my time here in sydney has continued to be wonderful. saturday, the lifeteen staff and i climbed the sydney harbor bridge. i have pics, but forgot the disc in my room — i’ll post them later. it was a very cool experience for a couple reasons. first, it’s a fun excursion, and a gorgeous view of sydney. but to make it more cool, we climbed the bridge when it was closed to car traffic for the world youth day pilgrimage. tens of thousands of teenagers from around the globe were trekking from north sydney, across the bridge, to the spot where the saturday evening prayer vigil would occur. so our view, as we climbed, was of thousands of teenagers walking in pilgrimage. it was really a wonderful and joy-filled sight.
after a bit of rest, i made my way out to the huge racecourse where the vigil was taking place. it was seriously nuts. best guesses are that over 200,000 where there (they say 500,000 were there the following day for the closing mass). i don’t know if i have ever seen so many people stretched out in one place. youth groups were spread out all over the place with sleeping bags, as they all spend the night there in vigil. for the portion i was there, there was a large program taking place on a massive stage (with truly world-class sound and visual support — jumbo-trons all over the place, and perfect sound everywhere).
the program involved teens from all over the world sharing a short testimony about god’s work in their lives. each of these teens spoke in their native language, so i could only understand about one in every five who happened to be speaking in english. but i could get the gist of all of them, and it was very moving. i think the one that moved me the most was the girl who spoke on behalf of deaf teenagers, in sign language (but an australian translated into english). she spoke about how being deaf has been a gift in her life — it was truly beautiful.
after each of these testimonies, the pope read a short prayer, then everyone in the entire place sang a short chorus — a verse that had been written for world youth day. when they sang, they lifted up lit candles. have you ever seen 200,000 candles being lifted into a dark sky while teenagers sang words like this?
receive the power of the holy spirit
receive the power to be light unto the world
it really took my breath away.
but at some point, as i was walking around, observing kids with their candles, watching them sing, i noticed that i was completely in spectator mode. i stopped in front of a jumbotron and watched for a bit. when the song came around, i listened, and realized it was dumb that i wasn’t singing along. so the next time the chorus started up, i opened my mouth and started singing.
and i instantly started crying. it was just such a stunning experience, singing those words with hundreds of thousands of teenagers, accompanied by a choir and orchestra made up of teenagers.
here are a couple photos…
there is really no way to capture the magnitude of this thing. this picture shows about 5% of the view from where i was standing the moment.
these were the scenes i saw repeated a hundred-fold as i walked around. teens standing alone, or in groups, singing, listening, praying (and of course, some of them just chatting).
sunday, i had a nice breakfast with matt maher, the worship leader. then i entered into 24 hours of silence. i slept and read and prayed. mostly just in my hotel room.