‘Rock the Lakes Erie’ with Franklin Graham Officially Kicks Off

By   •   January 21, 2014

Will Graham
"We're going to see lives changed because God's Word does not come back void," said Will Graham at the Rock the Lakes Erie launch event on Tuesday.

Erie bayThe lakefront city of Erie, Pa., has seen its share of tough times. Just ask some of its young residents.

“In this area there’s a lot of drug use,” said 25-year-old Andrew Cerula. “There’s a lot of local shootings.”

“We’re fighting a battle with heroin right now that they say our police force can’t overcome,” added 22-year-old Jenna Luszcak. “There’s definitely been a spirit of darkness.”

Add a loss of jobs caused by the sharp decline of a once-booming manufacturing industry, and it becomes easier to see why the more pessimistic visitors—and some locals—have at times disparaged Erie as “The Mistake on the Lake.”

But Erie’s Christian residents know God doesn’t make mistakes.

“We’ve begun to see pieces of hope,” said Jack Risner, lead pastor of Erie First Assembly of God.

That hope began to surface a few years ago, as residents put aside their differences and started working together to reach the lost.

“There were people working on the poverty issue and how to give hope to the youth,” Risner said. “And then as the walls came down between ethnicities and churches and we began to gather in prayer, we began to feel like, absolutely there is hope.”

Three years ago, as Erie’s churches were praying for ways to reach their city, Franklin Graham and the Crusade department at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association were praying, too. As the groups came together, the idea for Rock the Lakes Erie was born.

The Sept. 27-28 event will feature Franklin Graham and a number of well-known Christian music artists who will join the local churches in sharing the hope of Christ with the Erie region.

At a Rock the Lakes Erie kickoff event Jan. 21 at the Bayfront Convention Center, more than 400 people braved single-digit temperatures to gather together for a time of worship, prayer and planning.

Colby Atkins, pastor of Elevate Church, called the kickoff “a celebration of the desegregation of all the churches.”

The lively group of believers filled the large hall, as workers scrambled to set up additional tables to accommodate the larger-than-expected crowd.

Local worship leaders led the group in a passionate and energetic time of music and praise. Later, music artist Lacey Sturm—formerly of Flyleaf—and her husband, Josh, led a short, acoustic worship set before Will Graham took the stage.

Will, who is vice president of the BGEA and grandson of Billy Graham, encouraged the crowd as he explained how his father, BGEA president and CEO Franklin Graham, will preach the Gospel in September.worshipworship leaders

“We’re going to see lives changed, because God’s Word does not come back void,” Will said.

All of this took place on the frozen bay by Lake Erie. But despite the cold air and cloudy skies, warmth and energy filled the convention center Tuesday, as local leaders were fired up for the important task ahead.

Erie Young Adults“(We’ll be) getting the word out and inviting people of our generation,” 25-year-old Amy Groh said. “Our job is to make them excited about it and want to come.”

Groh, Luszcak and Cerula are all active with Erie Young Adults, a nondenominational Christian group that has spent the past year bringing Erie’s 18-35-year-olds together on a weekly basis. They’re excited about Rock the Lakes because it offers a unique chance to reach out to friends and co-workers who aren’t walking with God.

“This is a huge outreach that’s much larger than us,” Cerula said.

“We’re all moving towards one goal and one passion and one mindset,” Luszcak added. “To be able to all stand together and watch people come to Christ.”

To carry out the mission, Luszcak says it will take unity, as believers in the Erie region team up to love their neighbors like Christ loves them.

Perhaps, together, they can shake the epithets that have defined their city for too long.

“We’re not ‘Dreary Erie,’” Luszcak said. “We’re not ‘Mistake on the Lake.’ We were lost and broken. We live in Erie. We see the brokenness. Jesus has changed our hearts, but we have to meet people where they’re at.”

Click here to get involved with Rock the Lakes Erie.

Will meet and greet


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  1. Pam gladd says:

    Will there be a rock the lakes erie, pa in 2017?

    1. BGEA says:

      We currently have no plans for a Rock the Lakes event there, but you can always keep an eye on scheduled events here: http://billygraham.org/what-we-do/evangelism-outreach/festivals-crusades/about/

  2. Lahiru Fonseka says:

    God bless you

  3. Jean-Paul Brown says:

    I was born and raised in Conneautville, just south of Erie. I moved away to NC when I got out of high school because there was just no future there. I returned after 20 years only to find that things had gotten even worse. There definitely is a spirit of darkness there that seems to have attacked the holy institute of the family. Drugs, alcohol, and children who have no respect for their parents or authority seem to be a big problem there. It was also alarming to me that I encountered a lot of people there who didn’t know anything about Jesus Christ. I mean no one has ever tried to share the gospel at all. The spiritual force was so bad that I knew that the only way to keep my family together was to return to NC. When I left NWPA I said that it appeared to me that the only way to save that area was a miracle from the Lord. Even though I have returned to NC I still pray that God will send His holy Spirit across this nation like a tsunami. I pray that God will use Franklin and Will to stir such a fire in that area that will make people stand back scratching their heads. I am going to be in heavy prayer and plan on making the trip back to PA on Sept 27-28 to add my faith with so many other believers. GOD STILL ANSWERS PRAYER!

  4. Norman Armstrong says:

    I have been looking for God to direct my path & I pray there is some things I could be used for with these Festivals / Celebration gatherings. I have 25 years of carpentry skills , love to be a servant , I’M a Chaplain with a strong desire to move , to reach the next level God has for me & then go to the next level & the next ……….. My family will do what ever to be part of this move for the lost , our brothers & sisters in Christ Jesus. We will relocate , what ever.

  5. Jack woltz says:

    Praise GOD, And GOD BLESS FRANKLIN GRAHAM, I have lived in PA all my life, Yes PA needs all the help it can get, This time of the year, I have 9 places I preach each Mo, It is a small area to some, BUT, For me it is HUGE, Because it for my LORD and SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST, The one most thing we have is hurting people, for many reasons, OUR GOD needs people to help people, PRAY, PRAY, PRAY, GOD BLESS ALL.

  6. Catalina Kerr says:

    Praying that the Holy Spirit continue to guide your organization in this ministry.

  7. Dawn says:

    If one person can make a differance, just think of what ALL OF YOU PEOPLE OF ERIE CAN DO, may GOD’S HOLY spirit be with every one of YOU! Believe it, you have been called, the nation is behind you!

  8. udiness chisala kalonde says:

    I am really encouraged for the work of evengelism. Well done. Continue labouring, your labour is not in vain. I pray for God to continue open more doors for your ministries. God bless you.