ANAHEIM, Calif. – A parents' anguish over the death of their 12-year-old daughter in a car accident just ten months ago turned to feelings of hope as the 150 people they invited to the SoCal Harvest Crusade as a tribute to their daughter and "as a way to glorify God" showed up to the event at Angel Stadium on Saturday. Many of them made a commitment to follow Jesus Christ that night.
"One of the things that we feel is that God has a plan and that's found in the verse Jeremiah 29:11," Juan Hernandez told The Christian Post on Sunday. Hernandez, along with his wife, Yesenia, and their oldest daughter Paulina, wore a memorial tribute pin with a photo of Yesenia Eva Hernandez on the final night of the three-day event on Sunday.
"When my daughter went home to be with the Lord ten months ago we've been just doing anything we can. One, to get closer to the Lord, and then bring as many people closer to the Lord as we can," Hernandez said. "To be honest with you, it's been very difficult, but at the same time it was a wonderful feeling having so many people come and honor our daughter, but most importantly give glory and honor to God.
"It was a very grateful feeling having so many people join us and praise the Lord."
Those that were invited to the SoCal Harvest by the Hernandez family, who have three other children, included other family members, friends, co-workers, and people that were with them when Yesenia Eva "went home to be with the Lord."
When evangelist Greg Laurie gave the invitation for those wanting to make a profession of faith to Jesus to come down onto the outfield, "no less than 50 came down," said Hernandez. A photo of the group that came to the Harvest Crusade on Saturday as the result of Hernandez's invitation shows 19 people holding a Harvest "Start-Up" Bible that is given to those who made the commitment on the field.
The Hernandez couple said that reading the book, Hope For Hurting Hearts, that includes the trials and tribulations of Laurie, and his wife, Cathe, who also lost their son, Christopher, suddenly in a car accident five years ago, helped them deal with their grief. The family, who lives in Perris, soon began attending Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside led by Laurie.
Paulina Hernandez, 16, who survived the car accident that resulted in the death or her sister and her godparents, said that she was praying for many of her friends that came to comfort her during the weeks and months after the loss of her sister. They were invited to the event.
"A lot of them didn't know God, but they told me that this (Harvest Crusade) has brought them closer to Him and that they did actually re-dedicate their lives or accept Christ," Paulina said. "That's what I was praying for them."
For those that help organize and stage a Harvest Crusade, one of the most satisfying aspects is to hear about stories such as the Hernandez's one. Hearing testimonies in which people make a decision to follow Jesus as the result, at least in part, of attending the event, is a blessing, Paul Eaton, communications director for the Harvest Ministries events, told CP.
Among other responsibilities, Eaton helps a huge staff of volunteers collect the testimonies of people who've made the commitment.
"What I really find is that it is amazing that the Lord meets someone at a particular moment in time and it's the perfect time to where it all makes sense for them," Eaton said.
During the SoCal Harvest this year, three dramatic testimonials on video were shown on the huge screens at the stadium. The stories told by the individuals included people who were ready to take their own lives out of desperation, but somehow were able to attend a Harvest event, accept Jesus, and make a complete turnaround in their lives.
"I think the Harvest Crusades give a real presentation of the Gospel that anyone can understand in very, very simple terms. That's what Pastor Greg's role always is that, 'I want to keep the Christian lingo out of it. I want to make sure that I'm presenting in real simple-to-understand language what it means to follow Christ,'" Eaton said. "He's even said that he hasn't forgotten himself what it is to not understand Christianity. He's never forgotten what it's like to be an unbeliever and he tries to speak to them that way."
The SoCal Harvest with Greg Laurie over the weekend exceeded expectations with a total three-day attendance of 105,000 and more than 9,263 people making professions of faith, said Harvest Ministries organizers. The next outreach event, Harvest America, in Philadelphia is planned for Sept. 28-29.
On the Web, http://harvestamerica.com/.