Upon arrival, there was a line stretching well over half a mile full of believers waiting patiently to go through a government-enforced bag check. While walking past them, one could witness every kind of Christian: Protestants, Catholics, black, white, Asian, left-wing, right-wing, those preaching fire and brimstone, others handing out pamphlets about their sect; there were even a couple who were literally carrying crosses.
The beautiful thing about it, though, was the fact that we were all there together. Despite the many things we as Christians and as citizens can choose to focus on which divide us, everyone there was focusing on the most important thing that unites us: the saving love and power of our God, Jesus Christ.
Parks Services for the Washington Monument, the venue for the event, was not prepared for the huge surge of attendees despite the many times organizers told them that a minimum of several hundred thousand people would be in attendance. After about an hour and a half, Parks gave up on the bag-checks and allowed everyone to enter.
Then the event really came to life.
There were performances by great artists like Matt Maher, Crowder, Casting Crowns, Michael W. Smith, Lecrae, Hillsong and many others. There were powerful Christian speakers including Francis Chan, Ravi Zacharias, Louie Giglio and Tony Evans, giving their testimonies and encouraging listeners to wake up and reach out to their communities to unite. A surprise guest, former NFL Quarterback Tim Tebow challenged Christians to really love everyone we come in contact with. He explained, “When we love Jesus and we love people, we are going to make a difference and make an impact.”
Feeling the heat
Unfortunately, the day was a very hot one. The temperature soared into the mid-nineties; there was very little cloud coverage and only a suggestion of a breeze from time to time. As a result there were quite a few people who were suffering from heat exhaustion. Due to the Park Services’ lack of preparedness, there were not enough EMTs available to treat those affected, and they were overwhelmed. Park Services then called a halt to the day’s events and shut it down.
Just before 4 p.m., five hours before the event was due to end, Nick Hall, the brain behind this event and the Pulse movement, took to the stage to let everyone know that the authorities had called for the event to come to a close. With an admirably positive attitude, Hall asked that all attendees not make a fuss and use this extra time to further God’s kingdom.
Hall had Dr. Tony Evans come on stage for a very special purpose. Hall asked for everyone in the audience who was under thirty years of age and who was going to purposefully allow God to work through them to raise their hands. Once the hands were up, Hall asked for those who were over thirty to find someone with their hand raised and lay hands on them while Dr. Evans prayed for them. And just like that, thousands dedicated their lives to Christ.
Sending out a generation
Once the prayer was over, Hall proclaimed, “This event has never ultimately been about coming to the Mall. It’s always been about sending a generation out from the Mall.” He encouraged attendees to flood the streets of DC with the gospel and reach lost souls.
Based on some estimates, as many as 500,000 people attended the event, but according to Susan Harris, director of communications for Pulse, “From past experience we believe the crowds were only half way there by the 4 p.m. forced ending.” Had authorities chosen to believe the coordinators at Pulse, some feel there could have been over one million attendees by the end of the night. But, said Harris, “it is clear those in charge did not believe our numbers.” Some have even claimed that local authorities blamed Together 2016 for the rushed ending.
The heat problem was exacerbated by the requirement that a plastic floor covering be laid throughout certain sections of the event. That white plastic served as a reflector increasing the heat noticeably for many.
When asked about the reason for a lack of EMTs, NPS Public Affairs Officer, Mike Litterst replied, “I would direct you to the event organizers for that question. A medical plan is one of the requirements for a permit for an event on the National Mall, but I have not seen the Together 2016 permit and don’t [know] the specifics of their plan.” He put the ball in their court and blamed the lack of EMTs on them.
Together 2016 was put together to pray for this country, its leaders, and to pray for healing over all the turmoil of the past few years. Even so, it appears the park service did not believe the projected numbers of event coordinators, and were unprepared for the influx of believers who attended.
In spite of this, it is more important than ever that we as Christians take a stand for Christ and make ourselves heard.
Pulse has many regional events planned for this coming fall. For more information on the Pulse movement, you can read Nick Hall’s book, Reset: Jesus Changes Everything. If you want to be a part of the Billy Graham movement of our generation and be the catalyst for what could be the Third Great Awakening in our country, get involved. Don’t let fear stop you. Make a difference. Visit PulseMovement.com and invite them to your community.
A native-born Miamian, Tami Gomez is a freelance writer for the Good News while she and her husband attend Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in North Carolina. They hope to become missionaries to the Far East. She can be reached at [email protected].