Sunday, March 17, 2013

40 Years At Harvest 

The first time I heard Greg Laurie speak was in Honolulu, the year was 1977.
I was in spiritual cultural shock coming out of a college and rock radio lifestyle and being plunged into the nascent Calvary Chapel environment in a Shiloh House that sort of saved my life. My house pastor was Danny Bond and he brought me out of more issues than I care to mention.
Nonetheless, leaving behind The Doors,Led Zeppelin and Moody Blues, I was terrified that  the  Bill Gaither Trio would become the soundtrack for my future.
My first exposure to the only Christian Station on Oahu had been less than impressive.
That summer, I remember laying in the grass of the Waikiki Shell, the outdoor venue for a Harvest Hawaii Celebration, I was ready for some guys from the Old Time Gospel Hour. 
Was I wrong.   A rock opera of Shotgun Angel  by Daniel Amos blew the doors out, followed by Parable, then, Greg brought it. My counter-culture fears were put to rest. 

Little did I know then that in next 35 years my life would be immersed in Calvary Chapel and would intersect off and on with Greg and his Harvest team. 
In 1978, my mom was dying of brain cancer and I was in Southern California to support her. I was helping to plant Calvary Chapel of Southbay and one weekend, I was returning from Palm Springs on a Sunday night. I hadn't been able to find a church so we exited the freeway in Riverside with no specific plan. I saw some cars with 'Jesus Saves' bumper stickers and decided to follow them. 
Not the best plan in the world.  However, they led me to a hot auditorium and a meeting of what was then, Calvary Chapel of Riverside.  The same Greg Laurie from Hawaii was there and he opened a curtain and, behold, The  Sweet Comfort Band. Trust me, in that era, they were on the edge. 
The next junction was at a Calvary Chapel Pastor's conference in Twin Peaks in 1979.  I happened to sit with Greg at lunch. Gino Geraci was holding court, laughing in 27 different languages.  I didn't know what I was getting into, but it was a rush. Later,  Greg was kind enough to agree to air his radio program on a station I ran in Colorado. 
At the burgeoning Harvest Crusades in Anaheim, my son Daniel went forward, and it wasn't my finest parenting moment. I thought it would be a statement for my 12 year-old  PK son to go forward alone and stand for Christ.  However, like, 4,000 people did the same, so Daniel was almost lost as soon as he was found.

In New Mexico I would be able to serve as local coordinator for two Harvest Crusades. It was a privilege, I am convinced that these events at Dukes Stadium and The Pit, were instrumental in the explosive growth in the early 90's of Calvary Chapel in Albuquerque.  
For the past years it has been amazing to watch my son Levi Lusko host various Harvest Crusades around the country. 

Greg and Levi share a common grief, having a child taken to heaven.  I recall body surfing with Christopher and Jonathan back in the day, when  I was involved in setting up  Hawaii Harvest Pre-Crusade events on Oahu and Maui with Skip, 20 years after that night in Honolulu. 
 I ran into Christopher at an OC coffee shop shortly before he was taken to heaven. Looking forward to seeing both Lenya and him as soon as possible.
Most recently, Greg spoke at Lenya's service in Montana. That day is still very raw, but his words were a great comfort to me and to many.

The Harvest Team is the epitome of both professionalism and spiritual energy.  Working with John  Collins, Bryan St. Peters, Dave Spiker and others is always a pleasure, they set the standard and raise the bar. 
And now, 40 years in, Harvest could easily sit on its haunches, rest on their laurels and become an old wineskin. 
Uh- no.  Quite the opposite, for example,  Harvest America  ( was a revolutionary event and has tons of head room for the future. 
So this weekend, Harvest celebrates 40 years, watch it here, ( live or archived.
Gospel first, vision and vigor, that's Harvest. Its a terrific example.