A Kind of Journal

by Tony Copple

Rock the River memories

Beautiful weather. Registered as regular counsellor. Saw many friends, including pastors (Brent Russett, George Sinclair, Colin MacKenzie, Terry Orchard, Bob Davies). Once I had my 'spot,' I photographed the site from the river. I visited Samaritan's Purse tornado exhibit, and was amazed at their state of readiness to handle disasters throughout North America. People started arriving about 3:30. Music began at 4 with Prosper & GPM, the only Ottawa band, and my favourite based on recordings. Then Prosper himself was engaged as co-host with Nick Hall, and he did a great job for the 2 days. To suit today's crowd most of the music was hard driving rock and hip hop. Bands forsook their sweeter numbers to keep up the relentless drum/bass beat. Then Dennis Agajanian appeared, totally unscheduled. He figures in Franklin Graham's terrific autobiography, Rebel With a Cause, but he was new to this crowd. I had played one of his tunes for my last Over my Head show on CKCU. The time for counselling came after Lacey Sturm's suicide testimony and Franklin's talk. Many went down to the front and my group supervisor siphoned me into the stream, and I followed two young (male) teenagers and stood with them. I realized there were more needing counselling in that vicinity than counsellors, so I had no option other than to counsel them both. Milos (15) and Ben both attend EastGate Alliance and wanted to take the public step of giving their lives to Christ, having never done so before. We went through the materials and they were totally ready I would say eager! Then, happily, Ben's mum turned up, and had a card for him already completed (I only had one). So I filled in Milos' details. His mother also was close by, so I gave her my Alpha card so Milos could contact me if he had questions. There really is no greater joy than assisting in the process of bringing people to THE most important decision of their lives. Of course, the investment made by the BGEA in preparing them for this moment is massive the counsellor's job is so easy in comparison. Later in the evening, Franklin gave another invitation. The area in fron of the stage was packed. I videod the singing of the national anthem very special. I noticed a tall young man holding his cell phone high and fought my way to him. Philippe. I gave him the materials including the 'My Commitment' pamphlet so he could work through it himself. There were 402 responses that night, half of them first-time commitments, from some 9500 attenders. The headlining Thousand Foot Krutch played to a very appreciative audience. I drove home full of joy and processed the video footage I had shot down to 7 minutes, and uploaded it to YouTube.

Day 2, Sun 30 Sep

Rain fell throughout the day; never heavy, but relentless. I had taken the opportunity the previous Thursday at The Met to be trained as a roving evangelist, allowing me to approach anyone at any time rather than only after Franklin had given an invitation. I arrived about 2:30, and all the other roving evangelists had by then been dispatched in pairs, so they let me go solo, with my clipboard and a bag of materials. The recommended approach was to ask to do a survey, which ended with questions which could naturally lead to making a commitment. Some might not have taken the step of walking to the front, but would be prepared to accept Christ with a counsellor in a more relaxed environment. From my own experiences in 1984, when I first did not go forward at Billy Graham's mission to Norwich in March, and then did, when Luis Palau came to London in June, I know how hard it can be to get up publicly and meet with a counsellor. I do believe that getting up and walking to the front, stressful though it can be, is an important part of the process. So I set up my lawn chair well back, with an umbrella shielding it from the wet. The survey questions assumed that participants would have been there long enough to see some of the bands, but I was eager to get started so I spoke to a couple of young men before the event officially opened. After a few questions it was clear they were both solid in their Christian faith! Hungry, I got some French fries from one of the food vendors. With umbrellas covering much of the area the music began at 4 with L'Angelus, a fine folk group, and to my ears far more pleasant than any of the previous day's hard rock. (I love rock where some attempt has been made to employ a tune, but what matters is that the teens love it all, preferring the relentless hard-driving stuff.) I spoke to another three or four, still finding no atheists or agnostics. The rain had kept away the curious and skeptical. By 6 I was soaking and returned to my car to exchange one soggy sweater for two dry ones. From then on I was warm enough, getting back in time for Franklin's invitation. I decided to go down to the front. Among the umbrellas I couldn't spot any seekers not yet paired up with a counsellor, so I left it to them and went back away from the stage, and introduced myself to a teenage couple, boy and girl. He had been invited by his believing female friend. I had abandoned the survey sheets by now; they were all sodden, but I knew the questions by heart. When we came to part where he had an opportunity to come to faith, he clearly was not ready but I had peace with the situation, since our conversation was good and meaningful. I believe he will be touched by the Holy Spirit, and this conversation was a necessary stage along the way. At this point Bob Davies turned up, the girl's pastor from KBC! After that I spoke to two more. It was easy to talk to anyone, wearing my counsellor badge. Most were there to see Michael W Smith. I approached a man just quietly listening. His name was Wesley. After a few sentences we discovered we had many shared interests and common friends. He was a Christian financial planner with Scotiabank. Our conversation lasted an hour, and helped us ignore the rain. We will definitely stay in touch. For Michael W Smith I spent some more time in front of the stage enjoying the traditional praise songs that I play in church, and the youth were right into it. Although I had not had the opportunity to watch a young man being born again, the conversations I had had with Christians were valuable and reassuring. What an important two days these had been, and crucially so for the hundreds who had turned to Jesus. The BGEA have issued a summary of attendance stating that 15,263 attended over the two days, and I understand from my friend Dave on the Co-Labour team that there were about 500 commitments /recommitments of faith. Imagine the potential that even some of these young people have in spreading the Gospel in their future lives! Please pray for Milos, Ben and Philippe.

Other shots from training events (FM419, Jim Cymbala) months before

My 7-minute video of Day 1
Rock the River website
Billy Graham Mission to Ottawa 1998 - my experiences as a counsellor
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