photos by Joe St. Louis
Short stories from the SoulFest Cross Ministry
As far as stories from the cross go, let me share one that is personal:
As nighttime was falling fast around us, I stood in the crowd with my four-year-old daughter in my arms. On stage was Gungor and they were catapulting us into worship. As they played a powerful instrumental, the sky all around us grew finally dark - leaving the only two lights on the mountain, the stage and the cross. As if on cue, a breeze began to blow.
"God’s Holy spirit is loving on us right now, isn’t He", I said to Prudence. Her response was a tight squeeze around my neck. I couldn’t help but believe that at that very moment, Love was transforming her little heart and making it a heart of worship.
The banging noise of the hammers driving the nails into the cross started early, as a constant flow of people came, and one by one laid their burdens down.
One of our younger volunteers felt compelled to pray for a girl who seemed out of place. A little nervous to venture out and approach a stranger to pray for them, she asked another younger volunteer to join her. Without even pointing out the girl who needed prayer, the second volunteer walked straight over to the girl and both volunteers began to minister to her.
"Are you a Christian?" they asked.
"No, I am not" came the reply.
"Would you like to be?" asked the volunteers.
"Not yet" the girl answered honestly.
"Can we pray for you?" said the volunteers.
"Certainly" said the girl.
And, so they prayed. In this girl’s life, a decision has yet to be made, but a seed was planted.
Later on at the tent, a middle-aged couple came by to sign the pledge. They informed us it was their 6th year of signing the pledge and they wouldn’t miss it for the world. They take a copy of the pledge home each year and truly endeavor to live it out. Moments after signing, they went and got another couple (obviously friends of theirs) and brought them to sign the pledge as well. They walked away a foursome, arm in arm. We watched them and were reminded of the power of the SoulFest pledge to transform lives. True Love Transforms.
As night fell, a group of 3 approached us and announced they were the ones who had been given the free multi-day pass the night before. They introduced us to Kerri, (the beneficiary of the free ticket.)
"I’m checking into Teen Challenge right after SoulFest and I am scared to death."
We introduced her to one of our team-members, who graduated from the Teen Challenge program 10 years ago. God certainly put them together to strengthen Kerri’s resolve and to let her know that He cared about her very much. We prayed over her and as tears flowed freely, we left the two of them talking - one about to embark on a journey to sobriety, the other extending a hand of hope - saying, “You can make it.”
There was such a blur of activity around the cross at SoulFest 2013 that it seems impossible to separate out the testimonies according to what day they happened. Suffice to say, these next sentences encapsulate the stories as they came to us.
Her name was Linda. She and her family attended the seminar for survivors. Her teenage son had ended his life tragically. He had learned of the Boston Marathon massacre and thought the world held just too much pain. So, he left a note and left this world. Talking about her son, you could see the pride in her eyes as she remembered who he was. The cross team surrounded her family with prayer.
Later we connected her with Kevin Kadamus (who lost his own son four years earlier in a tragic accident). The two hugged, cried, and hugged some more. There in the shadow of the cross, one received comfort from another and the courage to go on.
A mother brought her two boys to the pledge tent to hear the story of Andrew Allard. One of the boys was just about Andrew’s age and as he listened to the story of how True Love transformed Andrew’s life, we watched him as we wiped our tears away. Instead of signing the pledges, they each took one and with sober faces, told their mom they wanted to sign it around the campsite as a family. The powerful pledge words gripped an entire family and will transform their year ahead.
A woman walked up to the tent and asked how the True Love Exchange board worked. The staff explained and the woman offered her story. Friends of hers (a missionary family to Africa) had a 22-year-old daughter who remained in the states and was undergoing a faith struggle. Worried about her spiritual condition, the woman explained she wanted the young lady to come to SoulFest, but she simply couldn’t afford it. She asked if she could request a ticket for the last two days of the festival. Reaching into the prayer box, our volunteer staff pulled out a wristband that someone had donated minutes before. Elated, the woman and a friend of hers jumped for joy under the morning sky. True Love listens, True Love responds.
During a break between bands, a 22-year-old man came and sat next to one of our volunteers. “So what does SoulFest mean to you” our volunteer asked.
"It totally changes your perspective," came the answer. "You want to believe you can live like this everyday. You are so full of joy - you want to live from the inside out."
"Exactly," said our volunteer, "Exactly."
Two ladies approached to ask about the cross. It was their first SoulFest. And while one was ready to drive her nail into the wood, the other seemed hesitant. “I am just not ready,” she said. “I am afraid if I put it down, I will pick it up again tomorrow.” Our volunteer’s spiritual ears discerned the Lord saying the issue was a father she could not forgive. When that message was delivered through prayer, the woman was shocked that God’s love could be so personal.
Her friend turned to her and said, “Wow, that was exactly what you needed to hear.”
"I know," she replied. "I think I need some time to process, but I will be back to drive the nail."
15 minutes later…the nail was driven in… deep.
At the close of Saturday night, while the volunteers were cleaning up and tearing down, the cross team (and friends) stood hand-in-hand in a ring around the battered wooden cross. Hundreds (if not thousands) of nails protruded from the cross - each one a life story, each one a precious commitment, a promise to God. As we prayed to conclude the festival and prepared to go home, we did so with the knowledge that True Love does transform…it had done that very thing, for each of us.
Thank you, SoulFest, for making the cross the center of all that happens.
We can’t wait for next year.
-Loren and Amanda Decker