ANAHEIM — Pastor Greg Laurie kicked off the three-day 2017 SoCal Harvest at Angel Stadium on Friday night with a strong anti-racist message, asking the crowd of 26,000 gathered to take the second chance given to all by God’s love and forgiveness.
Laurie’s message titled “A Second Chance for America,” addressed tough issues facing the nation, particularly the hate and violence witnessed in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, where a white nationalist protest and a counter-protest ended with a woman dead.
“Our country is divided,” Laurie said. “For a follower of Jesus Christ, there is no place for racism, bigotry or prejudice of any kind. I see these people carrying crosses, wearing swastikas, talking about white supremacy. There is no superior race. We are all part of the human race.”
Francine Briones of Pico Rivera praises while Crowder performs during the opening night of SoCal Harvest at Angel Stadium in Anaheim on Friday, August 18, 2017. (Photo by Matt Masin, Orange County Register, SCNG)
Laurie talked about his own youth, about being “filled with hate,” and smoking marijuana by the kilo in Laguna Beach. The nation needs a second chance now just as he needed it then, he said.
“We are being threatened by terrorists,” Laurie said. “North Korea wants to nuke us. America needs to turn to God.”
The “Jesus Movement” changed the course of America in the 1960s, he said.
“Thousands of kids who were strung out on drugs and filled with hate were awakened and I was one of those kids,” Laurie said. “We need another spiritual awakening right now.”
Before Laurie took the stage, the atmosphere at the Crusade — formerly the Harvest Crusade — was carnival-like, with roaring crowds, T-shirt cannons, cotton candy, hot dogs, lemonade, rock and hip-hop music. These were all a prelude to the main event of the night — the pastor’s message.
It ended with Laurie’s call to action and hundreds rushing to the grass toward the stage to proclaim their faith.
This was 50-year-old Leisa Vigil’s first Harvest Crusade. The Pico Rivera resident came at the invitation of a co-worker. She has also been going through a rough patch.
“I’ve been diagnosed with cancer and fibromyalgia over the last two years,” Vigil said. “When you hear the word, your feelings and emotions move to a better place. And I need to progress to that next step in my life.”
She hasn’t been to church in many years, Vigil said.
“I’ve strayed and I’m here because I want to revive my beliefs,” she said. “My hope is that getting closer to God will help me overcome the issues I have.”
Keith Schnekenburger, 58, of Huntington Beach, said he came to the Crusade simply to “feel the love.” He said he is tired and frustrated by people fighting on social media and being unable to engage in civil dialogue.
“Identity politics has polarized the United States,” he said.
Schnekenburger said he came to hear Laurie’s message of “restoration, joy and peace.”
“It’s a simple yet powerful message of redemption,” he said.
Norma Losoya was at the Crusade for the third straight year. She says she comes for the music and “the Christian atmosphere.” And each year, she looks forward to going down to the field and proclaiming her faith.
“It’s just a beautiful feeling when I go down there,” the 46-year-old West Covina resident said. “Words can’t express it.”
Jasmin Foley said she is amazed each time to see the “souls that are saved and the lives that are changed” at the Crusade. It’s also a diverse crowd, said Foley, 30, of Compton.
“It’s amazing to see people from so many different cultures come together in the spirit of Christ, no matter what kind of hate and violence is going on in the world outside,” she said.