Thousands expected at Southern California's CityFest evangelistic outreach

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SAN DIEGO, Calif. — The Luis Palau Association, which has sponsored an ambitious five-month Season of Service campaign that generated more than $3.33 million in donated labor to the region, is treating an entire community to a mammoth evangelistic block party.

San Diego CityFest, a free daylong outreach to celebrate Jesus and the giving spirit, will be held Sept. 11 in Mission Bay Park. The gathering will stretch across the large greenbelt south of the Mission Bay Hilton to just north of the entrance to Fiesta Island. Thousands are expected to attend, including many from Tijuana, where some of the service projects were also conducted.

In addition to celebrating the giving mindset that has enveloped the county, the Palau staff is using the event as a non-threatening arena for Christians to bring their unsaved friends. The activities will meld fun and entertainment with a clear-cut message of eternal promise. To ensure that no one is left out, the ministry team is in full-throttle mode taking care of vital last-minute details.

"In these final days if you don't get it done it won't happen, and if you don't get it done you might miss a few people who could come to Christ and that's why we are doing this," said Chris McFarland, the festival's director.


What to expect
The highlight of CityFest will be an evangelistic message by association founder Luis Palau, who has shared his message of hope in Jesus Christ with more than 1 billion people through his worldwide ministry. His crusades and festivals have been held in 72 countries. In addition, his books and writings have been published in dozens of languages and his radio broadcasts in both English and Spanish are heard daily on 3,000 radio outlets in 48 countries.

The festival itself runs from noon to 9 p.m., with action sports demonstrations—BMX, freestyle motocross and skateboarding—planned for noon, 1:45 and 3:30 p.m. The Family Fun Zone, hosted by the VeggieTales, is open noon to 6 p.m., featuring performances by ventriloquist Mark Thompson at 1, 2:45 and 4:30 p.m.

The afternoon main stage session, from 2 to 4:30 p.m. will be presented in Spanish, with music by Latin groups Marisol and Tercer Cielo.

The evening program, which runs from 4:30 p.m. to closing will feature a concert lineup with Phil Wickham, Kirk Franklin, Dave Lubben and the Newsboys.

The Argentine-born Palau will present a gospel message in both sessions, Spanish in the afternoon and English during the evening.

The festival will provide sign language interpretation at all sessions, including sports demos and information booths. Spanish-speaking attendees are encouraged to bring radios and headphones to access translation services at 96.9 FM.

Parking is limited at the venue so guests are encouraged to take advantage of free parking and shuttle service from Sea World. Another option is to ride the trolley to the Old Town station where shuttles will operate. Shuttles at both sites will run every 15 to 30 minutes.

While admission to the festival is free, food will be available for purchase from various vendors.


Labor of love
While a major emphasis of the day is presenting the gospel of Jesus, the association also wants to commemorate the myriad demonstrations of Christ's love to the community, through the rolled up sleeves of believers.

Since April more than 42,000 volunteers—nearly the populations of Coronado, Solana Beach and Del Mar combined— have tutored, toiled and toted, donating more than 160,000 hours this summer on 375 sanctioned projects. The donated time is nearly equivalent to employing 77 full-time workers for one year

Augmenting the help of city workers, corporations and employees, more than 375 churches were involved in some form or another. The actual value of the labor was determined by using $20.85 per hour, the estimated dollar value of volunteer time for 2009, according to Independent Sector, which tracks charity work nationwide.

The spirit of San Diegans was significant, breaking previous Season of Service numbers established in Portland, Ore., and other cities such as Little Rock, Ark., and Kingston, Jamaica. In Portland, the site of the inaugural Season of Service effort in 2008, residents there cooperated on 300 community projects, generating 109,000 volunteer hours by 27,000 people. That effort saved Portland $2.3 million, according to that year's estimated volunteer value.

In San Diego, teams of people fanned out all across the county doing a host of projects, including supporting military couples through Military Outreach Ministry, assisting with special projects at recreation centers, beautifying 30 campuses through orchestrated projects, promoting community awareness of youth issues through athletes and musicians from "The Cause," creating year-round mentoring partnerships that included a Padres game, packing thousands of meals at the Feeding America warehouse and hosting block parties to help bridge the gap between community needs and available resources.


Regional needs
Craig Chastain, director of public relations and media for the Luis Palau Association, said the Season of Service program has broadened the emphasis to meet real and immediate needs of a region by bringing together the civic, corporate and church communities in the months leading up to CityFest.

Where existing projects were in place, project workers stepped in with their support and helped to re-energize some of the solid work already being done in the region.

Although the effort officially concludes with CityFest, a five-member team is in the process of drawing up sustainability plans to keep the momentum of the movement alive for years to come. In Portland, for example, the Christian community has continued the annual Season of Service peppered by ongoing efforts year-round. In addition to the service projects, local churches there have donated more than $220,000 over the last two years to the city to assist with homeless needs in that community.

For updated information about the festival, visit www.sandiegocityfest.com.


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