Question: What do you get when you combine a blood drive, a food truck party, 10 talented musicians, a gathering of local churches, and one inspirational speaker, at the Pacific Amphitheater in the OC Fairgrounds the Saturday night before Easter?
Answer: You get over 4000 people from Orange County united in one place to enjoy “An Easter Together.”
“An Easter Together” was an evening of praise, purpose, preparation and prayer for all the Easter events around Orange County.
“This is the first time we’ve done this,” explained Mike Kenyon, Pastor of Church Development for Free Wheelchair Mission (FWM). “It was an exciting and creative way to tangibly put God’s love on display, and also to lift people off the ground in the name of Jesus, in the form of giving wheelchairs. We partnered with ROCKHARBOR Church, and Transparent Productions.
“ROCKHARBOR had the venue for the whole weekend for their Easter services, so we brainstormed possible ideas for the day before Easter, and all the different parts came together. Transparent Productions does all the concerts for local churches, and they are great at taking care of all the details. It was an amazing event on its own, but it also raised money that will change some people’s lives forever.”
Free Wheelchair Mission is an international non-profit organization dedicated to providing wheelchairs for the impoverished disabled in developing nations. For less than $65, a wheelchair can be manufactured, shipped and distributed to needy beneficiaries in 84 countries. Since its founding in 2001, FWM has delivered more than 627,000 wheelchairs to grateful children and adults. Wheelchairs not only transform the lives of the disabled, but also the lives of the families of each recipient.
Mike was thrilled to announce that FWM raised more than $35,000, enough to get 550 wheelchairs to those who so desperately need them. Monies raised came from ticket sales, donations, the blood drive, and a portion from the food trucks.
Before the doors opened at 5 p.m., FWM hosted a blood drive with Blood for Missions, a nonprofit organization offering a unique fundraising opportunity while providing relief to local hospitals. For every three people who donated blood, Blood for Missions donated a wheelchair.
Jeff Gideon, Corona del Mar resident and Communications Director at ROCKHARBOR explained the desire to involve dozens of different local churches in the event.
“We wanted to rally churches around Orange County to come together and be united as we prepare for Easter,’” he said. “Not only that, but we hoped it would be a place where anyone who might be intimidated to go to church would feel comfortable going to a concert.”
“One of the most important things the Church can do is to make a big deal about Easter, the most important event,” Jeff continued. “We were excited about every facet of the evening, but prayer was obviously a huge component. When God’s people gather and pray, we believe God answers and things happen that might not otherwise happen.”
Things happen when people sing too, and worship was an important part of the event. Following a successful West Coast tour called “A Christmas Together” last December, a talented collection of artists regrouped to provide the music. Jeff explained that the musicians’ December performance at ROCKHARBOR was such a hit that the event planners invited them to create a concert for the night themed around Easter. Preferred ticket prices for Saturday night included the artists’ “Easter Together” CD. Author, speaker and pastor Francis Chan delivered an inspiring message.
“So often people leave church and talk about the message or the band, but I want them to walk away talking about God, to walk away in awe of Jesus,” Francis said. “Are you putting yourself in situations where you need Him, where others need Him? Invite someone you never thought would go to church to come.
“People are starting to wonder if this life is really all there is. You have the opportunity to share the love of Christ. There shouldn’t be such discrepancies between the Bible and life. God doesn’t want us to have a little fraction of His promises. I believe Jesus rose from the dead, and because He rose, we have access to God. I pray and He hears me.”
The evening concluded with collective worship and a call to prayer. An overhead screen scrolled through the names of the 100-plus churches in Orange County and Todd Proctor, lead pastor of ROCKHARBOR, asked people to break into small groups to pray for all the services and events to be held at those churches the next morning.
“Help others discover Jesus,” Todd said. “Pray that Easter would be a daily reality. Pray for a massive spiritual breakthrough in Orange County.”
Cindy can be reached at [email protected].