- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 27, 2003

BELLS, Texas — At least 25,000 young Christians sprawled out over much of a 400-acre ranch here during the weekend to pray, listen to spiritual guidance and share their religious beliefs.

One area man said the convergence of OneDay03 on this small town 70 miles northeast of Dallas seemed “sorta like Woodstock, without the drugs, sex and deviant element.”

“I couldn’t have enjoyed these young people more if they were my own,” said Charlie Stephens, a volunteer from nearby Denison who helped with crowd control.

After a heavy, lightning-filled opening-night storm Saturday, the youths, mostly 18 to 25, spread across the rolling pastures of Willowood Ranch yesterday to hear the famous and the inspired motivate them toward Jesus Christ.

They sat on the ground, in portable chairs, at the doors of their tents — many of them with a Bible and a container of bottled water nearby. There was no evidence of alcohol, not a cigarette in sight and but a handful of cell phones.

Gregg Matte, director of the Breakaway Ministries at Texas A&M; University, spoke about the importance of understanding Isaiah 26:8, one of the tenets of a vision called “The 268 Declaration,” which was a theme of the conference.

“You will never have a desire for God greater than His desire for you,” Mr. Matte said.

He told the young Christians that they must search out those who need to find Christ.

“If you get nervous when you are around people who curse, you aren’t around enough people who curse,” he said. “If it bothers you that somebody pulls out something that isn’t A&W; Root Beer, you aren’t around enough people who drink.”

The religious gathering was sponsored by Passion Industries, a nonprofit religious organization based in Atlanta.

Brad Horton, a spokesman for Passion Network, said he did not know how many were present. He said that 17,500 had registered, but that the registration process is continuing through today.

A previous such OneDay gathering drew an estimated 30,000 on a large farm just outside Memphis in May 2000. Sponsors said it was the largest gathering of college-age worshippers in 25 years.

Steven Dalton, 23, of Richmond, attending with a contingent of 10 from Southside Church of the Nazarene in Richmond, called the experience here an “amazing weekend.”

“It’s about getting closer to Christ,” Mr. Dalton added, “just find out more who he really is, just to see more of His face.

“It’s hard to explain really, but you can feel it here.”

Participants camped on the ranch amid a panorama of tents; some commuted to nearby RV parks.

By the time the hordes of youths marched and prayed together yesterday, the excitement was palpable.

Danielle Thorpe, 22, of Jacksonville, Fla., was one of 56 present from Crossroads Methodist Church. She is a recent college graduate, and she said she was “terribly excited and moved” by the speakers and the music.

Ka Yang, 22, and Rebecca Xiong, 23, both of the Chicago area, said they accompanied nearly 20 young people to OneDay and were thrilled.

“It’s not often you see this much unity,” Miss Xiong said.

The ranch is owned by Al Denson, a recording artist, author and songwriter.

“This place belongs to God,” Mr. Denson said. “I’m making it available for groups to use when they need to, but it all belongs to God anyway.”

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