A small group of us from our church packed up in our bus and headed North for what I thought was a retreat. Our Youth pastor put the trip together for high-schoolers, college students, and young married couples. The plan was to camp out together and take part in a gathering of other like-minded students to worship Jesus. I was 16 about to begin my Junior year of high school. My brother, Billy, was 21 and about to go to University of Florida for his Junior year in Pharmacy school. My sister, age 22 and her husband had been married for almost 2 years and came with all their newly married friends. It was a fun group, especially for me because I loved hanging out with my big brother and sister. I was finally at the age when they liked my company.
I was raised Southern Baptist. My idea of retreats as a teen was fun, games, boys, swimming, crafts and singing.
This was far from the format of Ichthus. God was about to introduce me to His presence in a way I didn’t know was possible.
When we arrived we set up camp and headed to our first session on the huge outdoor stage with the banner “ICHTHUS 75” waving overhead. First to perform was a talented man, Andrae’ Crouch and his twin sister, Sandra. They were called Andrae’ Crouch and the Disciples. Their story is worth reading, but I’ll let you Google it yourself. This is one of his first songs that I heard live. Take a moment and listen if you’re not familiar with his work.
I was surprised to see all around me lifting their hands as they worshiped God. This was a new experience that made me uncomfortable. But the way these people loved Jesus was inescapable. I wanted to know Jesus the way they did. The rain that came later couldn’t dampen the passion that God was stirring in our hearts for Him.
I discovered I’m not the only one who remembers this soaked weekend in the rain and in the Spirit…
“Ichthus influenced people from all different parts of the country and from different walks of life. Tanya Goodman Sykes (of the Happy Goodman Family) wrote at Andraé Crouch’s passing in 2015,
“I can still remember how the rain felt on my skin that day. I was 15 years old, and my friends and I had driven to Wilmore, Kentucky, to attend the Ichthus Festival at Asbury College. We were beyond thrilled because Andraé Crouch and the Disciples were headlining that year. There was a steady drizzle the entire drive up, and just before Andraé took the stage, it gave way to heavy rain, but it didn’t dampen my enthusiasm. There was a palpable sense of excitement in the air that day as an entire hillside of dripping wet, mostly teenagers sang along- “Jesus is the answer for the world today…” Truly, I have never experienced anything quite like it before or since. And I certainly have never stood in the pouring rain to hear anyone else.
“Rev. Jack Harnish, also remembered the passing of Andraé Crouch in 2015 writing,
“The highlight of the weekend was a performance by Andraé Crouch and the Disciples. If the whole notion of a folk-rock festival was a bit shocking for the town of Wilmore, the fact that the headliner was an African American was even more controversial. But once he took the stage, no one could question his spirit and his gift… I remember him closing the festival that weekend with, “It won’t be long, soon we’ll be leavin’ here; it won’t be long, we’ll be goin’ home.” “asburyseminary.edu
After this weekend I returned home to Orlando with a fresh passion to know God. I realized that at 16 years of age there was no way I had learned all there was to know about Him. I started taking notes and reading the Bible as I never had before. God was real and I couldn’t wait to learn more about Him and to love and serve Him for the rest of my life.
I tell you all this because last week on February 8th a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit began on the same grounds where I experienced a similar awakening 48 years ago. During what seemed an ordinary chapel for the college students, the Lord decided it was time to pour out His love afresh on all who asked. And ask they did. Hours turned into days and days into over a week. And they’re still going. The administration at Asbury College said they won’t stop what the Lord is doing. Lives are being touched by a Holy God and word has spread far and wide.
Last night I listened to the message given during chapel. It was a good message that obviously hit a chord in the hearts of those in attendance. It’s based on Romans 12, but that’s all I’m saying. I encourage you to take 30 minutes and listen. Then pray that God will move in our hearts, our cities and towns in like manner.
As Andrae’ wrote, “It won’t be long…we’ll be goin’ home.”