Nearly 25,000 people filled Paramount Carowindâ€™s Paladium over the weekend to take part in Christian rock festival, Sonfest.
For over 20 hours, spread over three days, youth groups, families and individuals were among the sea of faces that enjoyed an eclectic mix of Christian music by headline acts such as Audio Adrenaline, Third Day and Newsboys, as well as other performers.
For Martin Cole, the weekend was an opportunity to spend with his son.
â€œMy son, Marty, is 12, going on 13,â€ he said. â€œWeâ€™re Christians and we like to come and listen to the music. Itâ€™s just the two of us.â€
For Marty, the thrill also included the rides and attractions of the rest of the park as well as the music.
â€œI loved riding Top Gun and the concerts are great,â€ he said.
Fresh off the heels of Fatherâ€™s Day, many dads like Wayne Rush, from West Columbia, South Carolina, brought their kids to Sonfest.
â€œI love watching people enjoy themselves and having my daughter with me,â€ Rush said.
For his daughter, Rebecca, a 15-year old high school student, the three days were all about one thing.
â€œPeople rejoicing for the Lord and having a good time,â€ she said.
While fans were out in full force, Christian retailers also made their presence known.
Sandy Shapiro, the President of Sonteez, a T-shirt company from Phoenix, Arizona, made the 30-hour trek.
He enjoyed one thing most about the weekend.
â€œWhen I see kids wearing stuff — whether itâ€™s my shirt of somebody elseâ€™s shirt that says something about Jesus — rather than wear a lot of the worldly shirts that really have no meaning, when you can take a shirt and lead someone and share Christ with themâ€”thatâ€™s what itâ€™s all about,â€ he said.
Shapiro a Jewish convert who accepted Jesus as messiah in 1978, started Son-Teez with his wife two years later, operating out of their home. Twenty-seven years later, his company has outgrown their house and has reached thousands of people with the message of Jesus.
â€œYou wear a T-shirt that says Iâ€™m a nobody, trying to tell everybody about somebody who can save anybody. Itâ€™s all about witnessing for Jesus,â€ Shapiro said.
Persevering on the road
Passing Thru, a seven-year old band from Minnesota formed when several members of the band worked at a Pizza Hut, is changing their name to Undying Anthem in the near future. Why the name change?
â€œAn anthem is a song that has one idea that, not only that you repeat, but itâ€™s a complete idea that represents truth,â€ Jason Rightler, the bandâ€™s guitarist said, adding â€œThere is only one truth in life and it is undying, it is incorruptible.
â€œItâ€™s the truth of the holy father God and the sacrifice he made to save us, so that we can live forever in heaven with Him,â€ said Rightler.
Although the Christian music market has grown steadily in recent years, itâ€™s still not a cakewalk to â€˜make it.â€™
So what urges Undying Anthem to persevere in the hard times or when fatigue sets in as theyâ€™re on the road?
â€œThe passion we have in our hearts to do this. Weâ€™re not ready to give up tomorrow because we have a flat tire or something,â€ answered Tedd Enger, lead singer. â€œThatâ€™s the main thing God put in our hearts is a burning passion.â€
So what brings a smile to drummer Matt Barronâ€™s face?
â€œWhen people are lined up and they want to hang. Theyâ€™re not necessarily interested in getting our autographs as they are just saying â€˜hi,â€™ and asking us why we do what we do,â€ he said.
Seeing kids not only jamming to their music but also getting the word of God handed them for free gives the band its biggest high the drummer said.
While Undying Anthemâ€™s dream is to one day become a headliner, bassist Sam Rodriguez quickly points out their primary mission is to win souls for Jesus and to remain humble, no matter what success comes along the way.
â€œWe donâ€™t want to get caught up in trying to be better than anyone else,â€ he said â€œWeâ€™re (Christian bands) all in this for the same thing â€” which is to bring glory to God.â€
by John Mark Brooks