They practiced at youth camps. They rehearsed in their churches. They even polished the dance steps in the living rooms of their houses.
Practice videos were made and distributed for the three-minute dance routine.
But still, how many would show for the flash mob presentation at the Cathedral Square, the foot traffic hub of Vilnius, Lithuania, was a mystery.
“The practice groups weren’t actually big, maybe four or five,” said Tadas Makcinskas, chairman of the Lithuania Festival of Hope’s Youth Committee. “So you never knew how many were going to come.”
But they came. And they danced. The 300-some green-shirt-clad youth orchestrated a flash mob that may not have been as spur-of-the-moment as some YouTube shopping mall hit magnets, but the results were every bit as important.
“It turned out to be great,” Makcinskas said. “A big number. We were blessed.”
Matching choreographed dance moves to a mix of three Newsboys songs — “You are my King,” “Blessed be the Name,” and “I am free” — the Festival’s Dance of Hope flash mob concluded with a mass evangelism marketing effort, handing out event fliers around town.
“The young people went on the street and distributed 16,200 invitations to the Festvial,” said the Festival’s director Viktor Hamm of the Sept. 24 Dance of Hope event.
And this past weekend, about 90 minutes west of Vilnius, another 70 young people performed a flash mob in the Cathedral Square in Kaunas and proceeded to hand out more than 5,000 additional invites to the Oct. 29-30 Festival of Hope.
”Great time,” Makcinskas said. “Great emotions.”
And prayerfully, there will be a great harvest this weekend.
The 10,000-seat Siemens Arena will host the Festival, featuring a Gospel message each night by Franklin Graham. Headlined by the Newsboys, the event will have a heavy musical emphasis, featuring nearly a dozen local accomplished musician groups in a region that puts a high demand on artistic excellence.
A setlist of the Festival’s most prominent performers was printed on slick, passport-size fliers that were handed out at the flash mob events and is also being distributed with a grass-roots feel this week around Vilnius, which is home to just over a half million people.
On Wednesday evening, an energetic Festival team assembled in the Cathedral Square district near shops and restaurants to get the word out. Lithuania native Arunas Siaulys, among those assembled, said he felt the energy level kick into another gear starting this past Monday.
“You can see the finish line,” he said. “You have to push. You have to push hard. I love the people of this country and I’m worried about them.”
And that’s why Siaulys has devoted so much time to try to get as many Lithuanians excited about the Festival as possible.
In a country with over 3 million people, Siaulys estimates that only 3,000 are committed believers in Christ, but despite the small nucleus, added “sometimes you only need one prophet to wake the country up.”
And in an area of Europe that has high unemployment as well as the world’s highest suicide rate, Christians are praying that the Festival of Hope will do just that.
To demonstrate the hope of the people, 31 Linden trees were planted in a 250-foot row just north of Siemens Arena, in a quaint little park area that is being called “The Alley of Hope.”
The tree-planting ceremony was held Sept. 24, the day of the flash mob, after the 16,000-plus fliers were distributed by 10 different teams, blanketing the city.
“The main reason for planting the trees was to make a symbolic gesture,” Makcinskas said. “As the trees are planted, they grow and finally give fruit.
“As the Alley is close to the arena, it is even a stronger symbol of hope and the hope Festival. This is the place where people will find hope, where the seed of the Word is planted.”
An overcast Tuesday gave way to clear skies, and mid to high 40s are forecasted all week. As one local put it, it’s “crazy warm” weather, as the days wind down to the Festival of Hope.
Kidzfest will kick off the weekend’s events at 11 a.m. Saturday morning and will feature The Puzzle, a children’s Gospel presentation. The evening Festival events begin at 6 p.m. both nights. Admission is free to the public. For more information, click on the official website here or on Facebook here.
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