SEATTLE (BP)–Southern Baptists associated with the Embracing Seattle outreach were among the key leadership and volunteers for an Aug. 17-18 Puget Sound Festival sponsored by the Luis Palau Evangelistic Association that resulted in more than 4,000 professions of faith.
“Plans for the festival began about a year and a half ago, about the same time we began Embracing Seattle,” said John Eckle, city coordinator for Embracing Seattle and a member of the festival’s executive committee. “It seemed like something that was probably planned by the Lord so that we could get maximum advantage for evangelism in the Seattle area.”
The two-day crowd estimated at more than 150,000 made it the largest event ever held at the 640-acre Marymoor Park in suburban Redmond, according to county officials. Palau’s evangelistic organization also said it was the largest such festival ever conducted.
Eckle said the event provided an opportunity for several hundred Southern Baptist volunteers from Seattle and across the country to both participate and to receive training for future ministry in their own churches. Embracing Seattle is part of the North American Mission Board’s Strategic Focus Cities initiative, a long-term effort to introduce people in the nation’s largest cities to Christ and help them grow in their faith through new churches.
The festival concept has replaced stadium crusade services as a primary framework for Luis Palau events, Eckle said. Each day culminated in an evangelistic rally featuring some of the biggest names in contemporary Christian music.
In a large children’s play area, video superstars from VeggieTales entertained children and their families, who heard the gospel several times each afternoon.
A 10,000-square-foot skateboard park was built by a team of volunteers from Mountain View Baptist Church in Layton, Utah, Eckle said. The modular ramps and other park elements were built during June, and other Southern Baptist volunteers from Arkansas and Seattle assembled them at the festival site just before the event.
“That enabled them to finish the park setup in a faster time than the festival organizers had seen in any other area,” Eckle said.
Six professional skateboarders demonstrated their skills and shared their faith before thousands of students, he said.
Other Southern Baptists volunteers were trained as decision counselors and for the follow-up efforts through local churches. Still others served with the festival prayer ministry, in promotion efforts and with setup and tear-down of the festival grounds.
As an official sponsor of the festival, Embracing Seattle also was able to sponsor its own booth on the property — an opportunity Eckle said allowed them to distribute 800 Embracing Seattle videos and expand on existing relationships among other evangelical Christians in the Puget Sound area. The goal, he said, is for Embracing Seattle to be just the beginning of ongoing ministry efforts over the coming years.
Embracing Seattle is currently in its implementation year under the Strategic Focus Cities strategy, with two more years designated for long-term follow-up.
Eckle said discussions have already begun about conducting another festival in Seattle next year.
“If you do things on a one-year basis it looks like a flash in the pan,” he said, “but if you’re able to continue an activity over a two- or three-year time period, you’ve had an opportunity to stimulate a lot of interest.”
Because of the success of the partnership, he added, the Palau organization is interested in working with Southern Baptists on festivals in other Strategic Focus Cities.
For more on Embracing Seattle, visit www.embracingseattle.com. (BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: EMBRACING SEATTLE, SINGING IN SEATTLE and RECORD SEATTLE CROWD.