Organizers of SoCal Harvest plan to return to Angel Stadium Aug. 17-19 for the 29th installment of an event that uses music, personal testimony, preaching and even a little motor cross to emphasize an evangelical message.
“There’s a great need to bring hope to people who are without hope,” said John Collins, executive director of the Harvest Crusades and executive pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship. “Harvest addresses the big questions in life — is there life after death? Why am I here? Why am I lonely? Is there a solution?”
Greg Laurie, the event’s founder and senior pastor, said he offers non-Christians the tools to find salvation through discussions of life’s enigmas.
“The focus is the message of the gospel — a very simple presentation of who Jesus is, what he said, and how to come into a relationship with him,” Laurie said.
Laurie, who has been the main speaker of the Harvest Crusades since they began, has always made an effort to switch up his approach to preaching the same message each year, and to touch on cultural phenomenons that he believes may stem from a lack of faith.
This year, Laurie plans to address suicide, which is on the rise, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“What’s going on in our culture?” Laurie asked.
Laurie noted the recent suicides of food author Anthony Bourdain and handbag designer Kate Spade show that even those who find monetary, career and societal success can still experience crippling depression.
People have their whole lives planned out with the assumption they’ll find happiness in achieving their goals, Laurie said.
“We have all these little things, all these boxes people feel they need to check,” he said. “So people check all their boxes, but they’re still empty. They forget the box that says, ‘faith in God.’”
As an event that has maintained the same purpose for nearly three decades, SoCal Harvest incorporates new elements each year.
Throughout the weekend, Harvest will host Christian bands and artists, including Lincoln Brewster, Chris Tomlin and MERCYME, and will also feature a freestyle motocross show Aug. 18.
At the end of each night, Laurie plans to invite attendees to walk down to the field and make a profession of faith, welcome God into their lives and ask for forgiveness.
Riverside resident Bee Xiong began attending in 2005 and later found himself volunteering as a follow-up counselor, greeting and advising the newly faithful.
“It’s an out-of-body experience when you give your life to Christ,” Xiong said. “You’re surrounded by so many people and experience so much love. You feel a spirit kind of just tugging at you. Then, to be the first person they see on that field after praying the sinner’s prayer, it’s surreal.”
Harvest relies on hundreds of volunteers, many of whom have become like family.
Nathan Shockley, the co-captain of the event’s team of ushers, has volunteered all 29 years. He now brings his two teenage sons to help.
“The Harvest Crusade gives us all purpose — purpose to put the hand to the plow when it comes to our faith,” Shockley said.
Shockley called being able to serve God with his children one of the greatest joys in his life.
“It really stimulates our faith and what people believe in because we see God living and working,” Shockley said.
If You Go
What: SoCal Harvest with Pastor Greg Laurie
Where: Angel Stadium, 2000 E Gene Autry Way, Anaheim.
When: 7 p.m. Aug 17-18, 6 p.m. Aug. 19
Cost: Free (Parking is $15)