As excitement builds for the first night of Rock the Lakes – with big-name acts like Skillet and Building 429 – one local team that guests won’t see onstage is quietly preparing to see God move hearts in Buffalo. The Prayer Task Force started praying for the event months ago.
“I think talking to God and getting it off yourself allows Him to come in and do what He wills,” Task Force co-leader Antwan Diggs said.
Diggs is a former convicted felon who now pastors a church and works in the mayor’s office at City Hall – a 32-story art deco building in downtown Buffalo. He never thought he would be where he is and knows the power of prayer.
“The Bible says that men ought to always pray, so I’m just a crazy believer in prayer,” he said.
Diggs joined others nearly a year ago when the city was just exploring the idea of Rock the Lakes. Whenever they ran into a problem, Diggs suggested prayer – not a prayer for people to write on their prayer lists, but a prayer to lift up right then, wherever they were.
Fellow co-leader Barbara Kaczmarek is also familiar with the obstacles, but “that’s just the enemy trying to stop something that I believe God has His heart in.”
Kaczmarek has helped organize local prayer warriors for years and lead events for the National Day of Prayer.
“God says to pray and He answers,” she said. She has prayed for the entire city, but particularly for the youth.
Diggs, pastor of Hananiah Lutheran in inner-city Buffalo, said his community struggles with crime and unemployment. People need the hope of the Gospel outside the church walls.
“People are upset, angry, hurt about one thing or another,” he said, “so we pray that God would heal our community and make us one. … It would be nice if people would come to us, … but not everybody is going to do that.”
Diggs is a doer and can’t sit still. Jesus traveled around, bringing healing and hope, he said, and that’s the example he hopes to follow. Earlier in the week, he laid Rock the Lakes invitations on the altar and prayed over them before putting each one in a person’s hands.
“My prayer was that something would happen to that person, whether they came or they didn’t come,” he said. “I’m looking for God to do something wonderful.”
Diggs then went bus stop to bus stop, handing out the invitations and telling people about Rock the Lakes. He also handed them out at his church’s food pantry. People were surprised to hear that an event at the Coca-Cola Field is free.
Kaczmarek lives in the suburbs and goes to a Wesleyan church but said the needs in her community are the same. People are hopeless and suppressing their hurts.
“We just hide it better in the suburbs,” she said.
Alcoholism, drugs, depression and loneliness aren’t strangers to the surrounding neighborhoods, and many of the youth lack direction. Kaczmarek recently joined others for a prayer walk in the community, and one couple in the group purchased bags to hang a Rock the Lakes invitation on each door.
Leading up to the event, the Task Force has prayed for the details – for equipment to work properly and for the rain to hold off – but also for people’s hearts.
“We understand the music will draw them in,” Kaczmarek said, “but it’s really our heart’s desire that Jesus Christ’s name be lifted up because that is what’s going to change these people’s lives, not Skillet.”
Friday, Diggs and Kaczmarek stood in Niagara Square, passionately praying for the event and for the people who will attend.