For thousands of energetic young Christians, the Spirit West Coast Conference meant time to enjoy the largest Christian music festival in California. For members of the Navigators’ Military Ministry, the six days prior to the event and the three-day concert was a time to serve – serve the concertgoers, serve God.
Before the actual concert, July 22-25, some 80 Navigators volunteers, most involved in or had been involved in the military, arrived earlier to prepare the Laguna Seca County Park Fairgrounds in Monterey, Ca. for the event. For six days, the volunteers set up hundreds of chairs, laid astroturf on the camping grounds near the concert area, painted and labeled trash cans, marked parking structures, set up fences, and did whatever the organizers of the concert needed them to do.
But all the labor wasn’t a problem for John Choi, a 22-year-old Marine who was attending the Navigator’s Summer Missions Program for the fourth time. Choi says that being in the Marine Corp and serving as part of the Spirit West Coast preparation team has been a learning experience for him since he always keeps his central focus clear.
“Even in the Marine Corp sense or anywhere we are not working for an individual but we are working for God. He makes you work harder and when you come back you have a work ethic,” said Choi. He cited Colossians 3:23-24, saying it was a passage read by a Navigators team leader during the first day of the program, encouraging participants to do everything for God.
The Navigators group did more than help prepare the concert venue, which was on the racetracks of the Laguna Fairgrounds, they “prepared the land,” said Choi.
On July 17, the first day of the Navigators’ program, the participants had time for devotion, a worship rally, and then divided into teams for a prayer walk, in which each teams were assigned to read aloud a different set of five chapters of the New Testament among their groups. By the time they were done, the teams had covered the land which could be defiled with pride, arrogance, lust, drunkness, according to Choi as he cited Leviticus, with Scripture from the entire New Testament.
“We asked God to do a miraculous thing in that area,” he recalled.
And God did.
At the concert, after a line-up of altar calls from various Christian speakers including, Miles McPherson, Bob Lenz of Compassion Ministries, Mike Silva, John Penticon, and music artist 7 places, along with evangelistic outreaches from the Navigators, 400 people made decisions to accept Christ.
During the altar calls, the speakers asked people who were interested in learning more about receiving Christ to raise their hands. The Navigators team then dispersed through the crowds, approach the interested parties and shared "The Bridge" tract with them. They also handed out packets to those whom they spoke to.
The packet was designed for a first-time believer, said Choi, and has all the tools necessary to live a Christian life. It included a follow-up contact information card; a booklet containing the Gospel of John; “New Believers’ Growth Book,”written by Greg Laurie; “My Heart Cries Home," written by Robert Boyd Munger; and the "Bridge" tract, which many Navigators used to witness the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
Choi also experienced some inexplicable miracles as he was distributing the packets. At one point of the outreach, Choi found four people who were interested in learning more about Christ but worried he didn’t have enough packets to hand out since he only remembered placing one in his pocket.
However, to his surprise he found 4 packets when he reached in both pockets. He later asked members of the program if anyone had stuffed the packets into his pockets but everyone said they didn't.
“I experienced the miracle of Jesus multiplying fish and bread," Choi shared.
Then, a second incident happened that Choi felt was God's doing. Before the altar calls began, a Navigator handed Choi a chem-lite stick and offered him no reason other than having one would be "cool."
When the sky grew dark, Choi understood why he received the chem-lite sticks.
“Had it not been for that brother who gave me the chem-lite sticks for no apparent reason, then I would not have had a light source to share the Gospel,”he said.
Evenings for the Navigators were reserved for dinner and testimonials. It wasn't until Katie Dunn, a fellow participant, shared her testimony that Choi realized God had used him as an instrument to answer a prayer.
Dunn said she didn't feel like evangelizing but when a group of members invited her to watch the concert, she agreed. Then during a following altar call, Dunn felt the call to rededicate herself to God but regretted not having a packet with her. That's when Choi suddenly appeared, handed her a packet and immediately left.
"I don't even remember handing her one," said Choi in awe. "That's totally the hand of God."
The focus on evangelism and fellowship were the two aspects of the Navigators program at Spirit West Coast that Aaron Kinzley, a 25-year-old Marine, enjoyed the most.
"It’s easy to go form day to day without reaching out to people," Kinzley said. "Spirit West Coast really helps you to remember two things: the Great Commandment [and] once you have that down, you go on to fulfill the Great Commission and make disciples of all the world. It reminds you what being a Christian really means."