With the 10 o’clock hour approaching and thousands of people pouring out of the popular hangout known as The Forks in downtown Winnipeg, a dazzling fireworks show was launched from behind the massive Scotiabank Stage.
For the past six hours, bands from Canada and the United States had sung about their faith in Jesus Christ, and evangelist Franklin Graham had powerfully proclaimed the Good News of God’s love and hope through Jesus Christ. The Tommy Coomes Band had just helped lead an inspiring praise service for all that God had done throughout the day in the lives of teenagers, young adults and boys and girls.
Now a kaleidoscope of colors lit up the nighttime sky. But as much handclapping and oohs and aahs that 15-minute pyrotechnic celebration generated, it must have paled in comparison to the rejoicing taking place in Heaven.
Luke 15:7 alludes to how much joy is exhibited when just one sinner repents. Well, on Sept. 17, at the Rock the River Festival held in the capital and largest city of Manitoba, more than 325 sinners had turned to Jesus Christ, committing their lives to follow Him.
Children Gladly Receive
A KidzFest started the day of ministry at the outdoor venue along the banks of where the Assiniboine River flows into the Red River. Island Breeze, Puppets4Him, illusionist Greg Wood and the band God Rocks! pointed the 1,200 people in attendance toward developing a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
Emcee Nick Hall declared how God made that possible by sending His Son Jesus Christ to die on the cross for the sins of the world and how we can receive Him into our hearts as Savior by faith.
Walking forward in response to the invitation to commit his life to Jesus was Thomas, a 10-year-old boy from the inner city. He had been invited to KidzFest by a downtown church. Thomas and a volunteer counselor named Jerry sat together on the cobble-stone area in front of the Scotiabank Stage, and Jerry explained the Gospel to Thomas. He accepted Christ.
Then Jerry showed Thomas how to look up verses in the Bible and study them on his own. Not only did Thomas have a huge grin on his face as he left, but Jerry, too, was rejoicing. “This was the first time I had ever talked with somebody about Christ and led anybody to faith in Him,” Jerry said.
A children’s pastor from a nearby church has been cultivating a friendship with a local family. The parents don’t attend and aren’t interested, but they allow their two daughters to go. Through the influence of the children’s pastor, Janie’s older sister gave her heart to the Lord earlier this year. On Saturday, Janie attended KidsFest with the children’s pastor and asked Christ into her life. Now the children’s pastor hopes to have an extended ministry to the mom and dad.
Cold Weather, Warm Hearts
As the morning transitioned to afternoon, the sun disappeared behind the clouds, and blustery winds whipped up dust from the park’s surface. Rain threatened for the rest of day and evening. But that didn’t keep 10,000 people, donning heavy parkas and hats, from converging on The Forks for the high-energy youth event.
Franklin Graham proclaimed the Gospel twice during the program. “God loves you,” he said. “Jesus went to the cross and took your sins upon His shoulders and shed His blood for you. Now He wants to forgive you and cleanse you and set you free from the guilt and shame of the sin in your life.”
Out in the crowd listening was Jason. The young man had accepted Christ years ago but had strayed far from walking with Him. Now he was engaged in a destructive lifestyle and was tired of the way he was living. He sought a fresh start and wanted to follow Christ in a new direction. Jason responded to Franklin’s invitation.
Tears streamed down his cheeks, and he kept wiping them away with his plaid shirt. In front of the Festival platform, Jason rededicated his life to Christ, and he and Matt, a volunteer counselor, prayed that God would give him the power to live for Him and to please Him. Jason hugged Matt, then left with a huge smile beaming.
Moving to Winnipeg only three months ago was Agape, a 16-year-old girl born in Uganda. She heard about Rock the River on Facebook. She came wanting to know how she could know God personally and listened intently to Franklin’s impassioned message. “God will forgive you of each and every and all of your sins but the only way that can happen is if you accept His Son,” Franklin implored. He then quoted John 14:6, stating that Jesus said He was the “way and the truth and the life and no man comes to the Father except through Me.”
Convinced that Christ was the only person in human history to die for her sins, Agape walked forward, confessed her sins and committed her life to Him. She said she would go to church on Sunday and tell the pastor of her commitment.
Norman, 14, also responded to Franklin’s invitation. He prayed to receive Christ a year ago, but soon realized that he was only going through the motions of being obedient to His Word, that he wasn’t following Christ with a sincere heart. Norman came to Rock the River with some friends, and as he considered what Franklin was saying, Norman came under conviction of the Holy Spirit and knew he had to seek a change in his life.
He got out of his seat at the invitation and rushed to the front. There he surrendered his life to the Lord. “Today, here at Rock the River, is a new beginning for me,” Norman said. “Today, I’m deciding to walk tightly with God.”
Help Us Bring the Gospel to a Hurting Generation
Youth are starved for the hope of the Gospel. You can help bring them the love of Christ by donating to future Festivals and Celebrations.