For the past three summers, BGEA’s Rock events have brought the saving message of Jesus Christ to thousands of young people.
Although the events are big and loud, full of rock and hip-hop music, it’s the preaching of the Gospel that gives them their power. The Bible says the Gospel is “the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16, NIV).
And the preaching of the Gospel is why people—of all ages, not just teenagers—respond by committing their lives to Jesus Christ.
Kathy Smith, 62, attended Rock the Lakes in Milwaukee last summer.
“Our family has been going through just a horrible, horrible time over the past eight years,” she said, “and I’d been looking for something to keep my head above water.”
In 2004, when the family was living in Plover, Wisc., daughter Melissa was paralyzed in a car accident caused by a drunk driver. Four years later, son Steve collided with a cement truck while riding his bicycle, leaving him paralyzed as well. Eight months after Steve’s accident, Kathy’s husband, Bill, lost his job and then suffered a heart attack. How much adversity could one family take?
But God was working. Steve was able to finish college. Bill recovered. And a friend invited Kathy to a Bible study and began to explain how she could receive Jesus as her Lord and Savior. Kathy had grown up attending church, but she never knew that she could have an actual relationship with God. She had to admit that in spite of her churchgoing, she didn’t know much about the Bible.
Just as Kathy was getting caught up in the Bible study, Bill’s company offered to bring him back—but the family would have to relocate to Milwaukee. It was good news, but the move also meant one more major upheaval for the family.
“Dear Lord, help me through all this,” Kathy prayed.
Shortly after the move, a friend invited Kathy to Spring Creek Church. She immediately felt at home. “I knew I belonged there,” she recalled. “It was just like all the questions I had rolling in my head were answered. It all started to make sense.”
One Sunday, she responded to the invitation to confess her sins and give her heart to Jesus. But this was all still new to her, and as she describes it, she was still “a little hesitant about that reborn thing.” Then someone invited her to Rock the Lakes. Her pastor, Chip Bernhard, was serving as the counseling and follow-up chair for the event.
So on Aug. 21, 2011, Kathy and Melissa went to Veteran’s Park, along the shore of Lake Michigan. There, among thousands, Kathy sensed God working in her heart. “It was wonderful,” she said. “I’ve never been to anything like that before, and it was so moving.” After Franklin Graham preached, Kathy went forward. Even now, she struggles to explain exactly what drew her.
“I just knew I wanted to be up there,” she said. “I wanted to tell the Lord, ‘I need to say as many times as possible that You are my Savior.'”
Kathy has continued in Bible study and other involvement at her church, and her life has changed: “When I prayed before, it was like I was talking at Him. Now it’s like I’m speaking with Him. There is this relationship; He’s really there with me. Not ‘up there,’ but walking with me.”
From the Depths
When Erin Kimball attended Rock the Lakes, she was at rock bottom. After years of struggling with drug addiction, she had recently begun using heroin. It was destroying her.
“My life was pretty much in the gutter; there was nothing left,” the 36-year-old mother of three said. “I had lost my job for stealing money to support my habit. I got in trouble with the law for stealing to cover my habit. I didn’t lose my children, but I think had it continued and had it not been for God’s grace, I would have.”
As it was, Erin was in the midst of a four-month residential treatment program. She was allowed to leave the home for a few hours to attend Rock the Lakes with her mother, her three children and with Tim Winter, a family friend and pastor of Eagle’s Nest Church, where her mother attended.
What grabbed Erin’s attention first was the testimony of Flyleaf’s Lacey Sturm, who told how God saved her on the day she had planned to commit suicide. Erin said, “It made me admit that I can’t do this on my own, without Him. Because I’ve tried that, and look where it got me!”
Then Franklin Graham presented the Gospel and explained the need to come to God through His Son, Jesus Christ. But when Franklin gave the invitation, Erin actually tried to slip away, using the excuse that she needed to go find her 16-year-old son, who had walked outside the event area.
“He’s fine; you can find him later,” Winter told her. “Do you want to go forward?”
That was all it took. This is my crossroads, she thought, and this is the way I’m going to go. She went forward and received Christ.
“My life is completely different now,” Erin said. “And I’m starting to see the results of God blessing me for living right.” She has a new job, a car and a new place to live.
Looking back, Erin marvels at God’s grace: “I should have been dead. I should have lost my kids. I should have been in prison. And I know the reason I didn’t is because my mom and Pastor Tim were praying for me.”
Taking a Chance
Anastasia Pjevach (pronounced Peevich) was 16 when she attended Rock the Lakes with her neighbors, the Clark and Linda Branscombe family. She had been attending church with them for some time, and they invited her to come with them to Rock the Lakes.
“While we were there it was really fun,” Anastasia said. But even when she walked forward at the invitation, she wasn’t quite sure what she was doing, or why. Some of her friends were serving as counselors, and when they went forward to talk with inquirers, Anastasia followed.
While she was at the front, Linda Branscombe came over and asked if Anastasia would like to receive Christ. Anastasia’s cousin George, 17, had recently been hit by a car and killed while riding his bicycle, which had caused Anastasia to pray and think more about life and death. She prayed with Linda and gave her heart to the Lord.
Anastasia is now involved in the church’s youth group and sings in the choir. And knowing the power of a simple invitation, Anastasia is extending invitations to others. When friends go through hard times, she prays for them, helps them and invites them to church. One friend is now attending regularly. And as this year’s BGEA Rock events approach in several cities, Anastasia encourages Christian young people to invite their friends.
“Take a chance,” she said. “It can never hurt—ever. Maybe you can get them to come, maybe not. But at least you invited them, trying to do something instead of sitting back and letting the opportunity pass by.”