‘A Light at the End of This Tunnel’: Jacksonville Youth Find Hope

By   •   May 31, 2015

counseling
Saturday was student night at the Greater Jacksonville Festival of Hope with Franklin Graham. Dozens of youth decided to ask Christ into their lives by the end of the night.

“My heart just longs for them. I want to see them grow in Christ. And to be part of that in this moment is just something I can’t really describe.”

Erin Banister huddled with two girls Saturday night on the floor of Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville. Both girls—friends—stood there, hugging each other, moments after Lacey shared her testimony with the crowd at the second night of the .

“They both said they came to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior,” Banister said. “They really related to Lacey and her story. … One of the girls said she feels like she’s not really forgiven.”

Both friends left Saturday’s Festival knowing they are not only forgiven but loved by the God of the universe.

Franklin Graham in Jax
“God’s Word does not fluctuate. It does not change,” even as the culture changes, Franklin Graham said Saturday.

“We are God’s work of art. We are His masterpiece and He loves each one of us,” Lacey said.

Lacey was 10 when her 3-year-old cousin was beaten to death. She found it hard to believe a good God would allow such a horrible thing to happen and said she became “addicted to sadness.”

“I just began to hate people,” she shared. “I hated Christians and I hated people who had hope and I hated when people talked about God.”

Then she started meeting people “who have been to hell and back and find hope in Jesus.” As a suicidal teen, she felt God drawing her in.

“(God) wants you to have peace,” Franklin Graham said minutes later. “He wants you to have joy. He wants you to have meaning and purpose to life. But we have a problem.”

That problem, he said, is sin. He went on to explain how Jesus Christ provided a solution to that problem when he paid for our sin on the cross.

That was a message heard not only by thousands in the venue but by more than 15,000 who watched the Festival online from 99 different countries.

“Are you searching for happiness? Are you looking for things to fill your life with joy?” Franklin Graham asked. Like the prodigal son in the Bible who left home in search of fun and excitement, people today often try to fill the void with whatever culture offers. But the void doesn’t go away.

“The more you try to fill it with things, the emptier you become,” Franklin Graham told the audience. “You’re saying to yourself, ‘I wish I could have a new life, a new beginning.’ You can have that tonight.”

Hundreds quickly got up from their seats and came forward to publicly accept Christ as the only One who fills that void. Meanwhile, more than 400 people indicated their decisions for Christ as they watched online.

Michael Tait
Michael Tait, lead singer of Newsboys, urged the crowd to tell their friends about Christ and share the hope they have in Him.

Steve Dye was soon counseling one man while his wife, Beverly, counseled a young woman. The couple soon realized the ones they were counseling were also a couple—a boyfriend and girlfriend.

“He’s been attending a church but hasn’t really been 100 percent committed,” Steve said. “He felt called to come down here and give his life to Christ. We prayed together, I gave him my information and told him I’d be contacting him in a few days.”

Local counselors are trained to follow up with those who make decisions for Christ so they can continue one-on-one relationships after the event.

“I have a tendency to stick my foot in my mouth and say the wrong thing,” Steve joked. “I was very nervous about (counseling) but it went extremely well.”

Beverly called it an “honor” to walk the young woman through recommitting her life to Christ and looks forward to talking again soon.

As the Newsboys took the stage, lead singer Michael Tait encouraged the crowd to share the hope they have in Jesus, the kind of hope that doesn’t fade even when times are tough.

“There’s a light at the end of this tunnel,” Lacey said earlier in the night. “There is hope.”

lacey712
Lacey Sturm shared her journey from tragedy to hope with a captivated audience. One by one, cellphones lit up the arena as Lacey sang “Mercy Tree,” a song about Christ’s love for us.

 

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