NEWS STORY: OneDay Open Air Festival Seeks to Mobilize New Generation for God

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c. 2003 Religion News Service

BELLS, Texas _ It was the third day of OneDay, and it was good _ “powerful,” “awesome,” “amazing” _ according to James and John DeHart and a carload of their friends from Longview (Texas) High School.

The Longview group were among thousands of high school and college-age youth that spent Memorial Day weekend at OneDay, a three-day festival of open-air worship and teaching sessions designed to help them integrate their circumstances, career paths and creativity with their faith.

Some of the students said they came for the road trip and ended up on a new life journey.

Unforgettable for James DeHart, he said, was “The best music I’ve ever heard _ and actor Kurt Cameron’s (“Left Behind”) message on reasons to be saved.”

His older brother John said he won’t forget Joshua Harris’ message on abstinence; the concept of revival he heard for his generation and “that it should be all about God and not about us.”

More than 17,500 students from every state and seven foreign countries pre-registered for OneDay, and another 1,300 signed up as volunteers, according to Liz Crystal of Passion Conferences, the ministry that sponsors the event.

According to organizers, OneDay03 was officially May 26, one day set aside for a solemn assembly of worship and prayer, but that one day is best served if it is approached with spiritual preparation, thus the three days.

For many at the crux of youth and adulthood, the private ranch venue seemed fitting _ set beyond two crossroads just south of the Oklahoma border where tornado alley rolls through the Bible Belt.

Monday, the words of OneDay founder Louie Giglio along with Christian aid worker Heather Mercer who was held captive in Afghanistan, as well as noted authors and teachers Beth Moore, John Piper and Joshua Harris rang out across the sea of expectant faces.

The crowd swayed and sang with Christian music artists Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, Charlie Hall and the David Crowder Band.

It also included a student mobilization center matching ministry opportunities with student interests and career plans, and a worship graffiti center where attendees could draw and write out their thoughts on walls of black paper.

Mark McCartney who headed the student mobilization center said, “What happens here determines what happens after the event.” McCartney said the mobilization process helped students take their talents and opportunities to meet their faith head-on, and was designed to help them see how they could serve God on their campuses, in their churches, in their workplaces and, sometimes, on the mission field.

A gallery art center featured student painting, sculpture and photography submitted from budding Christian artists from across the country. A Scripture tower had been constructed for Bible reading from evening of the first day to the morning of the third day. A worship tower, hung with panes of stained glass, sent splashes of color across the faces and fabrics on the field.

Jeremy Key of Longview said he came to OneDay for the music and left understanding the power of prayer. His friend Daniel Barnard said he “saw the magnitude of worship in the sight of thousands of us, as far as you could see, on up and over the hill, people praying and lifting their hands to God.”

OneDay markers for Neely Young of Keller, Texas, were Monday’s worship and a late-evening message by Giglio. In the early summer heat and sporting a fresh sunburn, Young said going to OneDay was the “coolest” thing she had ever done.

“I grew leaps and bounds in my intimacy of worship with God. And near the end, we heard about the early church over Jesus’ tomb and how … passionate they were for God,” she said. “We sang the doxology and he (Giglio) put that in the context of contemporary faith. It brought everything forward to my generation and gave everything more meaning to me.”

Janell Lough, a senior at the University of Buffalo, said she drove the 22 hours from New York with six of her friends to worship.

Brad Horton, OneDay Network Director of College Ministries, said, “Isaiah 26:8 poses the heart cry of the passion conferences because it says we should be walking in the way of God’s truth, we wait eagerly for him, and that his name and renown should be the desire of our souls.”

The Passion ministry, he said, is “about challenging a student generation to say yes to God, to say yes to his plans and his purposes. `OneDay’ is the gathering of this generation, to pray that God would move on our campuses and in our nation.”

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Horton said OneDay is really a four-day process. “If we just opened the stage for one day, it wouldn’t make the same impact. It takes three days to prepare, to focus on God, seek God, cry out to him with one intense day, seven hours to pray to respond to God, and a fourth day to challenge them and send them off.”

On the first day (Saturday), more than 6,000 early arrivers began lining up outside the gates, their vehicles piled high with camping gear. And the plush green rolling hills of the 400-acre ranch quickly sprouted a rainbow of domed tents that wrapped itself around the open event field.

Saturday’s campers anticipating a quiet night settling in under the stars were surprised by severe storms that filled the midnight hours with torrential rains and lightning.

As the second day dawned, tent ropes became makeshift clotheslines. The weather hadn’t dampened the enthusiasm, and no one seemed to mind a little mud, once the afternoon break-out sessions convened.

Memorial Day hosted the largest crowd with the main OneDay gathering in the open field. Tuesday, the fourth day, completed the event with a morning send off.

Giglio started the Passion Conferences in the late 1990s. The OneDay conferences are not annual events, but address the new generations as they move into the 18-22 year age range. The last OneDay, hosted in 2000, in Memphis, Tenn., reportedly drew more than 40,000 participants.

DEA END DAVIS

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