Harvest '06 in New Zealand was a large yet wonderful investment for the local community as over 2,000 people's lives were changed this past weekend.
The event in Christchurch drew 21,000 people over three nights with overflowing crowds, leaving hundreds more stuck outside Westpac Centre. Nearly 100 local churches throughout the South Island partnered with Harvest Ministries to introduce tens of thousands of people to Christ at one of the largest evangelistic outreaches in New Zealand's history.
"We firmly believe this is a wonderful investment for our community," said one of the local pastors at the crusade Saturday night.
For the first time, the New Zealand site hosted "Amplify," a youth concert featuring music artists Satellite, The Katinas, Audio Adrenaline and Grammy Award-winning Steven Curtis Chapman. Young crowds swarmed to the stage at the start of each music performance with artists calling the thousands to get off their seats and raise their hands for Christ.
It was Chapman's first Harvest visit to New Zealand and as he stressed, he hopes it will be the first of many visits.
"We really believe that this is so much more than religion," said Chapman. "There's more to this life.
"There's so much stuff around us to fill our lives with so much pleasure ... but it's all an attempt to fill up this huge empty place in our soul. You were made for this relationship with God."
Evangelist Greg Laurie got on stage after the music died down to offer the one thing that could fill their void. He quoted several celebrities and music artists who had the money, fame and love that they had dreamed of, but all said or indicated that they were not happy. Furthermore, Laurie brought attention to New Zealand having one of the highest suicide rates in the world.
"God isn't looking for the religious type. He's looking for the sinner type," said Laurie, making the message applicable to everyone sitting in the arena.
"This is about a relationship with God Himself .... who will give you the hope and purpose you were looking for. You'll have life with meaning."
More than 10 percent of the youth crowd left their old lives and came to Christ that night as Laurie accented Jesus' words "follow me."
"Jesus is saying that to you right now. He is saying 'follow me,'" Laurie said, asking the crowd to walk with Jesus as a friend and walk the same path of the Lord.
"Christchurch has not been visited by this caliber of preaching since Billy Graham was here in 1959. Greg Laurie connected with us as a common man, which is what the Kiwis so appreciate about him," said Harvest '06 chairman Pastor Murray Robertson, in a released statement.
Executive director of Harvest Ministries, John Collins, noted how the pastors spoke of the profound impact that the weekend event brought onto the area. "The sense among Christians here is that God has begun a work that will continue on long after this weekend. It is our hope and prayer that many of the young people who were introduced to Jesus Christ these last three days will grow up to impact their generation for Christ."