crusade's 22-year history, Laurie discussed why the Southern California city was selected to host the historic outreach.
"We're here because this is Los Angeles, one of the most influential cities in all of the nationin fact in all of the worldand we thought, 'Let's go to the epicenter of where so much media takes place to see if we, in some way, can influence the influencers,'" said the pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside.
"We're coming here with the simple message of the gospel. I don't know when there has been a large scale evangelistic event held in recent history, and so we want to come back and say God loves you here in the City of Angels and you can come into a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ."
Evil and redemption
On stage, Laurie used the backdrop of 9/11 to highlight evil and the single source of redemption.
"God did not do that," he said of the three-pronged terrorist attacks. "Wicked people did that."
The evangelist went on to say that a poll found that the top question people have for God is why tragedies like 9/11, tsunamis and earthquakes happen, and why the emotional turmoil of divorce and the death of loved ones occur.
"Maybe some of you are angry with God because something happened to someone you loved and you just can't reconcile that," he said. "How does God allow bad things to happen to good people? You know what my answer is? I don't know."
Laurie went on to say that the Bible teaches that believers will find out the answers to this and other questions when they're in heaven. But to get there, he told them, people must first of all accept Jesus as their personal Savior, confess their sins and ask for forgiveness.
After he made a call for people to receive Christ, thousands of Angelinos streamed out onto the field to make a profession of faith in Christ, filling the outfield behind the stage that stretched over first, second and third bases.
"That has never happened before," a stunned Laurie said as he surveyed the completely filled outfield. "We made history tonight at Dodger Stadium."
By the end of the event, more than 5,900 decisions for Christ were recorded.
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