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Old Orchard Beach 2017 Pier Festival: Reflection

On Thursday evening of August 3rd, 2017, thousands of people crowded into the town square near the Old Orchard Beach pier to gaze into the sky. As the fireworks exploded above them, lighting up the firmament, there was a pregnant pause in the air. Firework night is always a special night for those who take part in the ministry of the OOB Pier Festival, in Old Orchard Beach, Maine. Though not the final day of the week, there is a sense on Thursday evening that the week’s events are drawing to a close and the time for God to make an impact on someone’s life (or to use us to make an impact on someone’s life) is here and now.

And praise the Lord, God did make an impact on many lives throughout the week of the OOB Pier Festival.  Hundreds of people were prayed for. Hundreds more people engaged in conversations about faith and God. Over 500 people received the written Word of God in their hands for the first time. Over 600 children were witnessed to and nearly 10 people made first time commitments to Christ. In all, with give-aways that included face paintings, balloons, tracts and Bibles, combined with all the other mentioned interactions and magnified by the presence of social media, there were over 33,000 Gospel encounters!

As we stood looking into the sky on Thursday evening, no doubt our theme of “Search the Limits” came to the mind of many. In that moment of anticipation, as thousands of people were searching the heavens, how many were aware that God himself was looking back? How many could sense the presence of a loving God who looks down on us with love and compassion, and a desperate yearning that we would be one with him. The scriptural theme for the week expresses this well:

“You don’t need a telescope, a microscope, or a horoscope to realize the fullness of Christ, and the emptiness of the universe without him. When you come to him, that fullness comes together for you, too. His power extends over everything.” Colossians 2:9-10 MSG

This year’s OOB Pier Festival was used by God to connect people in powerful ways to the message of Salvation.  There was the amazing story of a family from Quebec who went through a tragic loss and journeyed to OOB, in their words, “to heal”. Amazingly, they encountered one of our Prayer Team members who knew the family’s situation because she was praying for them everyday, having been made aware of their loss before ever having met them. “I have been praying for you,” she told them. Tears filled their eyes and a new connection was made.

Then through the hip hop music of two of our stage performers, a young man approached them after the performance and said, “When I saw you on the stage, I said to myself that I want some of that passion in my own life.” Right then and there he was led to Christ as a team of evangelists knelt with him on the ground. God was behind these encounters. As Major Robin Lyle, leader of the Evangelism Team, said: “The people you will interact with at the pier are not here by coincidence; they are here by divine appointment.”

It was not a week of unending victories by any means. Sadly, not everyone responded to our message of hope and some went away unchanged. But for those who responded to God’s plan of Salvation; for those who accepted an offer of a prayer or a Bible to read; for those who came away with a conviction that something in their lives needed to change – we give thanks and glory to God.  For those of us who were involved in putting on the ministry of the OOB Pier Festival: the stage performers, the many teams of soldiers and volunteers, the stage crew and facilities personnel, right up to the leadership and admin team – we left OOB with a sense that we were used by God for his mission but also a certainty that God did something profound in our lives as well. We came away with a new awareness of God in our own lives and witnessed firsthand that we are always in his sight.

Whatever you are searching for it is our hope that as you search the limits that you will find Jesus.

About Robert Jeffery

Rob Jeffery joined the Salvation Factory team in 2015 as the Resource Innovator. He holds a Master of Divinity from the Atlantic School of Theology and soldiers at The Salvation Army Spring Valley Corps, Greater New York Division. He is married to Samantha and has three children.