The sweat was dripping off over 100,000 campers ready for the biggest Christian music festival of the summer as they poured into Agape Farm in Shirleysburg just south of Mount Union, Pennsylvania. It was a trek that lasted a peaceful and scenic 8 hours each way for us Torontonians, but was completely worth it. One of the press was from Iceland, another from Mexico÷and we thought we came far for this historic festival! However, Creation is more than a music festival, it's a retreat for your soul. Camping in the Pennsylvania broccoli-like mountains, watching the fireflies at night, and kicking up dust as you jump up and down at the concerts is part of the thrill of just being there. We arrived on June 29 and caught a bit of Barlow Girl as they closed their set. The girls were swanked out behind the drums and mic and asked the crowd to turn on their cell phones and wave them in the air instead of lighters; how modern! Relient K are a great band for teenagers to get acquainted with, they have a high energy sound and above all, they talk about bizarre things like "What's the deal with penny loafers?" Next was Switchfoot, their album "The Beautiful Letdown" is astoundingly good and to hear it live cranked the dial of my respect for the band. Switchfoot asked the crowd to all take a picture at the same time towards the stage so there would be a flash of thousands of lights. During Creation 2004, the band were up at 4am and saw a bunch of fireflies in the night sky, so they wanted to initiate Creation 2005 with a similar, more technological experience of "God's children of light and luminescence". Wednesday evening was filled with fireworks and campfires, and it was so hot outside that the pen I left on the dash of my car started to melt, so you can imagine how the people were feeling with only a warm tent to retreat to at night. An Asian youth group that had their tent beside us sang "let us crush idols and come with clean hands" and it was so beautiful to witness the friendship, games, and meals they all shared during the day and through the night. Their redemption songs in the heat of the morning made us feel so fortunate and was a definite highlight of our camping experience.
June 30 came around and Mute Math was a target to see. They are by far the freshest, most exciting new band out there. Tooth and Nail Records should be exceedingly proud of their showmanship, their keytar (keyboard guitar), and the crazy drummer who duct tapes his headphones to his ears; he's an animal when he plays! It was brutally hot, even more so than the last day and it made me really think about grace. Here we were sitting on a frying pan of a field, reaching out for freezies, ice÷anything and we haven't even thought about asking God for assistance. Once we prayed for some heat relief I felt this overwhelming sense of gratefulness for the shade, for a cool glass of water, and a camp shower. It brought me back to seek God and see His grace that we often forget.
Michael W. Smith and TobyMac are part of the old school of contemporary Christian music, but they put on such an amazing show for the crowd teens and adults alike didn't seem to mind. Michael wore a crisp white cowboy hat showing off his heritage and led the crowd in a beautiful version of "Let it Rain", and the festival favourite "I Am Free". Toby jumped around on stage with his band in choreographed dance moves that rocked the crowd with such hits as "She said", which is about a girl who thinks her life is over because she got pregnant young, and other elements of the song deal with respecting women. The evening was sealed with the largest communion I've ever experienced and heard about in my life. Over 100,000 people took part in singing "All for Jesus", and allowing Him to give them strength through the remembrance of His promises in the bread and grape juice.
We're always told to look out for ourselves, but when I heard Bob Lenz, a sincere and hilarious international youth speaker, talk about the non-profit group, Compassion on July 1, my heart was strangely warmed. I raised my hand for a packet to sponsor a child without even thinking about it. If you buy one thing you didn't really need this month, you can sponsor a child. "Isn't a life more important than 2 CDs?" I asked myself, and then I signed up to sponsor Bryan, a beautiful 9 year old boy from Ecuador. It makes you feel more connected to the world when you sponsor a child, more a part of this human family we're all a part of on earth. One girl got up on stage to speak of her Compassion experience; she was 18 years old and only made $5.50/hr at her job. When she saw what happened to these kids in other countries her heart went out to them, and she has now sponsored two children since she was 16. It makes you realize any one can do it, and I think more people should "think about someone else today" in the words of TobyMac. Compassion has offices all over, visit Compassion Canada at: www.compassion.ca for more detail on the coolest thing to do with your allowance and extra spending money. If that wasn't enough to make our cup runneth over, the entire crowd lit candles and held them to the sky, thanking God for doing so much for them. To look across this mass of people all filled with such love for God and humankind÷words can't describe, you need to be there.
I would go to every Newsboys concert if I could, they are the staple in any musical realm and sang a great number of older and newer tracks, but songs from "Devotion" jumped out at the crowd the most and everyone was singing along and dancing up a small dust storm in the mosh pit.
On July 2, there were a bunch of teenagers who gave their lives to Christ and were baptized in a beautiful pond near the main stage by the founder of Creation and youth pastors. It was revolutionary that teenagers would commit their lives to striving to be more like Christ and less like MTV. Audio Adrenaline and MercyMe were the crowd pleasers of the evening. Audio A's lead vocalist took a break while one of their guitarists took over on the mic and what he sung became my reason for staying to watch them, his voice captivated. MercyMe sang a number of their hits from over the years, and swung in "I Can Only Imagine", a classic MercyMe song that needs to be heard everyday, not just on Sundays.
It was the highlight of our summer coverage in the US, and there's no doubt we'll be back next year as Creation veterans.
for more information on the festival.