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Sunday, October 9, 2005

DC Festival: rains come down, hands go up

"The opening day of DC Festival, a Christian evangelical gathering on the Mall two years in the planning, was undercut by bad weather yesterday as heavy rain forced organizers to cancel many events and truncate their spiritual outreach.

"The $3.4 million, two-day festival, which represents the Washington debut of evangelical preacher Luis Palau, drew a fraction of the 100,000 that organizers had hoped to attract. Early in the evening, festival officials estimated the crowd at 5,000 but increased the figure to nearer 10,000 by the time the festival ended about 8:30."

"The youthful, multiethnic crowd of corporate executives, college students and families with small children stood on the grass of the Mall clutching umbrellas and wearing raincoats. Some sat in lawn chairs. They seemed oblivious to the almost continuous downpour."

"Festival spokesman Craig Chastain said officials would decide early today about additional changes in the scheduled program."

"Officials of Palau's ministry, based in his home town of Portland, Ore., were disappointed at the meteorological setback, but like their leader, they put their frustration in a spiritual context.

"'Luis is at peace about it,' Chastain said. 'It has been his dream of coming here for 40 years, and there's a level of disappointment. But it's not going to steal our joy. We've always approached what we do, not through numbers but by people making a decision for Christ. For Luis, if one person raises his hand, it will be time well-spent.'" ...

"Despite the soaked-out event, Palau earlier said he was encouraged that 'close to 1,500 people have given themselves to Jesus Christ' as a result of his evangelistic outreach at pre-festival events over the past two weeks.

"At one point in the afternoon, members of the Nation of Islam, wearing T-shirts and jeans, surveyed the area where the festival was occurring—the same spot where a huge crowd is expected to convene next week for the 10th anniversary of the Million Man March. Said one Muslim: 'We are just checking things out.'"

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