Tonight, high in the hills surrounding San Diego, a baseball diamond in the San Elijo Hills, Calif., community will not be used for baseball.
Or any other sport for that matter.
At 5 p.m. (PT) today, this field will be transformed into a holy place. And residents Carrie and Jeff Mendenhall are expecting great things.
After all, they say, it’s God who has orchestrated all the details to tonight’s “Night of Hope,” including a live band, food, legendary surfer Bryan Jennings sharing his testimony and My Hope America‘s “Defining Moments” shown on a 36-foot jumbo screen on the middle of a baseball diamond.
And trained counselors from the 2003 San Diego Billy Graham Crusade will be on hand if anyone needs prayer.
“Literally, when we heard that call from the Lord, we made phone calls over the next 48 hours and God just opened the doors,” Carrie said.
That call came to Carrie on Oct. 1 at 4:30 a.m., when she woke with a pressing burden to do something to share Christ with her community.
Something. But what?
Shortly before that day, the Mendenhalls were up on a hillside in San Elijo, watching the sunset when they saw a huge jumbo screen in the neighbor’s yard with over 100 people watching an animated movie.
“Carrie and I turned to each other and we both had the same idea put on our hearts at the same time,” Jeff said. “Wouldn’t it be neat if we could play classic Billy Graham Crusade films in our back yard.”
Only one problem: The Mendenhalls no longer had a back yard. They’re barely able to rent their small condo in the center of town.
Six years ago, however, they had a great yard. They lived in a nearly 4,000-square-foot home just north of Charlotte, N.C., in Mooresville. Business was booming for Jeff, who was self-employed in the financial planning industry.
But in late 2007/early 2008 it all came crashing down with the economy.
“Basically we lost everything,” Carrie said. “Lost our company, lost our home, lost our cars. We lost everything, except our faith in God.”
After losing everything, they shoe-horned into an 850-square-foot rental “in the middle of the woods,” then recently moved back to the San Diego area, where they lived prior to 2007. The Mendenhalls sold virtually everything but their two dogs and and began a new chapter — only this time Jeff is both working and going to seminary.
“As we’ve been praying ‘Lord’s what’s the next step,’ ” Jeff said. “I feel God has called me into full-time ministry.”
Jeff spent most of his day on Friday going door-to-door, putting door-hanger invites on 1,000 homes. Several others had already passed out 1,000 door-hangers earlier in the week, spreading word about tonight’s “Night of Hope.”
So many things, as Carrie explains, had to fall into place for the “Night of Hope,” starting with the availability of the baseball diamond, which had only two open dates through the end of the year—Oct. 20 and 27. After selecting Oct. 27, the idea of inviting Bryan Jennings to share came up and over the next several months, Jennings had only one date free—Oct. 27.
“We told our neighbor and he said, I can get a sound guy. I can get the band,” Jeff said. Next thing you know, Steven Yebarra, who before getting saved opened for groups like Hootie and the Blowfish, was offering to play for free.
Several neighbors felt compelled to give large donations to help cover the cost of the evening and many other donations have come in as well to cover unforeseen last-minute costs, including a high-powered generator.
“We need so much change in our nation,” Carrie said. “It’s all about praying and trusting that God can do more than we could ever do.”
For more info on My Hope America with Billy Graham, click here.