Promise Keepers' assembly a historic event4 guys, 48 hours, 1200 miles in a Honda Civic. Dozens of CD's, a cooler full of Pepsi and Mountain Dew, 2 cell phones, maps, newspapers, and textbooks. Meals from Sunoco, McDonalds, and Applebee's; 7 hours in the sun on Independence Mall; and a violin recital! Add all these things together, and you get one incredible weekend road trip to our nation's capitol for the Promise Keepers' Stand in the Gap assembly.
Last weekend (Oct 3-5), I joined 3 guys from the University of Dayton (Chris, Phil, and T.J.) in this trek to Washington D.C. My voyage began right after the I.U. homecoming parade, when I hopped in my car and drove two and a half hours to Dayton. Once there, we loaded our stuff into Phil's car and made our first stop at a Sunoco station, where we loaded up on gas for the car, and caffeine and sugar for the riders.
Eight and a half hours later, we arrived in the D.C. area. After a short stop at a friend's parents' house to clean up a bit from the long drive, we headed to the Metro rail stop, and from there into the city. It was easy to find our way to the Mall. We simply followed the crowd of men streaming from the station. Already, a very different atmosphere was obvious from a usual visit to a large city. Complete strangers became instant friends. Smiles and handshakes were plentiful. The names of locations across the country began to be traded. New York, Georgia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Kansas... As we approached the event area, volunteers were handing out free commemorative editions of the New Testament. One million copies were printed for the event, and by the day's end they were gone.
The assembly was set to begin at noon, but by 10 AM, the entire Mall between the Washington Monument and the Capitol was full. We were lucky to find a small spot just beyond the monument, where we rested while waiting for the event to begin.
A messianic Jew (a Jew who recognizes Jesus as the Messiah) opened the ceremony, explaining that the day (chosen by Christian organizers) fell in the holy Jewish season between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur--the "ten days of awe." The men were then called to worship by the blowing of a shofar, an ancient instrument fashioned from a ram's horn. At the final, extended tone, a mighty rallying shout traveled down the Mall, engulfing participants in a massive cheer exceeding that of any sports event.
The next group to take the stage were Christian Native Americans. One man extended a welcome to this gathering of "pilgrims," and added "I'm proud to be a Native American by race, but I'm more proud to be a Christian American by grace!" Throughout the day, speakers from many races and cultures addressed the crowd.
In addressing the role of women and family, one speaker declared "The ground is equal at the foot of the cross." Another issued the challenge "No more abuse; no more abandonment!" The leaders also urged men to lay aside their political agendas for the day. One man declared, "The future of this country will not be decided at the ballot box--it will be decided in the prayer closet!"
The unity of the Christian church was also a big theme emphasized by the speakers. They first emphasized cooperation between denominations to replace the competition that often currently exists. Then the message turned to racial reconciliation. One speaker admitted his history of racial bias, and urged the other men in the audience to repent of not accepting those of other races.
After the 6-hour assembly was over, we made a slow procession through the subway sysem back to the outskirts of the city. At times, the crowd turned the terminal into a massive choir, striking up rounds of their favorite hymns.
We ended our long day by joining some friends at the University of Maryland. After attending a friend's violin recital, we enjoyed a late, but much-appreciated dinner together. It was the best meal we had all weekend.
On the drive back, the attitude of the assembly lived on. We'd wave and trade "thumbs-up" gestures with other cars bearing PK or Stand in the Gap logos and homemade signs. This was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. And if the lives of a million men have been touched by the assembly, it will soon be seen in our nation's families and churches. The effect has the potential to impact our nation as a whole, and even the entire world.