Hebrews 12:1-2

"..let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith..." - Hebrews 12:1-2

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Tens Years After OneDay 2000

Ten years ago today, under cloudy skies and a slight rain, I set foot onto a grassy field in the middle of Shelby Farms just outside of Memphis, TN. I had spent the night prior in a tent about a mile away on the same farm, surrounded by thousand of strangers who were doing the same. My travelling companions on this journey were two buddies, Brad Walker and Mike Vincent, as well as my sister, Jessica, who decided to come along the night before.

We had gathered at the church parking lot and loaded up my 1983 Ford LTD with all of our stuff. Brad wanted to bring his guitar along, so we had it ride basically on the hump seat in the back. We prayed for our journey and what God had in store ahead of us and then got on the road. As we pulled away, I told the group “I know this car will get us to where we are going, but I am not sure if it will get us back.” They looked at me with a little bit of fear and wondering if I were kidding only to discover that I was totally serious. The car had been running a bit rough lately and was periodically overheating, but I felt as if this event was something God was calling me to. I figured we would get there and then figure out later how we would get back if that became necessary. We stopped a couple of times on the way down and each time I added some oil to the car and silently prayed that God would keep the vehicle running.

We made it to Memphis in the early afternoon and began trying to find Shelby farms. After a few wrong turns we pulled onto a road that had a sign welcoming us to OneDay 2000. Along this stretch of roadway, there were all sorts of signs posted with different passages of Scripture and I thought “That’s a pretty good idea”. We waited in a long line of cars to get through the registration checkpoint. We showed the guy our “tickets” and received a flyer with directions to our camp site and where the main stage area was located. And that’s when I knew we were in for something very special: this guy led us in a prayer for the following day, for our hearts and minds to be focused on God and for the safety of the thousand who were still travelling to get to this place. And that’s how our OneDay 2000 experience began.

We waited in another incredibly long line of cars, barely moving for more than a few seconds every minute or so. I nervously watched the temperature gauge start to climb and felt the engine begin to get a bit rougher. I thought “Man, if this car dies on this road there will be hundreds of people stuck behind me”. I thanked God that we had gotten this far, but I prayed that He would help us to get to our campsite before the car died. As we finally made it to our campsite drop-off spot, the LTD lurched forward and died and I coasted it to a stop a couple feet short of where the guy was directing me. A huge plume of white smoke poured from under the hood and all sorts of people were staring at me behind the wheel. I climbed out and said to my companions “See, I told you we would make it.”

We quickly unloaded all of our stuff, learning at that moment that we would have to walk our stuff in quite a distance. I also then learned that the parking lot for vehicles was not exactly close to where the car was currently dead. I approached the car with trepidation, fearing that it wouldn’t start up again. Thankfully, it fired right up and I had no trouble making it to the parking lot.

I remember looking around after our tent was set up and thinking, “They sure are expecting a lot of people to show up for this event”. I did not think that they would need all of the camping space that had been set aside and marked with stakes and ribbon. The long row of portable toilets over the hill from us was encouraging, as it would seem that there wouldn’t be too much competition for those facilities. As more people showed up, you began seeing other people who were already set up helping these new arrivals carry their stuff and set up tents and so forth. We helped some of the people around us and walked around a bit to see what was going on. We found a video truck set up on the outskirts of the camping area and were told would there be a welcome and worship service later in the evening.

At the designated time, we found a seat on the hill across from this video screen and waited. After a few moments of making sure all of the equipment was working properly, we were greeted by Louie Giglio via video link. I had heard that there were a couple of campsites like ours, but didn’t understand the size and scope of what I was a part of. Louie gave a nice welcome and then informed us that there were 5 campsites our size scattered around the Farms complex. What?! He was broadcasting from the main stage that we would all gather at the following morning, but for now that area around that stage was set aside and being consecrated.

There were people in a tower next to the field reading the entire book of Psalms and praying over the field non-stop in the 24 hours leading up to the following day’s start time. Louis then asked for each group to scream and yell when he called out their campsite number. After each number was called, we could hear a sustained cry coming up from somewhere distant over the hills. Some were louder than others, but the cry that went up from our site was incredibly loud, so I assumed that size of each camp was similar and that the distance between camps was the determining factor in volume difference. This was when I fully understood how many people had gathered for this event.

After the service, which included a brief Scripture being read and a couple of worship songs being sung, Louie asked that we spend the remainder of the night in prayer and preparation for the following day. He knew that he was asking thousands of college students to not goof off and do typical camping stuff, but he believed it would be appropriate to be still and silent on the night before such an event. And so, with a final evening prayer, we walked back to our tent in silence. I remember sitting outside our tent under the stars and being able to hear crickets above the amount of noise generated by the thousands of students around me. It was a setting that almost demanded that you pray or read your Bible. And that’s what we did.

We awoke the next morning and ate something for breakfast before heading off toward the main stage area. It had rained a bit overnight and the ground was soggy and muddy. We started off in the general direction that we thought the stage was and joined a growing parade of students as we went. We walked in relative silence and I was reminded of the story of the Israelites at Jericho. We, like they, were walking with great anticipation for what God was about to do, not knowing exactly how or what that might look like. We were still trying to prepare for something we couldn’t fully articulate, but we knew that God had called us to this place for this exact purpose. And so we walked for a mile across the fields of Shelby Farms and came to the crest of the hill surrounding the main stage area.

Upon finally being able to see this place, I was surprised by the sheer size of it all. There was a huge stage with huge video trucks on either side, rows of portable toilets around the perimeter, with the seating sections marked by stakes and tarp fences. We picked a spot in the section to the left of the sound booth about halfway up the hill. Here we were with a small cooler, our Bibles in our backpacks, wearing rain ponchos, trying to stay dry, all while standing on a grassy field in Tennessee waiting for the official beginning to the event known as OneDay 2000. We arrived fairly early and watched in wonder as thousands of college students continued to arrive over the hilltop and descend into the natural amphitheater.

As the student in the tower finished reading Psalm 50, the band began playing and the student jumped to their feet and started off the day with musical worship. Throughout the day, there were no introductions, no names shown on the screen and no advertisements about books or cds or t-shirts being available in the back. I found this curious since I had seen a row of tents set up at the back of the area, which I had assumed was for merchandise, when the reality was that there were only a couple of places to buy some food and the rest of the tents were occupied by various missions/ministry organizations.

While the rain fell lightly, God moved powerfully. One speaker after another implored us to bow low before God Almighty and confess our sins before Him. After all, how can we expect God to do great things in our nation and in this world if we do not first recognize our desperate need for Him in our lives? Between each speaker was a time of singing and praying with a specific purpose. John Piper challenged us to make our sole life’s purpose to be one of “Boasting Only in the Christ” and then asked that anyone who had felt in the past or was currently feeling called to full-time mission work to stand so we could pray for them. Hundreds, if not over a thousand students stood. We gathered around them and prayed. They then proceeded to the tents to receive some guidance and counseling as to how they could begin to fulfill that calling. It was an incredibly moving time.

We had been told that the weather forecast was for severe weather in the area, so we prayed that God might withhold that so that we could continue lifting up our nation and the world to him in prayer. We were dedicated to the task set before us that day and were determined to not allow the weather to damper our desire for God to use us in impacting the world for His name and His renown. After a few brief periods of drizzle, the clouds began to lighten. As the day progressed, the weather improved. What began as a cold, damp day ended with warm, brilliant sunshine lighting the fields around us. I learned when we arrived back home that two storm systems had converged to the West of Memphis and then split apart prior to reaching the farm and then joined back together to the East, with some severe weather occurring on both sides of the farm. In fact, there was a video that showed the weather radar from that day with a local weatherman pointing out the anomaly and saying that it might have something to do with a Christian gathering of college students that were gathered there to pray. Yes, God still controls the weather.

I've written too much here already, but I think it is clear that there were several very memorable moments that impressed me on that day a decade ago. I was impressed with the organization and preparation of the event. I was impressed by the behavior, attitude and hearts of those who had come obviosuly prepared for God to speak to them and work on their hearts. I was overwhelmed by the messages spoken to the masses gathered on that field and was appropriately moved through the musical worship times. The incorporation of various art components throughout the weekend allowed the attendees to express themselves in various ways.

OneDay 2000 was more than an event. It was more than part of a movement. It was one specific day, set apart and dedicated to helping college students from around the country focus on God, repent of sin and pray our nation and the nations of the world. God was glorified in the actions of that weekend and thousands of students were challenged to live lives that bring glory to God.

The theme of OneDay 2000 was reflected throughout the weekend and it is an appropriate way to end this huge post:
Sacred. Holy. His.

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