Australia (MNN) — Thirty years ago, evangelist Luis Palau had his first campaign in Newcastle, Australia. He recently returned to help more than 100 local churches reach new generations with the love and Good News of Jesus.
Nearly 30,000 people crowded to Newcastle's Foreshore Park for CityFest, two days of live music, kids-friendly shows and activities. The Gospel was presented nightly by Palau. After speaking on Saturday, he said, "I have seldom felt the presence of God in a crowd like I felt tonight."
CityFest had many performances. Some of those performances included Australian Idol winner Stan Walker, Evermore, and Hillsong. There were stunt demonstrations and personal testimonies by extreme sports athletes.
By the end of the two-day weekend, several hundred people had placed their faith in Jesus Christ, according to response cards.
Several individuals who came to faith during one of Palau's previous events in Newcastle helped cast the vision for this year's model. Jenny Allen, Dean of Students at the University of Newcastle and chair of counselor training for CityFest, said her role has everything to do with the decision she made in 1979 at a Palau event. "My hope and dream for this festival is that in 33 years, someone could be sitting here filming somebody else who remembers the 17th of November the same way we remember '79," she said in a video interview. Allen hopes "that they sit here because of the moment in time when they were confronted with the reality of Jesus."
Andrew Cole, pastor at New Vine Baptist Church, oversaw the festival's Kids Zone. Andrew accepted Christ as a teenager during a Palau crusade in 1982. "I was a messy, 18-year-old, beer-swilling, rugby-playing young person. When I heard Luis speak, that got my attention," he said. "It's been such a wonderful thing for me to contribute to this festival, knowing that 30 years ago a whole bunch of people gave me the opportunity to hear."
The two-day festival was the culmination of an entire season of ministry. There were 16 evangelistic events for students, military personnel, civic leaders, and business professionals. It also included a time of training and mentorship for more than 50 Australian evangelists.
"This campaign built on a foundation laid 30 years ago and set the tone for the future. Whatever God's doing in Newcastle, CityFest was not the end, but the beginning," Festival Director Colin James said. The Palau team is currently working with local churches to follow up with each new believer and connect them with a church in their area.