|Thousands of people flooded Isotopes Park in Albuquerque, NM, home field of the Albuquerque Isotopes, for Calvary Albuquerque’s citywide Freedom Celebration. Over the course of the two evenings, families and people from all walks of life came to enjoy food, some of the top artists in Christian music, and a gospel message from Pastor Skip Heitzig.
By Lorin Bentley, Special to ASSIST News Service
ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO (ANS – July 10, 2017) — Celebrating the Fourth of July inspires images of fireworks, baseball, and grilling with family and friends. But Calvary Albuquerque put its own spin on Independence Day by hosting a celebration big enough to fill a ballpark — twice.
On June 30 and July 1, thousands of people flooded Isotopes Park in Albuquerque, NM, home field of the Albuquerque Isotopes, for Calvary Albuquerque’s citywide Freedom Celebration. Over the course of the two evenings, families and people from all walks of life came to enjoy food, some of the top artists in Christian music, and a gospel message from Pastor Skip Heitzig.
Dove-award winner, Fernando Ortega, kicked off the celebration with a beautiful rendition of America the Beautiful. Calvary’s worship band, Battledrums, led both nights with worship favorites and some original songs, including several off their upcoming album.
Singer-songwriter Zach Williams then took the stage the first night, delivering powerful worship with a southern-rock vibe. The hugely popular and long-lasting Christian group the Newsboys wrapped up the evening with an energetic performance. Led by Michael Tait, formerly of DC Talk, the group performed fan favorites as well as a cover of DC Talk’s hit “Jesus Freak,” where they were joined onstage by hip-hop artist Graham Saber.
The next evening, after a short rain delay and another performance by Battledrums, Graham Saber shared his own music, followed by a much anticipated mini-reunion of the rock group Anberlin, which disbanded in 2014.
Anberlin front man Stephen Christian has served as the worship director at Calvary Albuquerque for the past two years and was grateful for the opportunity to not only perform some Anberlin classics but also share from his upcoming solo worship project, set to release July 28.
“I realized that performing with that much energy is something that I need to do at least once a year because it was so much fun,” he said. “The crowd was so receptive to the Anberlin songs, but I was so excited when they sang with me on the worship song ‘Gloria’ off my upcoming album, Wildfires.”
The final musical guest of the two-night celebration was Colton Dixon, a former American Idol contestant whose brand of high-energy, Christ-centered rock music has made him a favorite in the industry. The evening culminated in a fireworks display, capping off an event that commemorated not just our freedom as Americans, but true freedom found in Christ.
And that freedom was the highlight of the event, as Heitzig gave a gospel message toward the end of each night, inviting anyone in the park to come forward and receive Jesus Christ as their Savior.
“Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom,” read a banner on the front of the stage (citing 2 Corinthians 3:17) as hundreds of people streamed onto the field to cheers and applause.
Out of the many thousands that attended the two-day event, 1,422 people came forward and prayed to receive new life in Christ, making this Calvary Albuquerque’s biggest outreach of the year.
The eternal value of these 1,422 individuals can’t be overstated. As one of Calvary Albuquerque’s culture axioms puts it, “Behind each number is a name and behind each hand is a heart. It’s not about how many people come to our church; it’s about how many lives are changed.”
And that was the whole heart behind the event: to reach the people of Albuquerque with the gospel, no matter their creed or church affiliation, and see them come to know the Lord.
To Christian, the event was a home run. “Freedom Celebration was incredible,” he said. “I just want to say thank you to Pastor Skip, the creative team, and all the volunteers for making this event a massive success.”
What better way to commemorate the Fourth of July than to celebrate the new life and true freedom only Jesus Christ can give.
For more information on Calvary Albuquerque, please go to: http://www.calvaryabq.org/
Photo captions: 1) Pastor Skip Heitzig preaches a gospel message at the Freedom Celebration. (Peter Castro). 2) Dove-award winner, Fernando Ortega singing. (Peter Castro) 3) Albuquerque’s Isotopes Park packed for the celebration. (Peter Castro)..4) Skip Heitzig pictured with the Newsboys. (Peter Castro) 5) Stephen Christian on stage. (Peter Castro). 6) Lorin Bentley.
About the writer: Lorin Bentley is a native of Albuquerque, NM, where she graduated from the University of New Mexico with an English degree. She now works as a writer/editor at Calvary Albuquerque.
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