Five Thousand Gather for Alive 2003 Festival

Jun 26, 2003 01:23 PM EDT

NORTH LAWRENCE, Ohio – More than 5,000 worshippers gathered for 16th annual Alive Festival, Thursday, June 19. Despite the overcast sky and slippery mud, the crowd praised with passion and unity.

“You can't let the weather dictate your mood. We're among thousands of Christians, so we know we can overcome all odds,” said Rusty Schwartz of Brooklyn, Mich. “It's a bonding experience.”

The event began with praise lead by the Christian Contemporary Group Sonic Flood and continued with Pastor Knute Larson’s morning sermon. After the service, the crowd dispersed to the various tents pitched on the lawn.

“This is so cool to have an event like this in our area,'' said Jennifer Diller of Wooster. “All these people coming together in Christ gives us such joy.''

Each tent was designated a current issue facing contemporary Christian families. In Tents D and E, speakers focused on issues dealing with youth, including views on public education of evolution.

“How do I deal with the fact that my child is taught evolution in school, and at home, creationism?'' asked John Geib, a Malone College professor with a special interest in what he calls ``the spiritual warfare.''

The seminar tent featured a controversial presentation by Matthew Manning, founder of LightHouse World Evangelism, titled How I Overcame Homosexuality and the HIV Virus. His speech concerned his ``deliverance from homosexuality'' and a supposed miraculous healing from HIV/AIDS he received.

The Family Fun tent offered performances by the Australian children’s musical group Rocfish. Friends of J.C.'s Lance Weirick juggled swords and diced apples while quoting the Bible and trying to teach children about nonviolence. Royal Ruckus also entertained the younger Alive crowd with a more interactive performance. All three groups perform again today and Saturday.

Josh McDowell, the prolific author of 52 books lead a stimulating discussion on developing deep conviction, which drew a crowd of about 2,000 teenagers.

“I prefer down-to-earth speakers,'' said Jennifer Chapman of Medina.

McDowell “keeps it on our level and doesn't try to talk down to us. His talk on not judging others, and not to do the opposite of what Christ tells us to do, was really helpful. I try to take Christ into my life and do the right thing.''

The three-day festivity continued through Saturday, June 21.

By Pauline J.