Around 65,000 youth and young adults flooded the Gateway Arch Grounds in St. Louis on Sunday to hear the sounds of Christian rock, hip-hop, and rap artists, as well as messages delivered by evangelist Franklin Graham.
"This has been a fantastic day. We've seen a lot of kids give their life to Christ. There's been a sea out here of people," reported Graham as counselors on the ground met with the several hundred people who expressed their decisions for Christ.
After kicking off the inaugural Rock the River Tour last month with nearly 11,000 young people in Baton Rouge, Graham and his team from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association made their way up the Mississippi River to their second of four stops to provide youth an opportunity to respond to the Gospel, be encouraged by trained peers and then related back to local caring churches.
The BGEA's new, high-energy youth outreach was inspired by the vision that Graham shared last September after learning that more than two-thirds of those who made decisions for Christ in the last few years during the ministry's large, evangelistic crusades have been youth.
So far, Graham says, Rock the River is "exactly what we prayed it would be – an exciting evangelistic event that would attract unchurched young people to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ."
"We just thank God for what He's done," Graham reported Sunday.
"We've come up the Mississippi River, right here behind me, fishing – fishing for the souls of America's youth," the evangelist added, "to bring these kids in, kids that maybe never go to church, kids that have never known that anyone loves them.
"This is what it's all about – it's about taking God's love, His Son Jesus Christ, to another generation. Rock the River. That's what we're doing. We're rocking the river."
As the BGEA continues to make its way up the Mississippi River, with plans to stop by the Quad Cities on Aug. 8 and Minneapolis/St. Paul on Aug. 16, Graham is asking that people continue to pray for the effort.
"[W]e will be going against the currents of secularism, postmodernism, and the godless culture in which we live," the evangelist reported.
"Please pray for us. Pray that the Holy Spirit will draw thousands of lost young people to each of these Rock the River Tour events," he added.
While the festivals will appeal primarily to 12- to 25-year-olds, those under the age of 18 are the ones the ministry especially hopes to reach.
Christian music artists who are teaming up with the BGEA for the summer outreach range from Skillet and Hawk Nelson to Kirk Franklin and Flyleaf.