By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
ALEXANDRIA – The Rapides Parish Coliseum became a house of prayer and repentance during the Hope4U GO TELL Crusade Oct. 14-17.
By the end of the multi-event Harvest effort, 420 new believers had declared Christ as Lord and 401 had made other decisions for a total of 821 transformed lives. The highest attended session was the youth emphasis night Oct. 17, which drew 1,983 people.
Hope4U had the support from at least 50 churches in the CENLA Baptist Association as well as congregations from other denominations. The crusade was one of many events held or scheduled this year as part of the statewide Harvest campaign to “pray for every home and share with every person” in Louisiana.
“One of the things mentioned over and over was the amazing presence of God’s Spirit and unity among our local churches as we gathered together for this endeavor,” said crusade co-chair Andrew Orr, who also is minister of education and outreach at Philadelphia Baptist Church in Deville. “I feel like it will be a continuous effort moving forward of community and working together across racial and denominational lines because there was a sweet spirit. It’s been refreshing to watch so many come together over the past months and during the four days of the crusade.”
The crusade featured Rick Gage, founder of GO TELL Crusades in Duluth, Georgia, team evangelist Ken Freeman, founder of Ken Freeman Ministries in Martindale, Texas, and Scott Camp, founder of Discover Joy Ministries in Fort Worth, Texas, who brought Gospel messages. Meanwhile, award-winning Christian bands Rush of Fools and NewSong were joined by an area-wide mass choir as well as the GO TELL worship team to share about Christ through music.
Hope4U is believed to be one of the largest multi-denominational evangelistic outreaches ever to take place in central Louisiana. Nearly 400 people were trained to serve as crusade ushers, decision and follow up counselors and prayer warriors.
“It was truly a picture of the body of Christ functioning,” said Tim Hisaw, captain for the counseling and follow-up team. “Seeing it all come together and happen was phenomenal.
“There will be an eternal impact on those who receive Christ but also a current impact on those saved, and their families and schools,” continued Hisaw, pastor of Tioga First Baptist Church. “With Christ we have purpose, hope and peace. It should make for better churches, schools and communities.”
Trey Lewis, pastor of New Prospect Baptist Church in Dry Prong and chair of the banquet team, was encouraged by the unity among fellow Christians.
“I am a committed Southern Baptist, but I learned a long time ago that I am a Christian first,” Lewis said. “Coming together to embrace the vision of reaching those without Jesus Christ across denominational and racial lines warmed my heart. I truly sensed the fragrance of heaven as we planned together.
“Love for our Savior and love for the lost fueled the passion and we dropped those artificial distinctions, for a higher call was at work in our midst,” he continued. “I know I am not the same. I asked our Big Creek associational pastors at a recent meeting, ‘Why cannot this be the norm instead of the exception?’ I’m still thinking about that. As a believer in Christ and as a pastor, you can count on me to commit to more of this kind of Kingdom work in the future.”
Carl Gulde, co-chair of the outreach team and pastor of Bethel Baptist Church in Colfax, enjoyed working alongside fellow pastors and lay leaders as they saw many lives changed and countless Gospel seeds planted.
“I believe the outstanding cooperation between the churches that was implemented for this event has opened the door for planning together for future events for the glory of God and growing His kingdom,” he said.
Leading up to Hope4U, organizers planned several events to reach the area’s youth, including a Field of Faith student revival Oct. 7 at Louisiana College’s Wildcat Stadium, conducted in conjunction with chapters of area Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and an Oct. 11 chapel service on the Louisiana College campus.
During the week of the crusade, students at many of the junior and senior high schools in Rapides Parish attended assemblies featuring character building messages by crusade evangelists.
The final night of Hope4U featured a youth emphasis night with free pizza accompanied by music by national recording artist Gawvi and a message by Gage. It was the highest attended session of the crusade, with nearly 2,000.
“The part where (Rick Gage) went straight into talking about Hell and didn’t try to go around it really stood out to me,” said Allie Armstrong, a student at Alexandria Senior High and member of Calvary Baptist Church in Alexandria. “He was just like ‘This is how it is!’”
Kylee Robertson, a student at Buckeye Middle School and a member of Philadelphia Baptist Church in Deville, was moved to tears when several of her friends came forward to accept Christ.
“My friend actually brought a friend who is not saved,” Robertson said. “She brought other friends that also were not saved, and they were messing around [during the service]. It was getting our hopes down that they were not going to get saved tonight. Then the invitation came, and they put their phones up and started listening. When we were all called to come down, they went down. So, everyone was crying, and we were all happy.”