By Brian Koonce
WHEATON – There isn’t too much traffic in this tiny southwest Missouri town, but First Baptist Church Pastor Mark Hall gives God credit for creating the town’s first traffic jam and for 440 decisions for Christ. Hall was one of the organizers of the ACROSS Festival that took place here Sept. 9-13.
During the last event of the Festival, more than 2,200 people filled the Gizmo Event Center. The population of Wheaton is only 720.
“Traffic was backed up a mile and a half,” Hall said. “It was unreal.”
The free five-day festival featured Ken Freeman, an evangelist and an author, as well as Christian concerts and a “kid zone.” More than 150 accepted Christ the first evening, and all told there were 440 professions of faith. Hall said he did not yet have the totals for other decisions such as rededications.
Hall said it was without a doubt the biggest single event ever in Wheaton. The event center seats 1,600 and the first night organizers had to set up 900 folding chairs.
“The key to the whole thing was cooperation,” Hall said. “People were skeptical something like this could happen here. It was just like in John 1 when Nathanael asked ‘Can anything good come from there?’ and Philip said ‘Come and see.’ They came, and they saw.”
Sixteen area churches banded together to put on and promote the festival. They sent out 600 mailers and were featured in several local newspapers. Skateboarder Tim Burn began in schools, previewing his act at the festival, and when the actual event rolled around dozens of students showed up with skateboards in hand. More than 200 people from 24 local churches volunteered to counsel those who made decisions.
“Everybody was antsy the first night, but by the end of the festival they were almost running over each other to get to another person to talk to,” Hall said.
The churches that partnered for the festival are now sorting through the records of those who made decisions to decide which churches can best follow up the people. Hall said there were decisions made from people ranging from Carl Junction all the way down to Arkansas.
“It looked like genuine revival,” he said. “When I looked at the crowd during the praise and worship, even the non-Christians were caught up. You would have thought it was an all-Christian rally. Until the invitation you couldn’t tell there was difference between them and the Christian crowd. It was like a fever.”