“I don’t even remember when there was another Christian event like this.”
Hector and his 15-year-old daughter were among the thousands who made their way to Coca-Cola Field Sunday. They came early with some friends to take advantage of free kids’ activities before the second day of Rock the Lakes got underway. People tend to forget about Buffalo, Hector said, and focus on other parts of New York like New York City or Niagara Falls, but Sunday, Buffalo was the place to be.
That morning, the forecast called for a 50 percent chance of rain. But for the second day in a row, a daunting prediction yielded to Rock the Lakes. Not one drop fell, which was especially good news for the many parents who surrounded Coca-Cola Field with their children in tow prior to the main event. Activities included a sombrero toss, petting zoo, bounce houses, praise dance and manicures.
A long line formed next to the Rapid Response Team tent as curious visitors waited outside “Feel the Fury,” a tornado simulation.
Five-year-old Kayla got a teal balloon animal and bounced her knees to the music as a friendly clown with curly red hair bent down to give her a sticker. Her mother, Antoinette, looked forward to seeing Michael W. Smith perform later – if her daughter could stay awake that long.
“There aren’t enough events like this here,” said Amy, who, along with her husband, brought their two daughters, 9-year-old Rachel and 13-year-old Rebekah. Even some so-called family events aren’t totally appropriate for kids, she said. Her family tuned in the previous night to watch Rock the Lakes through live streaming.
“We got to watch Skillet!” Rachel said.
Saturday, more than 11,300 people attended Rock the Lakes, with more than 400 coming forward to make a decision for Christ. Sunday, Franklin Graham gave the invitation again. He gave a powerful message on Zacchaeus, a corrupt tax collector who sought out Jesus. The same Jesus still lives today.
“He came to this earth on a rescue mission,” Graham said. “And just like 2,000 years ago in Jericho, He’s here.”
One security guard in an orange vest stood by himself at the top of the bleachers with his arms in the air, swaying to music by the Tommy Coomes Band as all ages came forward at the invitation. A dad with his young son in his arms. A quiet middle school boy in a purple T-shirt. Teenagers and seniors.
By the end of the night, more than 300 of the 7,300 guests asked Christ into their lives, rededicated their faith or asked for assurance of salvation. Both nights combined, most of those who responded are between the ages of 10 and 18.
One little girl who came to Rock the Lakes Saturday gave her life to Christ. Sunday, she brought a friend and the friend did the same thing.
A 48-year-old man who also came to Rock the Lakes Saturday didn’t go forward at the invitation. He came again by himself on Sunday and, this time, went up front. Pat, the man who counseled him, showed him how to read the Gospel of John and how to pray. He plans to keep in touch with the man by phone or email.
“Anytime anyone puts their faith in Christ, it changes the world one by one,” he said. He sees people in Buffalo getting excited about God and said it will send a shockwave throughout the churches as they see the community’s need for God and as new believers turn to their local churches for guidance.
One counselor, Dotty, said deciding to live for Christ “changes neighborhoods. It changes people.”
An older woman quickly made her way to the front of the stage at the invitation, then grabbed Dotty as soon as she saw her counselor badge. The two hugged like they’d known each other for years. The woman said she was already saved, but didn’t believe in her heart that there’s nothing she can do to help earn that salvation. Dotty explained that it’s only through Christ’s sacrifice that she’s saved.
Like Pat, Dotty sees Rock the Lakes making a lasting impact on Buffalo through counselor and church follow-up and BGEA resources to help new believers grow in their faith.
Performers spoke of their own faith. About halfway through the evening, Lacey from Flyleaf took the stage with her rendition of Sheryl Crow’s “I Shall Believe.” Later, she sang “How He Loves,” her small frame deceiving as her powerful voice flooded the field and rang out over the highways behind the stage. For the audience, the performance was more like eavesdropping on a private prayer to God as she closed her eyes, lifted her hands high in the air and got lost in the personal lyrics. The crowd worshiped along with her.
L’Angelus (pronounced “Lawn-jay-loose”), a group of Louisiana-bred siblings, brought a Cajun vibe to the stage, its young members high stepping to country-charged fiddle playing.
Rend Collective Experiment brought the same energy and got the audience dancing. The internationally recognized group from North Ireland mixes instruments like an accordion, banjo and “jingling Johnny,” a percussion stick originating from Turkey.
The evening ended, however, with a name almost everyone knew: Michael W. Smith, a Grammy award-winner whose first record debuted in 1983. Smith performed old worship favorites, as well as his own music, to a crowd that couldn’t get enough.
“One more song!” someone yelled at the end of his set.
Will Graham closed the evening with a second invitation just before Rock the Lakes capped off with a fireworks show by the field.
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 Rock the Lakes.